Women and Decision-Making Process in NES
By: Najah Hivo, a Syrian Kurdish writer
Women issues seem to be the most problematic element that affects the form of political system and the whole society. This matter is not only in the Kurdish society or the NES society as a whole, but rather in all of Syria and the Middle East societies on the level of all their different nationalities, religions, sects and ideas.
A while ago, during a call between me and one of the Kurdish feminist activists, we had a discussion about the situation of Kurdish, Arabic and Syriac women in NES. My colleague believed that society in that region is quite advanced in this term and that there is a good participation of women in decision-making. On the contrary, I have a different viewpoint in this regard and I believe that women are still extremely suffering and are exposed to societal rulings and stereotypes that society imposes on them. I believe the progress of any society is linked to the extent of women's freedom, the extent to which forms of discrimination on the basis of sex are eliminated and the stereotypes created by customs and traditions against them.
Women still face great abuse, discrimination on the basis of sex and stereotypes, thus, the fact is that the abuse is the same, however with different mechanisms. The change that has taken place is nothing but a transformation in the tools and forms of abuse. Women were abused in society, family, marriage, as well as various other matters. A new form of abuse has appeared, which is through job opportunities and the use of women as telegenic in various fields of work.
This is due to the fact that the local community in NES is based on two main concepts. The concept of religion, which encircles women's lives and defines their lifestyles and practices, while the second concept is the clan, which also encircles women's ways of life and imposes on them what is permissible and what is forbidden. Tribal society is based on the rule of men, imposing the power of men, in addition to praising and glorifying their heroism and giving them the largest space in making decisions of the clan and family and their role in society. These two factors play a fundamental role in shaping women's roles in life and decision-making. They also play a great role in women's abuse, on the personal level in the family and on the personal level within the political and governmental life.
The Self-Administration adopts women's rights in its ideology as a basic pillar of its thoughts, beliefs and activity in NES. However, these ideas and beliefs and what the Self-Administration does, are still deficient. This may be due to two main reasons; the first is that part of the patriarchal mentality that runs society is effective in Self-Administration institutions as well. The second reason is that the Self-Administration's laws, which are women-related, are still incomplete. As some of them might have double aspects, which may result in bad consequences for women rather than being a means for their protection.
Likewise, the Self-Administration has so far not been able to enact laws for all women's issues. Social and customary conditions and controls still play a great role in their lives. For example, there is no law to criminalize sexual harassment so far and also in the law prohibiting polygamy, it is problematic that a child of unknown parentage is born. These mistakes are inevitably due to the lack of legal expertise and the short experience of the Self-Administration, which if compared at the general Syrian level, is certainly the best in this file. However, it is not the same at the level of rights and duties.
In a similar context, the laws of the Self-Administration, Kurdish parties in the Kurdish National Council and other Arabic and Syriac political groupings still, partially, view women as a minor member of society. Hence, it is not possible for women to rely on the local community to reach leadership positions or to decision posts, such as the Parliament, the Presidency of the Self-Administration, and.…etc. Women are considered uneducated and non-academic and they are appointed in positions without taking their academic qualifications into account. Likewise, women are not featured in the media, as the most prominent figure in the media, in most bodies and ministries, is the man's figure.
On the other hand, the Kurdish political parties, in the Kurdish National Council, or other parties, are still governed by this stereotype, which does not grant women roles in public life, politics and organizational work. As among all Kurdish parties, women are almost completely not represented in the political office, the central committee, or the leadership of the party and until now the idea of "the woman leader" has not crystallized in parties' minds.
Nevertheless, these parties and movements present women, in their political programs, as one of the most important issues for which they fight, work on, and conduct activities and events related to Kurdish women who have struggled in the Kurdish liberation movement, such as; Laila Qasim. However, these parties have not yet allowed a woman to become a Laila Qasim, or to present an effort closer to her prominent effort, despite the available scientific and knowledge capabilities.
This includes Arabic, Assyrian and Syriac women, since all women in the NES undertake the same stereotypes that society use to introduce them with and all of them suffer from the same problem. NES Society deals with women with the same mentality that determines their priorities in domestic life, the kitchen and raising children. It considers them as "the honor of the family" and among the "things" that men have the right to oppress and to control their decisions and choices in life.
In general, most of civil organizations and media institutions, continue to have the same issue. As similarly, women work in these institutions, however, do not have leadership positions and they cannot make decisions or influence it. Therefore, their roles are stereotyped and defined and they hold specific posts that are not related to leadership.
In conclusion, as long as women issues in NES are still pending and are not solved, the society will not be able to develop and the ruling administration in the region will not be able to achieve any progress or difference in the system of governance. The progress of any advanced society in the Middle East, can be believed through a close look into the conditions of its women.