On July 21, the armed forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) ordered the closure of the offices of the Independent Women's Organisation (IWO) and its women's protection centre in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan.
The armed PUK thugs gave the women just 30 minutes to leave. They provided no reasons for the closure. The PUK also confiscated archives and documents of the IWO and shelter.
At the time, 12 women, who face death at the hands of their male relatives, were in the shelter, along with five children. The PUK forces arrested the women and the shelter's security guards. After a while they were released.
When the shelter volunteers and women protested against the PUK's decision to shut the shelter, they were arrested once again. They remain in custody.
Those arrested are: Kazhal Kider, whose nose was chopped off previously by her relatives, with her two children; Surma Rasool Mina; Layla Ismail; Niyan Ali Ahmad, with two children; Asmer Abdulla, who is pregnant; Shoghan Salih, who is pregnant; Bayan; Chiman; Zamman, with her child; Badria Rasool; Basos Abdulla; and Aisha.
The PUK, together with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, rule Iraqi Kurdistan in collaboration with the United States government and under the protection of the US-imposed "no-fly" zone. The PUK's action against the women's organisation last week is part of broader repression of the left in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Worker Communist Party of Iraq has been particularly targeted. In March and April, the PUK took legal action to ban the WCPI's activities, in particular to stop its campaigns for a referendum for self-determination for Kurdistan and against the anti-women Iraqi family laws (including active support for the IWO's women's shelter). Solidarity and pressure on the PUK from leftists around the world forced the PUK to withdraw the charges.
However, on July 14, PUK forces closed down WCPI offices and killed six of the party's members. They are: Abdul Basit Muhsin, Mohammad Mustafa, Ibrahim Mohammad Rostam, Hawri Latif, Omid Nikbin and Sadiq Nikbin. These latest attacks have forced the rest of the WCPI underground.
The IWO described the PUK's action against the women's shelter as an "an aggression against the women's movement in its struggle against male chauvinism and reactionary traditions. This action will prepare the ground for more 'honour' killings and other violations against the women's rights. We fear that those arrested are at risk being humiliated, tortured or killed."
The IWO is calling on all women's and human right organisations, political parties and individuals to condemn the PUK's actions and put pressure on it to immediately stop its attacks.
Please send an urgent message to the PUK demanding that it release those arrested and ensure that they will not be persecuted or killed. Faxes can be sent to the PUK office in London at +44 171 840 0630 and in Washington at +1 202 637 2723.
Send protest letters to Jalal Talabani, President, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, Iraq. Please fax copies to the Australian Committee in Defence of Iraqi Women's Rights at (02) 9633 4428.