Kurdish Women Fighting for their Children's Custody

Kurdish Women Fighting for their Children's Custody
Investigations | 18 Mar 2015

Umm Abd is a divorcée in her thirties alone caring for her three year old son. Her husband was extremely violent to her, profusely hitting her from the first month of marriage. He routinely expulsed her from the house, which brought their marriage to a quick end. Um Abdallah tells Rozana: "He [my husband] used to heat the knife to become as hot as coals, and sear my body with it." The torture, which Umm Abd was suffering, did not stop at her but extended to her child: "When my childe used to fall ill, he would stop me from going out to treat him, saying that he would get better on his own!"

Bargaining to get a Divorce!

Umm Abd starting giving her husband money she'd secured by selling off the gold given to her as wedding gifts by her realtives. She sought a divorce, but the cruel man started to bargain her over custody of her young son: "He forced me to make a choice between receiving my material rights, or waive everything and keep my son... I chose my son."

The SARA Organization for the Elimination of Violence against Women has announced in a statement, the increase in the rate of divorce cases during the first half of 2014. According to the organization, there have been 133 cases of divorce, compared with 155 during the entire year of 2013.

Children Belong to the Husband

After returning to her parents' house, accompanied by her young son, Umm Abd faced many criticisms. It is not customary in Kurdish society for a divorced woman to retain custody of her children; a child belongs to the father, according to popular tradition. "My parents gave their blessing to my decision; people around me, on the other hand, were telling me that it would have been better for me to take the money, and not keep this burden [my son]."

It is an established practice in Kurdish tribal custom that women recieve some of the financial benefits, in return for waiving custody of their children to the husband. Sometimes, women waive their financial rights, with the husband retaining custody of the children at any rate, supported by norms and traditions.

Umm Abd defends her its right to the custody of her son, before the women's body in the [Kurdish] Democratic Self-Rule area issued a decree guaranteeing equality between men and women in public and private life. As for divorced Women, Article 25 of the women's basic principles: "Women have the right to custody of their children until the age of fifteen, whether they choose to remarry or not; children will have a choice [of parent] afterwards. It will be the duty of the parties to secure housing and alimony for children throughout the custody period."

Umm Abd does not know if women like her will benefit from the aforementioned decree by the women's body in the region. As for her, she has already defied the traditions that force a mother to abandon her children; she started to become self-reliant operating as small Tricot workshop, and providing assistance and advice to women in need.

An excerpt of Women's Day celebrations in the Kurdish areas:


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