Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What Is Worth Dying For?

Ava Homa

Ava Homa is a Kurdish-Canadian writer based in Toronto. She is the author of ‘Echoes from the Other Land’. Follow her on Twitter: @AvaHoma
Yet another woman lost her life to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault. Last week Farinaz Khosrawani jumped to her death from the fourth floor of a hotel in Mahabad. Locals believe she escaped a sexual assault that was planned and supported by two men in power, the hotel owner and an army officer.

The question we should be asking is this: Why do we create a culture where a woman who is put in such a perilous position is led to believe death is her only option?

Instead, we seem to be so proud of Farinaz for having chosen “honour” over life. Our proud talks about her suicide unwittingly promotes the idea that every woman who has been raped would be better off dead.

Farinaz Khosrawani, regardless of what version of the story one believes, represents our homeland. Our nishtmaan, our identity, and our very existence has been abused by the oppressors for over a century.

Now that our homeland has been raped, should Kurds, as a group, die to regain “honour” or do we encourage resistance and empowerment?

It is true that Iran executes and imprisons women who defend themselves against rapists (Reyahneh Jabari and Mahabad Fatehi are some examples). It is also a fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran systematically suppresses Kurds and other ethnic groups and causes widespread poverty in the Kurdish region. If Farinaz had other job opportunities and didn’t need the job, if she were the owner of the hotel, if she were backed by the government, she would perhaps be alive today.

These are unchangeable facts, realities of life in Rojhalat. But there are realities we can and must change. Praising death and blaming the government will get Kurds nowhere.

The fact remains that Farinaz did not find her community supportive either. How would the community react, had Farinaz opened up about the assault later? How would we respond if more Kurdish women shared their traumatic sexual experiences? What if the rapist was not working for the Iranian army? What if the rapist was “one of us”?

Life is precious. Victims of sexual harassment and sexual assult need tremendous support to recover from the trauma they have been through. The last thing they need is an environment that praises death for a victim.

Farinaz lost her life but many of our women live today who relate to Farinaz on a much deeper and more personal level. We should reassure the ones who didn’t kill themselves that death is not the only option, that our community accepts, protects, and supports all the victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, or class.

More importantly, we need to let the traumatized group know that we are on their side regardless of who the invader has been and how powerful he is.

There is no question that Iran is anti-women and anti-Kurds but rather than repeating these points over and over again, we must take a close look at our culture, dissect and remove some of the negative imprints that the government has left on our conscious and unconscious mind.

Kurdish community would be empowered once we stop praising death and instead create a strong supportive for the victims of sexual assault, letting them know that they are not alone, that death is not the option. Kas nale Kurd merdwa- Let No one Say that Kurds are Dead.

The article was originally published in BasNews

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