Silence and Exploitation; Female Labor in Kurdish Villages

Women in Kurdish villages have to work hard. They don’t do that out of free will, but because they are subjected to patriach rule.

By Kurdistan Rasul, Wadi Arbil  22.05.2017

The peaceful atmosphere of villages and the pictures of collective works done together were seen in the books of Kurdish literature and described in poems and popular songs.  These images used to be a part of the educational curriculum, but through my work in organizations and my close encounters with the women, I realized, these pictures were not at all true and even fooled our poets.

When you see women working in the fields beside the men, they do not do it voluntarily.  In fact  they are forced to do so.


Through cultural effects, house wives in cities may not go out to work, unlike the villages which the culture influences hard labor for women. The same culture that does not allow women to visit cities, markets on their own.

Some even wait months or a year just to go shopping, only to buy the families necessities and carry out her duties, far from any leisure time.

The men receive pleasure and praise for neglecting and humiliating their wives. Otherwise, they would be mocked for being weak, and they would be talked about in every meeting of the men of the villages. They would lose their value and no one will consider them as men.

That is why they treat the women badly, threaten, beat and curse them.


There has not been a day in which the women did not smell bad from sweat, barns and sheep shit. The palm of their hands scratched and wounded from digging the grounds with axes;  their backs hurting due to lifting too much weight.

“We can’t sleep at night, we don’t even have the right to see  a doctor. They don’t spend money on us,” they told me.


To make it more difficult, women are treated as baby-making machines for the men to have backup.  The women deal with children in one hand and with labor on the other. They mostly suffer health issues related to this.

Women and labor became a term hard to separate. There is not a time for women not to work. Perhaps these are the causes of their psychological issues and even reasons to commit suicide;  they are too busy to think of themselves and their issues.

If the men have a place for meeting, the women are not allowed. They work in the kitchen and serve the men sitting in that room.

They train boys to attend these meetings, but they tell the girls not to go to that room.

In winter, the men have less work due to the absence of farming. But the women have to take care of the men non-stop.


Since the economical crises broke out in Iraqi-Kurdistan in 2014, the villages heavily focus on farming and animal breeding, often the women cannot attend the seminars we are offering them about their rights and legal status, or they do not have the choice and are not allowed.


It is silent in the villages as they all work in silence, due to dictatorships and fear. Otherwise the screams and shouts of pain and frustration of these women can make one deaf.

Women know that if they do not work, they will face verbal and physical abuse. Any mistake will have life threatening effects, or divorce on them. Therefore, they use silence as their most powerful weapon.


The relationship between our family members is not healthy; the father imposing himself and his orders, and the mother sacrificing everything to provide the needs of the family.

Unfortunately, women came to the sad conclusion that they will have to suffer and victimize themselves for the sake of their families, if they would resist, they would not feel at ease with themselves.

They accept and do all these sufferings because they feel like that is how they would be accepted in society.

From these points of views, I feel like our path has lots of struggles, it will take a long time for these believes to change, it is a hard challenge to convince the women to pursue their own rights.

Kurdistan Rasul, a right’s activist and writer, is leading the Campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) for Wadi in Arbil.

This article was translatet from Sorani Kurdish by Shoxh Mohammad.