Despite being a male-dominated society in the Middle East, Kurdish women have rich culture of political participation and leadership. From the marxist influence of having a genderless society, quotas for spaces for women have historically been made for Kurdistan’s female politicians. However, being belonging to an oppressed gender and ethnic minority in a patriarchal and mono-ethnic host government presents many layers of challenges and setbacks to gender equality for Kurdish women.
Usually from rich and educated and “tolerant” families, some people claim that women in Kurdish culture had equal status of men until the influence of Islam and Ottoman culture forced the ethnic minority to comply with patriarchal norms.
Many people argue that just because some Kurdish female politicians have achieved the great success that gender equality trickles down to the rest of women. While many examples exist of Kurdish men rising from humble beginnings to great positions of power, few to no women have done the same.
Well-known Kurdish female politicians
Adela Khanum was the leader of the Begzade and Jaf tribal system in the early 1900’s, in Southern Kurdistan. She gained power through her husband who was the appointed governor of the region. Eventually her power outgrew his and he willingly gave her more responsibility in ruling the region. She remained in power after his death and until hers in 1924.
Leila Zana (pictured above) is a Kurdish politician in Turkey who has had a history of imprisonment over her disputed ties with the PKK. She was imprisoned between 1994 and 2004 for promoting PKK material in speeches, and while she holds a position in Turkish parliament currently and holds immunity from prosecution, when she finishes her term she may end up in prison again for speeches she made in 2007 and 2008 praising PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan (Apo), which violates Turkey’s anti-terror law. 
Nisrin Barwari was born to a Kurdish family in Iraq, and is a former Interim Iraqi Government Minister of Public Works. She gained notoriety for her roles in the KRG government and later the interim Iraqi government. She is also well known for her marriage to Iraq’s former president Ghazi Yawer in 2004, as he already had two other wives and she was seen as the Iraqi-Kurdish female role-model for women in leadership. 
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