In stark opposition to the violence and oppression that the self-declared Islamic State is forcing on Iraq and Syria, two Kurdish universities have announced the creation of Gender & Violence Studies Centers (GVSC) to “uproot violence and promote human rights.”
The first of their kind in the region, these GVSCs are the frontlines of the ideological battle with the self-declared Islamic State — a battle that is not fought by the Peshmerga, but rather by academics, in the classroom.
Providing Education for a New Generation
Two Kurdish universities — the University of Soran and the University of Sulaimani have established their own GVSCs, each offering classes, academic research, and training. These centers are run with financial assistance from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and matching funds from the University of Bristol in the U.K.
Funded by the U.K. and KRG
The concept for Kurdish Gender & Violence Studies Centers was conceptualized in 2010, at the University of Bristol, as one of the British Council’s Development Projects in Higher Education. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Professor Gill Hague said that the GVSCs in Iraqi Kurdistan “are part of the ongoing movement towards modernization and greater awareness of women’s issues in the region.”
While the University of Bristol is helping with the funding of these GVSCs, they are taking measures not to impose western values on the development of the program, but rather, let the programs develop naturally, led by the academics on the ground in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Understanding Gender in Kurdistan
According to the KRG’s Ministry of Culture and Youth, the term “gender” has only recently entered the Kurdish language. Religious extremists use the western term “gender” in a negative light, relating it to the Kurdish word “gander,” which is a Kurdish profanity. These extremists say that studying “gender” will lead to the perversion of religion and culture.
This debate over gender studies has not prevented the KRG from providing funding to the GVSCs, and through adversity, they have continued to operate, integrating courses on gender, women’s rights, and sexuality into university curriculum.[Read more at the Huffington Post]