Like most traditional and Islamic societies, men are given certain rights and responsibilities in Kurdish society that are denied to women. Given the differences dictated by biology, men are supposed to govern, fight, and support their families. Women are supposed to bear and care for children, manage their households, and obey their husbands.
   Nevertheless, compared with the other Islamic societies around them, Kurdish women have often exercised more freedom. Indeed, travelers have long noted how Kurdish women usually went unveiled and were allowed greater freedom, while also performing most of the hard manual labor. Even in marriage, Kurdish women could sometimes be wooed and won, although arranged marriages also existed. Wives too were treated more equally by their husbands than they were in most other Middle Eastern locales. Kurdish women have also held a more secure financial position than did their sisters in neighboring societies. For example, women could more easily succeed their husbands as the head of a family even when there were male children.
   Kurdish women have also occasionally played prominent roles in politics and the military. Lady Kara Fatima of Marash won fame as a female warrior who led hundreds of Kurds against the Russians in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 and represented the Kurds in the Ottoman court in Constantinople. The last autonomous ruler of the Hakkari region was a woman. The Ottoman army also had to face Mama Pura Halima of Pizhdar, Mama Kara Nargiz of the Shwan tribes in what is now Iraqi Kurdistan, and Mama Persheng of the Milan tribe. Adila Khanem was a famous and cultured chief of the Jaf tribe until her death in 1924. Although actually an Assyrian, Margaret George is a more recent example of a Kurdish female warrior. Hero Talabani, the wife of Jalal Talabani, is a well-known personality in her own right. More than 30 percent of the Parliament of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) elected on 25 July 2009 is female. Leyla Zana, a female Kurdish politician from Turkey, is famous for her advocacy of Kurdish human rights.
   Despite these examples, women's rights (or the lack thereof) is an increasingly important issue in Kurdistan. Kurdish women in Turkey, for example, have sometimes been subjected to various forms of state violence, including rape and sexual harassment, especially during the years of violence associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the 1980s and 1990s. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq has recently sought to deal with honor killing, the murder of women by their own families because the women have somehow dishonored their families by infidelity or otherwise. Similar concern regarding honor killings has also been expressed in Turkey. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is also a very important issue too often ignored or downplayed. Female Kurdish refugees and widows suffer more than their male counterparts. Clearly, much remains to be done regarding women's rights in Kurdistan.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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