On 1 March, one week before International Women’s Day, the Kurdistan Women’s Communities (KJK), the women’s branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment prohibiting sexual violence in armed conflict and against gender discrimination. Jiyan Lava, Coordination Member in the Kurdish region of Iraq, signed this commitment on behalf of the KJK and the PKK movement.
“In a region where civilian populations have suffered so much from sexual and gender-based violence, it is encouraging to see that important armed actors make public commitments against these practices. This signature commits them to maintaining and even strengthening their current policies. We hope that this step will have a positive influence on civil society and on other armed non-State actors,” said Elisabeth Decrey Warner, Geneva Call’s Executive President.
Although the PKK movement already has internal policies in place prohibiting sexual violence and against gender discrimination, Geneva Call will encourage further dissemination of the obligations contained in the Deed of Commitment within the PKK ranks and monitor their respect.
According to these policies and a unilateral declaration shared with Geneva Call, gender equality and political participation of women are important issues within the PKK and the movement has played an active role in promoting them within Kurdish society. Furthermore, the PKK and other Kurdish armed non-State actors have many women fighting alongside men throughout the conflict raging in the region.
“We are signing the Deed of Commitment because we reject violence against women and gender,” explained Jiyan Lava in a video statement released after the signing. According to a unilateral declaration made by the KJK at the same time, “it [the KJK] treats violence against women as a crime and judges it in a clear and transparent manner.”
Geneva Call has been in dialogue with women from the PKK movement since it organized a pioneering meeting of female combatants from various armed non-State actors from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America in Geneva in 2004.
Geneva Call will also keep monitoring any allegations of non-compliance in the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict, signed by the PKK/People’s Defense Forces (HPG) in 2013. Since the signature of this commitment, several cases of child recruitment by the PKK/HPG have been reported, and although progress has been observed, there are still issues to be dealt with to ensure a definitive end to the use of children under 18 years old in combat-related activities.