SEED Foundation proudly co-sponsored the launch of an exhibiton to bring focus to femicide and gender-based violence against women in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on February 10. The event “HERStory: RESPECT and Remember ” was an interactive and immersive experience remembering victims of GBV in 2019 and recognizing those providing support to survivors and combating the practice.

The month-long exhibition, held at the Photoframing Journalism School in downtown Erbil, was co-sponsored by the Government of Canada, SEED, and Female Voices of the World, a social movement by Kurdish female activist Dashni Morad. “Shame dies when stories are told,” stated organizer Dashni Morad. “Silence on these issues is deadly. We are breaking the silence so survivors will become loud, and loudness means action to combat these killings. These murders are just some of the more extreme examples of thousands of cases that occur in the Kurdistan Region.”

SEED provided long-term care to more than 600 men, women, and children who were survivors of violence or those at risk across Kurdistan in 2019 alone. DCVAW reported 11,907 GBV-related cases last year; however, under-reporting due to fear of repercussion, reputation, and the “shame” or “honor” culture would likely put the figure much higher.

Over sixty-five government officials, diplomats, NGO workers, activists, artists, and others filled the historic building for two exhibits. The art, displayed by local artists, and the event left many attendees visibly emotional, as attendees were asked to light candles in honor of the victims and write a message of hope or inspiration for Kurdistan’s future. A brief panel between Sozan Fahmi, the Iraq Country Manager Khalsa Aid; Nahro Zagros, the Vice President of Soran University and Founder of the Gender Department; Kurda Omer Abdullah, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Department of Combating Violence Against Women and Families (DCVAW); Ashley Durec, the Head of the Office of the Embassy of Canada to Iraq in Erbil; and SEED President and Executive Director Sherri Kraham Talabany followed on the chilly rooftop. They, each coming from a different sector, discussed how society can play a greater role in fighting GBV and educating potential perpetrators.

“We want the survivors of GBV to know that blame lies with the perpetrators. ‘Honor’ killing is  where a woman or girl usually — but sometimes a boy — is killed because she is accused of something shameful, outside the cultural norms, usually falling in love or engaging in romantic behavior,” explained Sherri Kraham Talabany. “That’s what today is about. That is not normal. And we all have a job to do.”

SEED chose to jointly fund the project with the Government of Canada due in part to Morad’s conviction, determination and ability to influence in Kurdistan. “SEED was proud to co-sponsor this event. Dashni can tell stories of victims and has a way of raising her voice in a compelling way,” our President said. The exhibition will be open until March 11 from 2- 6 p.m. daily. Those interested in visiting should contact Safeen at 0750 451 2628 at the Framing Photojournalism School  located at 6 Minari Street, Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

“The level of violence against women an important issue to focus on because we want to see Kurdistan become stable and prosperous. It has to be safe for all. While it’s important to remember the victims, but it’s also important to think about how we can change our attitudes towards violence against women,” SEED’s President added, explaining the work the organization  performs with all groups, including those affected by violence against women.