Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Impact of Westernization on Iraqi Kurdistan

A recent issue of Soma Digest highlighted a survey of a number of Westerners living in Iraqi Kurdistan in order to address the question of how accepting Iraqi Kurds are of Westernization in their country. One man from Holland observed a lack of Kurdish ideas to modernize their own country and a need to find a way to maintain culture, yet still modernize. Another man who has lived in the region for 8 years working with the U.N. and a NGO noticed the distinctive culture and social background of Kurdistan, and said, “A country does not have to be Westernized to be able to deal with Western cultures.”

Many of the foreigners living in Kurdistan have also traveled to other areas of Iraq and have noticed how much better Kurdistan fares compared to the other areas. Despite these noticeable steps toward modernity, many social and cultural aspects lag behind their political and economic counterparts, due, in part, to tribal and religious rules and traditions, some still quite conservative, that are still upheld.

One such aspect is women’s rights. "Kurdistan has experienced some modernization but it still needs more development particularly in the social aspects of society. This is particularly true in the area of women's rights. Women are mostly still treated as second-class citizens, and this is an ironic reality at a time when the people of the Kurdistan Region are insistent upon Arab Iraqis not treating Kurds as second class citizens. Yet, they too often treat their own women like second-class citizens," said Hary Schute, a former member of the U.S. army who now serves as an advisor to the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Others surveyed remarked how open to change the Kurds are. This openness stems from two avenues. World exposure via media sources, such as television, exposes Kurds to Western ideas. Also, many Kurds fled in fear of Saddam to various Western countries. As one women observed, they are now beginning to return. “Their large families are coming back with them and the children, who have only had a western lifestyle before, are taking on the responsibility of learning how to live in a place that is somewhat foreign to them,” Lydia said. “Those children are requiring change and leading change.”

For the full article, click here.


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