Kurdish women have gained a reputation worldwide for their strength and determination when they picked up weapons and took their places on the frontlines in the war against ISIS.
Leaders in Kurdistan have hailed this strength – on and off the battlefields – in their messages on International Women’s Day.
“Congratulations to the girls and women of Halabja province and all the ladies of the four parts of Kurdistan. The women of our country are very kindhearted. They haven’t done any less than men in undertaking the responsibilities of life. That is why, always, Kurdish women are proudly the most kindhearted and strongest women,” tweeted Nuxsha Nasih.
She is just the second woman to hold the post of mayor of Halabja in the past 100 years.
“Strong, brave women have always been among us,” said Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in a video message that featured women and men talking about the women of Kurdistan who inspire them.
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani said he was “honored to reiterate my message on the importance of the role of Kurdish women throughout our history who fought in pursuit of justice and Kurdish rights.”
Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani said empowerment of women will help Kurdistan to advance.
"Together to support and empower women to become real partners in the political and economic aspects. It is this that will develop and elevate our society, economy and governance," he tweeted.
The government of Iraq paid tribute to the “great sacrifices made by Iraqi women to liberate our country and celebrate their role in building a better and stronger Iraq every day.
In Iraq, women are allocated 25 percent of seats in the parliament. In the Kurdistan Region, that proportion is slightly higher at 30 percent. But in both places, women have struggled to smash the glass ceiling.
“The moment we speak about power, our reputation and life is in danger,” Hezha Khan, a youth and women’s rights activist from Sulaimani said a few days ahead of last year’s Iraqi parliamentary elections in response to smear campaigns against women candidates.
In the Kurdistan Region, women say they are “decoration,” not real partners in government.
There is optimism that change is happening though as women are dominating the leadership of the new parliament.