Kurdistan Refugee Women's Organisation (KRWO)

UK / Kurdistan

The Kurdistan Refugee Women's Organisation (KRWO) is a self-help group of Kurdish refugee women who have fled Iraq, Iran and Eastern Turkey following civil war, state persecution, death threats and physical and emotional torture for supporting the human rights for women and children in Kurdistan. The group was formed in 1999 and is registered as a charity in the United Kingdom. The organisation was formed to support Kurdish women living in the UK and to help them secure their basic needs and rights.

What are our aims?

* To empower Kurdish refugee women, familiarise them with their rights, provide advice, assistance, advocacy, counselling and casework on welfare rights, housing, domestic violence and immigration

*To produce and collect information on all matters relating to Kurdish women and to educate the public about their needs and expectations

* To encourage the integration of Kurdish women into British social life and their active participation in the wider society

* To provide a safe environment where Kurdish women can meet each other to discuss issues relating to the quality of their lives

* To educate and raise awareness among Kurdish women by organising seminars, talks, discussions and conferences

* To work with other women’s organisations in the UK in order to exchange views and to share information.

Why do we do this?

Many women arrive from Kurdistan traumatised by the experience of fleeing for their lives, and having lost all their possessions. They often have no knowledge of English, and no knowledge that in this country they are entitled to equal treatment with men. Many of them not only lack housing and the means to access health and other services, but also lack the belief that as women they have the same human rights as men; rights that entitle them not to be assaulted, locked up, or abused. In the UK many women in our community become isolated and depressed, and domestic violence is not uncommon.

The best way for us to explain why we commit ourselves to this work is for us to provide some examples of the needs that we are seeking to address:

* A woman from our community was being beaten by her husband and was not allowed to go out. She was not willing to allow the police to prosecute her husband as she was threatened with death.

* Another woman had been suffering domestic violence, had asked for a divorce, and had then had to flee from her family because she was threatened. She was living in a women's refuge where she could not communicate with anyone as she speaks no English.

* A woman we knew about wanted to marry someone from outside our community. Her family forbade her to do this, and in her distress she stabbed herself repeatedly. Later after she had recovered in hospital she came to us looking for support. We helped her to take control of her life and she has chosen to marry the man she chooses, and move away from her family, for her own safety.

* One Kurdish woman had been living here for 15 years, and had asked her husband for a divorce. She went to Kurdistan to visit her family, and was killed there by her husband or his associates.

* One woman contacted us from outside London (but in the UK). She described how she had had acid poured over her face and throat when she was in Kurdistan by men from the Islamic movement, in order to hurt and disfigure her. One of us went to visit her, and took the details of what has happened. We now plan to visit her again in the near future, to help her to get medical attention.

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