Jogging is my favorite activity during spring season. Every time the weather helps, I put on my sweat shirt, Nike shorts and sneakers and run in Sami Abdul Rahman park, pretty big well organized park in Erbil City.
One day I decided to walk and enjoy my time at the park. I saw two men jogging, wearing regular T-shirts, not wearing shorts like me so they don’t show their legs, very decent I must admit, but I really could not help not checking them out running around the park. They passed by a group of women who suddenly started to whistle, make comments and the poor two men felt so shy and quickly left the park. Yes, Poor men are not allowed to work out or take a walk in the park like women.
Men have enough freedom to go shopping and sit in cafés, but they have to be bold enough to withstand the staring of women smoking hookah (Sheesha) blowing the smoke on their side to make them feel uncomfortable and eventually leave the café.
I hope, one day, women stop beeping inside their cars when they see a man crossing the street. I also hope that women do not get offended when a man tries to pass them when he is rushing to his work, not trying by any sense to prove he is stronger behind the wheel.
If you are a man living in Iraq or Kurdistan, regardless of your outfit, you would still worry about the comments women make about your body. Regardless of the car you are driving, there is always a woman racing you, passing your car from the right side, or even follow you down to where you live or work.
If you are a man living in Iraq or Kurdistan, and you are trying to have a career, you need to think twice because working men are often judged to have too much freedom. You will also have to worry about the possible harassments you may face at work.
If you are a man reading this I hope that you know what I was talking about. I hope I could make some of you feel how bad women feel about themselves when they cannot practice their least rights of being normal human beings .
It may sound funny to switch parts, but it saddens my heart to face harassments despite all the development we witness in our lives. What we really need is mentality development. I wish I could take a picture or shoot a video to make it sound more realistic, but I am definite that most of us realize how annoying it is.
If you are a man reading this, I want you to imagine living like a woman. I do not want to generalize. I am surrounded by amazing men who added so much to my life being so respectful and kind; however, there are men who really need to imagine our lives facing all kinds of harassments.
It took me quite some time to figure out a solution to this issue. I have searched the internet trying to learn techniques to avoid harassments in my life, but there is always that dude who thinks it is okay to embarrass his female colleague at work. There is always that man who would find a woman to harass in the street.
If you are a man reading this, you would probably put some of the blame on women. I agree, women may need to wear decent cloths, respect culture and work environment, but again, most of the cases I witness has nothing to do with women style.
According to Bas news, there has been an increase in the number of violence against women reported in Kurdistan region. Harassment is among those cases that have been reported. The numbers reported during the first 8 months of 2013 is way higher than what has been reported in 2012 (Shwan Barzinji , Basnews).
The higher figure indicates that there is less control, or more disrespect toward women. The funny thing is that we see so much demand for development in different areas of life, yet, we see less acceptance from the public to modern trends.
As a woman, I do not want to wear too short outfits for work under the name of freedom. I do not want to say everything and insult everyone under the name of free opinion. I just want to feel comfortable being a woman.
The solution is not that we stop doing what we do. The solution is that we make the community accept us being ourselves. The solution is not that we ignore the harassment and enjoy what we do, but rather take action. The solution is not that we stop going to work, but rather find a way to end our discomfort.
Government should impose rules against harassments. I have been searching for related laws in the Iraqi constitution. Unfortunately, there is no law that gives the woman the right to report harassment (Iraqinationality.gov). Women are not just unable to report it but they are often the ones to blame or criticize when they try to defend themselves (Iraqhur.org).
Women must be able to report harassers by calling or texting a number. Government must place charges or fines to harassers depending on how assaultive the harassment was. There are countries like the US, or not far from our country, like Egypt where laws were clearly defined to protect women from harassments. (Sheroit, The National Council for Women).
Companies, especially private ones need to be more restricted about their policies. It is not enough to have a written policy that says harassment is not allowed at work place, but rather implement those policies by warning or terminating harassers.
The media can also play a vital role changing the situation. Condemn harassment on TV and newspapers can draw people attention to the issue. Having someone to speak on behalf of so many women will make more people realize the size of the issue.
It is important to mention that it is not just local Iraqi or Kurdish women that suffer harassment; it is also the international ones from different places around the world. I often hear complains about taxi drivers harassing women by asking too many questions or taking long routs to spend as long time as possible with the female passenger. Our country is receiving a lot of nationalities, it is critical to ensure citizens comfort.
My mother used to tell my brother to think of how his sister feels if someone made inappropriate comments before he tries to say anything to a woman. I am not going to ask men to think of their sisters or mothers I want them to try living like a woman and imagine themselves worrying about every single move they make.
If you are a man reading this try accepting a woman as she is. A human being rather than a sex object. It is not always what she wears that makes you harass her, it’s what you feel and think watching her being herself.
References: 1- Shwan Barzinji , Violence against women in Iraqi Kurdistan increases in 2013, Bas News, available at (http://www.basnews.com/en/News/Details/Violence-against-women-in-Iraqi-K...). 2- The Iraqi Nationality- Iraq constitution brief, available at (http://www.iraqinationality.gov.iq/attach/iraqi_constitution.pdf) 3- The Iraqi Woman being harassed, yet he one to blame. Iraq Hur channel, available at (http://www.iraqhurr.org/content/article/24781890.html) 4- Sheroit, Law against harassment text, The national council for women, available at (http://www.ncwegypt.com/index.php/ar/docswomen/harasara/310-law)