Outrage in Iraqi Kurdistan after woman attacked at motorcycle race

Online video shows her being chased by men in Sulaymaniyah

A general view of Sulaimaniyah, the second largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan (Photo by Mariwan Salihi)
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Sixteen men were arrested in Iraq's Kurdistan Region as a video of a young woman being attacked at a motorsport race appeared on social media on Friday.

The footage showed the woman, said to be 17 years old, running from a crowd of men in the city of Sulaymaniyah before being surrounded.

Local groups said she was insulted and beaten but did not suffer life-threatening injuries. A man who intervened on her behalf her was stabbed.

She was reported to have been attacked after arriving at a motorcycle race where men asked that women be excluded.

While the Kurdistan Region has laws against domestic violence and is often upheld as an example of more progressive attitudes towards women, gender-based violence remains a problem.

At least 24 women were killed in such circumstances in the first half of 2022, according to a local anti-trafficking and women's rights foundation.

The “senseless assault” is the result “of a barbaric narrative used systematically against our women”, said Rewaz Faeq, the speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, said in a post on Twitter accompanied by video of the attack.

Sixteen men were arrested in connection with the assault, local media outlets reported Sulaymaniyah Police chief Sarkawt Ahemed as saying.

The Kurdistan Regional Government released a statement condemning the “disgraceful” attack and said it followed another assault in Sulaymaniyah province this week.

“These incidents are unacceptable,” said government spokesman Jotiar Adil.

Sulaymaniyah is known for being one of the most liberal cities in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Protests against gender-based violence in the area have met with resistance, however.

In 2020, an art installation highlighting domestic violence had to be removed after it was set on fire.

The artist, Tara Abdullah, had created a display of the clothes of domestic violence victims that ran almost five kilometres across the city.

Updated: December 31, 2022, 1:25 PM