The destiny of five out of six rapists of the 16-year-old Syrian Kurdish refugee girl has finally been decided upon by the court- they are to remain in jail for 59 years. They are given what they deserve- if not more- though one of them is still on the run and the girl’s family are happy and described the court sentence as “fair”. What has made the family of the girl to be even happier is that the court announced that she was innocent refusing allegations that were made up by some people including her relatives that she fabricated the story for the sake of money. The Australian government, through the UN humanitarian program, has also granted residential rights to the family. But is that it?

Were there times when you could not utter even a single word? Have you ever undergone such a situation where you were completely flabbergasted? I am sure you have experienced and come across such moments in your life. That was my reaction when I heard the gang-rape of a defenseless innocent young refugee girl from Syrian Kurdistan.

Violence against women, honor killings and divorce are on the rise in recent years in Kurdistan. According to reports and statistics from the Violence Against Women Directorate, in 2010 twenty-six females were killed; in 2011 twenty-three, in 2012 nine and only in the first ten months of 2013 twenty-three females were killed in Hawler.

Erbil (Hawler), capital city of the Kurdistan Region, is most known for its generosity and hospitality, its calm nature and its eagerness to embrace foreigners and unfortunate people. But when one hears the story of the indecent callous assault of the 16-year-old Syrian Kurdish girl in this quiet city, all you can do is wonder at the brutality of the act and wish at least life imprisonment for these rapists.

Public opinion, journalists, civil society organizations, marriage counseling centers, ministers of education and social affairs should interfere and pay serious attention to such cases and consider them as their own case since they are responsible indirectly for what happens. Intellectuals should stand against it and people in the street should become more aware about events like this so that it will not become part of Kurdish culture and do not allow the youth to fall for scams of rape or violence against women.

Kurdistan is on its way towards more freedom, democracy, and most importantly independence. Yes, there is corruption and favoritism in government institutions, even the President and Prime Minister confessed to social injustice on numerous occasions. Nevertheless, where are the plans to uproot them?

What is important for the people of Iraqi Kurdistan, in particular, but also Kurds all over the world in general is to unite their public opinion and let the new generation recognize the danger of such crimes in order to raise individual and social awareness and the deadly consequences of such brutality.

There has to be seminars and workshops in the cities and countryside to raise and expand awareness among the individuals of our society not to let events like this happen again as technology is driving the whole world to the edge of darkness. Kurdish society is undergoing major transformation in all its aspects so we need to be prepared with the best tools available and encounter any attempts that would lead to confusion.

These six rapists are real criminals. The shocking thing is three of them are brothers and one has two wives. What kind of conscience do they have when they call others to rape her? This kind of crime is significantly more dangerous than stealing. Moreover, one would wonder why such crimes like this happen. What motivates them?

Clearly, it is not a political motive but a sexual or better to say psychological one. So, personal, cultural and sexual awareness needs fundamental reform. So far and after twenty three years of self-rule, the ministry of education does not have a program or a book to guide the youth – rather the curriculum is crammed with national and theoretical books that are mostly of no use.

The media should not glamorize this kind of event and realize that the victim is not a puppet. These six men do not represent Kurdish people, but the event denounces Kurds and send a negative message to the outside world- this is not to cover the event up, rather to express support and sympathy.

Although there are inadequacies in oil distribution, electricity and lack of cash in the region due to the central government’s decision to cut the Kurdish share of the national budget, this case has nothing to do with the security forces and it is imprudent to blame Asayish or the police force- rather the policies of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KGR) in employing the wrong people in the wrong positions.

In December 2013, the Minister of Education was accused of corruption and smuggling books into the black market- plus the education system is completely out of date and one could argue broken. There are still three schools in one building. Obviously, appropriate education is the bedrock of a healthy society. But the educational system has been in hibernation for the last twenty years and there is still little chance officials would consider waking up and leaving their dormant status.

Ever since the beginning of the Syrian war, nearly 240,000 Syrian Kurds poured into the Kurdistan region and 97% of the refugees in Iraq are settled in Kurdistan. These people have already had enough of war, displacement and hardship.

This case does not need philosophical theories to handle it, it does not need glamorization to get more viewers. Everyone can relate to it and as far as I know Kurdish society all over the world were touched and have expressed their sympathies because this is the only case of rape that is so heinously conducted.  Of course, there is still honor killing and cases of violence and tribal agreements between the two parties, the attacked and the attacker.

Overall, these six rapists represent neither Erbil (Hawler) nor Kurds; and events like this just need the proper tools and plans and educating the members of the society from birth that males and females are equal in rights and responsibilities could be the first step.

Note: an earlier version of this article published previously. Some changes have been made due to the current development in the case.

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