Feminist journalist of Turkish origin gunned down in Iraqi Kurdistan

Nagihan Akarsel

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the murder of Nagihan Akarsel, a Kurdish magazine editor and influential feminist advocate, who was gunned down outside her home in Iraqi Kurdistan on 4 October, becoming the fifth Kurdish person of Turkish origin or critic of the Turkish government to be attacked in this autonomous region in northern Iraq in the past year.

“We are appalled by the murder of this Kurdish feminist journalist and writer, perpetrated at a time when Kurdish women are leading a revolt for women's liberation,” RSF’s Middle East desk said. “This is the fifth attack – four of them fatal – on a resident of Turkish origin or outspoken critic of the Turkish government in Iraqi Kurdistan in less than a year. We call on the local authorities to do everything possible to shed light on this murder, bring those responsible to trial, and render justice to Nagihan Akarsel.”

A journalist and academic of Turkish origin, Akarsel was gunned down on the morning of Tuesday 4 October outside her home in Sulaymaniyah, the city in eastern Iraqi Kurdistan where she had lived for the past three years. After her body was taken to the city’s institute for forensic medicine, the Asayish – the Kurdistan Regional Government’s security forces – issued a statement in the evening reporting that her attacker had been arrested and was being investigated.

Akarsel co-edited Jineologî, a magazine dedicated to the “science of women,” which regards women’s individual liberation as a pre-condition for society’s liberation. She was also well known for her research on women, both abroad and in Kurdistan, and she had helped to found the Academy of Jineology in Iraqi Kurdistan. After studying journalism at the University of Ankara, she worked for the magazine Hevia Jin. She also did sociological research in the regions of Afrin and Sinjar (Shingal in Kurdish).

“We will forever remember Nagihan Akarsel, who has been working for decades to create the mental and intellectual power of the women’s revolution, whose slogan Jin-Jiyan-Azadî ["Women-Life-Freedom"] echoes around the world today,” the magazine Jineologî said in a statement. Referring to Mahsa Amini, the Kurdish woman who died in custody in Iran last month after being arrested by the morality police, the magazine added: “Against the same mentality of patriarchal fascism that brutally murdered Jîna Aminî, we are growing the women’s revolution in all of Kurdistan and beyond.” 

Other Kurdish feminist groups, including Network Women Weaving (an international women’s solidarity network founded at the initiative of Kurdish women) and university academics have condemned Akarsel’s murder, accusing Turkey’s intelligence agencies of orchestrating it.

Akarsel is the fourth Kurdish dissident of Turkish origin to be murdered in Iraqi Kurdistan since September 2021. 

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