My time spent behind bars

My journey in Erbil’s women’s prison is one that will remain with me for a long time.

I first went to the female’s prison with START Social Development Organization for the Jezhn (Eid) occasion where we gave the women in the women’s shelter and prison some gifts, as it is also the annual campaign of ‘anti-violence against women’.

For the second year now the event has become an annual weeklong celebration, campaign and activities held by government and non-governmental organizations in the region. It is a time of year where major focus is dedicated to women in the Kurdish Society, and it was through this that I met the most vulnerable women in our society- those who are in shelters, because they are under threat from violence and women in prison, the majority of whom have ‘supposedly’ committed a crime.

As for the women in the prison, I had a chance to speak to a few of them individually, when I left I knew this was not the last time I’d set foot into the prison. Less than a week later, (in fact less than two hours ago) I was back there, but for a different purpose. I knew some of the stories had to be listened to and written for others to read and realize what there is hidden ‘behind bars’.

Each story is a tragedy of its own, each women with a story and each case can be turned into a novel of its own. Some are victims, and others guilty. I realized most of them do not belong in the prison but maybe in a shelter where they can be kept safe, I also learned a group of these young women were not guilty of committing crime but they are victims of ancient cultural traditions that remain in existence in some areas of the region.

I must admit I was proud to see the good food they are offered on a daily basis, they have air-conditioning and heaters, television and bunk beds to sleep on; but at the same time there are many things lacking such as sufficient number of professional staff. Unfortunately, many people do not realize the importance of working in such places. Many of the women need to have workshops to keep them busy and others classes for reading and writing.

One thing I found fascinating was for one second that I was in the prison I did not disrespect or judge any of the women as criminals, in fact the respect and love they received from me was like any average women I see in my everyday life, because I was sure that behind every crime and every story there was a deep reason and regret. Today I realize I was correct.

Read the next issue of the Kurdish Globe for an in depth report of life for women behind bars.

START Social Development Organization:
Women’s prison in Kurdistan
Erbil prison

8 thoughts on “My time spent behind bars

Add yours

  1. Sazan, you're always seeing the most intersting people in the most extraordinary places, I applaude you for your courage and attention.


  2. Dear sazan, I can not express how much I respect and admire you. what you doing is more than a blessed work for your community. indeed, every single woman that lives in prison whether guilty or not, have thier own heartbreaking stories. each one of them have their conviencing reason of why they have committed crimes. therefore, its important that we listen to their stories and what they have to say. weldone and wish you all the best.


  3. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you for your kind words,our society is not one that finds joy in crimes, and they are not criminals, especially women– but sometimes it is the circumstances that people go through that put them in such situations. This is not to say that there were not a number of guilty women….
    At the end of the day, we are all humans, and there are some that need our help and support.

    Thanks once again, I appreciate your lovely comment 🙂


  4. Dear Sazan,
    I must say that I am very impressed with your personality and your amazing blog. I can say its the best blog i have seen so far about Kurdistan! Well done dear, you make us proud. Congratulations and I really thank you for such an amazing job. Please keep on posting…
    Best wishes


  5. Sazaaaaaaa I am not surprised!!!
    you still your same old self looking for the victims. May good keep you for us, you are the voice that silent people need.


  6. Sazaaaaaaa I am not surprised!!!
    you still your same old self looking for the victims. May good keep you for us, you are the voice that silent people need.


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