Friday, August 29, 2008


Earlier this week we traveled east about 3 hours to Sulaimaniya Governorate on the border with Iran to meet with the Directorate of Health and our partners at Sulaimaniya University Hospital. This drive was even more beautiful and scenic than the drive to Dohuk. After leaving the valley of Erbil we headed up and over the mountains on a road with switchbacks that were so steep and tight I felt that we should be hiking them instead of driving on them.

Coming up over the top of the pass was a beautiful view of the city of Dukan, which is on the banks of Lake Dukan, the largest lake in Kurdistan.

Supposedly Talibani, the President of Iraq, who is a Kurd, also has a house on the shores of the lake. This is it:Our visit to Sulaimaniya was very good, we had the opportunity to meet with the Directorate of Health for Suly Governorate and he gave us his support for our program. We also visited one of our partners, Sulaimaniya University Hospital and met with some of the health professionals there – particularly 2 female psychiatrists (there are only 4 in all of Kurdistan).

Women’s health needs are very great here, particularly mental health. As you can imagine, there is a huge lack of women’s human, social and civil rights and a high prevalence of domestic and honor-based violence against women. In the realm of mental health, one of the biggest problems I’ve heard about so far is the large numbers of female suicides through self-immolation (deliberate sacrifice of oneself by fire).

Although Kurdistan is viewed as a safe and liberal haven in the midst of war and extreme conservatism, and the Kurds are trying to build a safe and secure country after years of oppression and terror from the Saddam regime…it is still a place where a woman can easily be killed for having a strange phone number in her cell phone, where women do not go out at night unless escorted by family members, and where there are still many places in the cities that women are not allowed to be.

There is definitely a long and bumpy road ahead to change societal views on progress and women’s rights.

Here are some more pictures from the trip to Sulaimaniya.

1 comment:

Devan said...

Dear Dawn,

May I please ask you some questions about travel and safety in Sulaimaniyah? I would greatly appreciate it if you have a moment to email me at

Thank you for your time,