Peace In Kurdistan Campaign
30 December 2013
Margaret Owen, a well-known human rights lawyer and women’s rights advocate has returned from a solidarity visit with women’s groups in Rojava, northern Syria.
Margaret spent eight days in the region, which is also known as Western Kurdistan and is currently under the administration of a broad coalition of civil society and political organisations led by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The region was largely peaceful until clashes with Al Qaeda affiliated groups began this year, and has seen a massive influx of Syrian internal refugees fleeing violence elsewhere in the country.
During her visit Margaret visited local initiatives, projects and programs led by women calling for peace, Kurdish self-determination and women’s rights. Among them were humanitarian groups, looking after nearly 200,000 internally displaced people (IPDs) without any international aid assistance.
Margaret said: “The killing must stop. Humanitarian aid must go directly to Rojava. And all UN member states must stop providing arms to the regime, or the opposition, now so deeply infiltrated by Al Qaida militias.”
As an expert in the rights of women in conflict, she participated in trainings to both advise women’s groups about accessing UN human rights mechanisms to protect and secure their representation in peace building, and to learn from the PYD’s principles of gender equality, which has led to a proliferation of women’s assemblies, academies, self-defence forces and civil society projects in the region.
The interim administration, says Margaret, has implemented principles of gender equality from the grassroots to the top. She continues: “What I saw across villages and towns in Rojava – the training centre for the women’s section of the YPG; the Women’s Houses in every village, every town); the freshly dug graves of 122 young men and women “martyrs”, killed since July, defending the borders against al Qaida attacks; and families of the internally displaced people (IDPs) who include Arabs, Christians, and other minorities along with Kurds – has deeply impressed me.
“It is time for the UK, the US, the EU and the UN to and support the Kurds in their struggles to enjoy their fundamental human rights denied to them for nearly a hundred years. Rojava demonstrates what is possible.
“I see the principles and ideology of the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan (as set out in his Road Map for Peace) for example, regarding the rights of minorities, of women, and the role of civil society in peace building as a model, not just for Syria, but for all countries emerging from conflict.”
Margaret Owen is available for interviews. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org / 0207 603 9733 / Skype: margaretowen36
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Fax: 020 7263 0596
 Margaret Owen OBE: Biography
Margaret Owen OBE is a barrister and international human rights lawyer with a focus on women’s rights and access to the justice system. Her particular focus is on the status of widows in developing countries and particularly those afflicted by armed conflict, civil wars and revolution. She is the founder and Director of the international NGO Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD) and in that capacity regularly holds meetings at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
She has travelled widely researching gender and human rights issues, and is also a Founding Member of GAPS -UK (Gender Action on Peace and Security), which works with the UK Government on developing National Action Plans to implement Security Council Resolutions addressing violence against women, sexual violence in conflict and post conflict.
For more than a decade Margaret has been intensely engaged in work to bring about a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issues in Turkey and elsewhere in the region. She has often visited Turkey to observe trials, to monitor elections, and to provide training to Kurdish women’s associations on how to use the international human rights mechanisms, such as the Beijing Platform; CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women); other human rights treaties and conventions; and UN Security Council Resolution 1325. For several years she was Women’s Rights Advisor to the KHRP (Kurdish Human Rights Project). She is a Patron of the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and the campaign’s adviser on Kurdish women’s and children’s human rights, and has co-authored reports to the European Parliament on women and girls in Kurdistan. She is well known as a writer, broadcaster, and activist on feminist issues both in the UK and globally.
She is a Cambridge University Graduate and also holds a degree in Social Sciences from the London School of Economics. She is a Member of the Bar of the Middle Temple, a Door Tenant at 9 Bedford Row, and a member of the UK Bar Human Rights Committee. She is also a founder member also of the UKNGOCSWALLIANCE, and a member of the NGO Liason group working with the government to prepare for the 58th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March next year.