Leyla Qasim: Woman and Kurdish political activist

Leyla Qasim: Woman and Kurdish political activist

We publish this piece by Kurdo Challi, a tribute to Kurdish political activist Leyla Qasim who was hanged in Baghdad, on 12th May 1974. The piece was first published in Kurdish.info.

Leyla Qasim was a Kurdish female political activist who was promoting the awareness of the oppression of the Kurdish people at the hands of occupying powers of Kurdistan. She is regarded as one of the most respected women in the history of Kurdish people. Her poster is displayed in a lot of Kurdish houses and the public places.

Leyla Qasim was born in May 1952 in Xaneqin Southern Kurdistan (north-Iraq). She was the third out of five children born to a Kurdish farmer, Dalaho Qasim and his wife Kani. The Qasims lived in a wretched poverty relying on rations for food and clothes. Leyla and her brother, Chiyako, were taught Arabic by their mother when they were six and eight. Leyla began primary and secondary school in her home town - Xaneqin. She left there and relocated to Hewler when she was four years old. In 1971 she went to Baghdad and studied sociology in Baghdad University. Layla was active member of Kurdish student union. She has significant impact on Kurdish student in Baghdad University. Leyla was fighting for equal society, women’s rights and general awareness about Kurdish issues.

When Leyla was sixteen years old when Abdul Rahman Arif was overthrown by Ba'ath party leader, General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. Leyla was disturbed by the violent takeover in the capital. During the late 1960s, Leyla and Chiyako wrote pamphlets on the horrors of the Ba'ath party including the new leader, Saddam Hussein whom they described as being against Kurdish independence.

Leyla and her comrades were arrested as a result of an extensive operation of the Iraqi former troops and she was convicted as separatist. While held in prison she was tortured and subjected to the most inhuman treatments. But she never confessed anything and always stood loyal to the Kurdish liberation movement. Ultimately she was hanged after a lengthy show trial, broadcasted throughout Iraq.

Leyla Qasim was first women to be executed in Iraq and the fourth political prisoner in the world to be executed. Leyla and her four comrades Jawad Hamawandi, Nariman Fuad Masti, Hassan Hama Rashid and Azad Sleman Miran were executed in Baghdad, in 12th May 1974.

Leyla is regarded as a national symbol and moral forces for the new generations to join the Kurdish resistance movement. Leyla was executed, but thousands of children burn in Kurdistan were named as Leyla. She became the theme of numerous Kurdish poems and songs. By executing Leyla and her comrades Baath regime hoped for the eradication of Kurdish liberation movement but the execution of Leyla was a beginning for new Leylas. One Leyla was executed but thousands of Leylas are now in the forefront of Kurdish resistance movement fighting the occupying powers of Kurdistan and won’t stop until they triumph.