Laila Qasim 27th Anniversary: the first women executed in the history of Iraq was a Kurd

  • - By Harem Jaff
  • 10/05/2001 00:00:00

Laila Qasim is a true representation and symbol of Kurdish women in struggle against tyranny and oppression. This year sees her 27th death anniversary. She was executed in 12.05.1974 in Baghdad in Iraq.

Laila Qasim was the first women executed in the history of Iraq. She was a Kurd.

Laila was born in a village of Banmel close to Khanaqin in 1953 where she grew up in a poor family. Her father was a worker in an oil company in Khanaqin, where Laila successfully finished her primary and secondary school education.

Laila Qasim 1953 - 1974
Laila QasimShe joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in 1970, through her brother Salam who was a member of the KDP.

She was accepted at the University of Baghdad to study literature to obtain a university degree.

Laila was arrested, because of her political activity in Baghdad, on 28 April 1974 and taken to Abukhreb prison. Here she was kept in a single cell until her execution in 12 May 1974 at 7:00 pm. Laila was executed with three young male Kurdish university students.

The bravery and struggle of this young Kurdish woman has been an inspiration to others.

Her political activity in Baghdad, Iraq, a city with high state security is truly a brave act, giving pride to young Kurdish girls and women in Kurdistan.

Despite being in difficult circumstances, she was enthusiastic and endeavoured to what she believed in, freedom for Kurdistan and to struggle for her people. At the same time, she set out to prove the equality and the capability between both genders.

Laila was in her last year at university, when the Baath Party was engaged in the policy of deportation and assimilation of Kurdish cities and towns, destroying villages situated in between the borders Southern Kurdistan and Iraq.

Laila’s town, Khanaqin has always been targeted by the Baath party to be assimilated, and until today it is still among those Kurdish cities, towns and villages, which are under the Iraqi control. Kurds are getting tortured, deported, assimilated and their properties are confiscated by the Iraqi state.

Laila’s town is situated along the Alwend River and is in a fertile and comprehensively cultivated area. Khanaqin serves as a local business centre for agricultural produce as well as for buying and selling stocks. Three to five kilometres to the southeast of Khanaqin, an oil field is situated and a refinery is located at Alwand.

The geopolitical domain of the town and its richness in oil, the high fertility of its soil and the existing water from the Alwand river have been factors for placing it in danger from the Bath party where their plans of assimilation and deportation of local people would yield high profits for them.

Laila Qasim
Courtesy Sîrwan -

Before the Martyrdom of Laila Qasim

Facing invaders and occupiers in Kurdistan has not been the sole domain of a man’s duty. Women have played a significant, yet unrecognised role and can be truly seen as unknown soldiers in the struggle against oppression.

Laila is one of the unrecognised soldiers. She believed in the equal ability to struggle for freedom between both genders and that equality could be proven in direct confrontation through protest and physical and ideological confrontation on a grass-root level.

Laila has proven this and sacrificed herself to that fact. Through her actions she highlighted the role of women in Kurdish history, which is even more relevant today.

In prison, she remained strong. She stopped eating a number of days before her execution in protest and continued with her slogans of Freedom for Kurdistan.

She refused to be blindfolded and carried a smile with her on her way to the place of execution. She was hanged. This proved her belief in reality and equality of genders in the struggle. Laila was the first Kurdish young woman to be executed in occupied South Kurdistan by Iraq and also the first woman to be executed in Iraq.


Kurdish women have never been left behind as far as Kurdish deep-rooted history is concerned. Isolation of women and remaining as a servant within the society were issues that would have never been permitted morally and religiously under normal conditions.

But when oppression and imposing ideas brought, they were forcibly and gradually obliged to forget about the past and began to believe that it was the right way for them to live and behave.

Thousands of years before Arabs invaded Kurdish homeland under the name of religion, Kurdish women were free and independent. They were messengers of God’s good words. They passed these words across villages and mountains, side by side with men.

In addition, they were seen as a symbol to represent unity. Male children were named after their mothers, which still happens in Kurdish society today. This aspect of our tradition is still in our memory and carried through culturally.

This can be clearly seen when both men and women are traditionally get married and in the way that their wedding day is celebrated. On the day of the wedding the Bride and Groom are accompanied by three groups of well-dressed girls: first three, second six and third nine. The some of the girls in the first group carry a mirror kept in her hand for the Bride and Groom to each other while they are walking. The other two groups walk behind them. Each of all these groups individually express and symbolise the words of God passed on by the prophet Zarathustra. They repeat the words

“Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds”.

The role of Kurdish women in battle

Kurdish women have always been an important part of the Kurdish struggle throughout the history. But because colonisation, states such as Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria with the help of Kurdish extremist religious groups, Kurdish women have been forced to live under their system. Apart from military and state torture, these colonisers have also religion as a weapon against women in Kurdistan.

They well understood that if Kurdish women were free or simply managed to get their confidence back that they have always possessed throughout history, that this would prove to be difficult for the colonisers to maintain their power to the extant that they have at present. Kurdish women are restricted in their movements in Kurdistan in fear of strengthening any underground movements, which exist in every part of Kurdistan.

One day Khanzad is coming back

Lady Khanzad was one of the Kurdish rulers who fought against invaders and defeated their "Anfal operations" twice in Sharazur, Sulemani Province. She sacrificed herself in a battle. Her two daughters, Shazanan and Shazhrabani, were taken as prisoners and forced to marry Arab leaders in Makah, today’s Saudi Arabia.

Kurdish women do not seem clearly to have a role as leaders within the Kurdish revolution. Laila Qasim is one such example who should be honoured for her part in the struggle for freedom for Kurdistan. There have been many radical women like Lady Khanzad, Laila Qasim and Laila Zana, who have fought, spoken out, and negotiated for freedom and equality. It is women like these who give hope to people in Kurdistan and stand as examples against tyranny and oppression.


1-Khabat - KDP Newspaper in Arabic number 975

2-Khabat - KDP Newspapers in Kurdish number 3089

3-Avesta - Jalal Amin Beg, Book published in South Kurdistan, page 89

*Thanks to Mr Gardi

  • - By Harem Jaff
  • 10/05/2001 00:00:00