Growing numbers of Kurdish outdoorswomen defy social barriers

April 23, 2021
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Despite Kurds’ famous familiarity with mountains, the concept of recreational activities like camping was not popular until recently, let alone for women who are usually challenged by social barriers and cultural stigma.

Spurred by social media influencers posting their adventures in recent years, spending time outdoors has become popular among the youthful residents of the Kurdistan Region. Women, however, are now increasingly taking part in such activities.

Dilan Qadri, 27, is a lifelong sport enthusiast who undertakes risky trips to the Region’s top and hardest-to-climb mountains to camp alongside male companions. Notably, women make up more than half of her 10-person team.

“We are thinking of forming only-women camping trips,” Qadri told Kurdistan 24, indicating the rising number of women interested in camping.

The trips Qadri and her team make to the Region’s far-flung mountain peaks take one or two days, while they spend nights in subzero temperatures cracking jokes and eating snacks.

Qadri, a graduate in Information Technology, is also a freelance photographer, shooting photos of events typically attended only by women, such as bridal henna parties.

“The society was not welcoming our trips at first,” Qadri said, describing strange looks she got from villagers who seemingly were not happy about what these boys and girls were about to do.

“My family ignores the discouraging comments from society about my sport interest,” she said, stressing that they have been supportive of her activities since she was 8 years old, when she started as a gymnast.

Before developing an interest in hiking in 2019, Qadri practiced several sports professionally, including gymnasiums, Taekwondo, and Futsal, a form of indoor football.

She is also a member of Darban Group, a mountaineering and environmentalism organization based in the Kurdistan Region.

Pride of Kurdistan

She also seeks to spark the public’s interest in camping and other outdoor activities through her Instagram account “Here is Kurdistan,” where she shares photos and videos of her trips through the Region’s most breathtaking scenery.

On each trip she makes to one of the mountainous areas, Qadri takes a flag of the Kurdistan Region, on which she marks the mountain’s name and the date of her visit, a way to keep a record of her journeys.

The ongoing military conflict in the mountains and border towns of the Kurdistan Region between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey has not only endangered the people who reside in those areas, but affected camping enthusiasts as well.

“We have to take extra caution and sometimes change routes due to the risk of conflict,” Qadri said, adding that villagers inform her team about the risks.

Division of Labor

Despite her six-day workweek, Qadri as the eldest daughter of her family also has to do the housekeeping. But outside, contrary to societal expectations of women as cooks and cleaners, Qadri’s camping team manages things differently.

“The men cook for us,” Qadri said, referring to one way the team has divided labor among themselves during camping.

“It does not really matter to us who does what,” she added.

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly

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