“Armenia… where is that exactly?”

Petra is currently at Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation Women’s Resource Center in Armenia and we will be able to follow her work and reflections as she will be guest blogging with us.

When I have told people I will be in Armenia for 10 months the most frequently asked question in Sweden is “what will you be doing there?” followed by “Armenia, where is that exactly?” and “do you have to wear a veil there?”. Since I have already answered question number one in an earlier blogpost I will try to shed some light also over the two remaining questions.


Armenia was declared independent 23 august 1990 before the collapse of Soviet union and is situated in the Caucasus area with Turkey to the west, Azerbaijan to the east, Iran to the south and Georgia to the north. 80% of the Armenian borders to neighbouring countries are currently closed. The territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, which was an autonomous region of Azerbaijan with a majority Armenian population, escalated into armed conflict in 1988, three years prior to the collapse of Soviet and still remains unsolved.

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There is No Honour in Crime

Today is the first day I return to office after both an intensive and intense week spent with 13 brave, resourceful and strong-willed women rights activists from Jordan and Iraq. They came here to exchange experiences on issues related to violence against women, among each other, as well as with other organisations, women rights activists and some governmental agencies in Sweden.

A week full of discussions, smiles, inspiration, positive energy and determination but also the unavoidable share of sad stories, tears, frustrations and disappointments.

One of the visits that left a strong impression on all of us was our visit to the “National association against honour related violence”.  Maybe we were touched by the big black and white photos of Pela and Fadime, the most famous victims of honour-related crimes in Sweden, or maybe it was the other painful stories we heard from Sara Mohammad, the founder of the organisation, about the scores of other victims, both men and women, whose lives were brutally interrupted by members of their families for daring to go their own way, or maybe it was our common conviction that we need to raise more awareness about this particular type of violence, in order not to lose more lives.

Hala Abu Taha, One of the exchange participants is a volunteer from No Honour in Crime Network, which focuses on documenting the stories of the victims and to create a debate in society and raise awareness about the concept of honour. It was very interesting to follow the discussions among the participants and Sara about the definition of “honour-related violence” here in Sweden versus its definition in Jordan and Iraq. In most countries in the Middle East region, there is little talk about “honour-related violence”, for example when families control the lives of their sons and daughters, or the psychological, as well as the physical pressure they are subjected when choosing an education or a partner. This is more or less the norm in most Middle Eastern societies. According to some of the participants, it is more realistic to speak about “honour killings”, when violence goes so far that a woman or man is killed by family members.

One of the phrases that Sara said and that kept ringing in my ears long after we left the office was: “If we were to commemorate all victims of honour-related crimes here in Sweden, then we would be doing this each and every day of the year!”

So what are we waiting for?!

Women’s month in Armenia

March has been a hectic month at Women’s Resource Center in Armenia,
8 March is not the only date here devoted to women, also 7th of April has a similar content, so the entire month is seen as women’s month.


International women’s day is celebrated in the country since the 20′s after being introduced by Soviet as a result of the demonstrations in St Petersburg 1917. Women’s day, or Working Women’s day as it was originally called, was during the time an utterly political day with slogans such as “8th of March is the day of rebellion of working women against kitchen slavery” or “Say NO to the oppression and vacuity of household work!”.

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Not just another week

Yanar Mohammed and Eva Abu Halaweh

Women’s rights activists Yanar Mohammed (Iraq) and Eva Abu Halaweh (Jordan) visisted Sweden this week. Here discussing violence against women during a panel in the Swedish parliament. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Karin Råghall

Another week at work has passed. It’s just that it was not “just another week”.

It was a week when I got to meet activists from South Sudan, Georgia, DR Congo, Liberia, Colombia, Iraq and Jordan – here in Stockholm. I guess I don’t need to say that this doesn’t happen every week.

The activists were here for different reasons. Some participated in the International Training Programme (ITP) on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Others were part of a delegation of women from Jordan and Iraq who came to Sweden to exchange experiences and knowledge about how to combat violence against women.

I only met our guests shortly. But it was enough for me to start thinking about how fantastic it is to meet people from different parts of the world; who all have a vision of a world where people conceived as “women” are not seen as second class citizens.

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