The Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO) replaced the Kurdish Refugee Women’s Organisation, which was established in 1999. KMEWO began as a self-help organisation aiming to provide help and support to Kurdish women from Iraq, Iran and Eastern Turkey who were fleeing civil wars, state and gender-based persecution, domestic violence and honour killings. The group was set up by a group of Kurdish women who held a public meeting to raise public’s awareness about honour killing in response to the killing of British citizen Sobhia Nadir in Sulaimania (Kurdistan) during her visit to her relatives in October 1997. Twenty-two Kurdish women who attended the meeting agreed to set up a womens organisation to support women victim of domestic violence and honour crimes both in the UK and abroad. Since then the group has grown into a well-known organisation that is highly respected within the Kurdish and Middle Eastern Communities, the statutory and public sector organisations.
On arrival in the UK, these women’s problems became compounded by a series of factors, e.g.:
- Limited English language skills
- Not being able to find paid employment
- Lack of adequate accommodation
- Unstable immigration status
- Controlling or abusive behaviour from partners and family members
- Cultural differences
- Lack of confidence
It was in response to these problems that a few dedicated and visionary women, with determination and drive, formed the Kurdistan Refugee Women’s Organisation. Initially they started giving advice, counselling and campaign in order to create awareness within the Government and the general public about the issues facing women and girls from Kurdistan and the Middle East.
In 2009, the Kurdistan Refugee Women’s Organisation was merged with the Middle East Centre for Women’s Rights, and after a name change became registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee. In 2010 the new Company was formally granted charitable status by the Charity Commission, whereupon the original charity number was removed from the register.
Through its campaigning and policy work relating to domestic violence and honour killing, KMEWO has gained the recognition and support of the police, the Crown Prosecution Office and a number of funders, including the Big Lottery Fund, CPF and Nationwide Foundation. The latest conference: End Honour Based Violence- the way forward, held on 28th March 2008 was attended by 250 people among them Metropolitan Police and local authority officials, health officials, women’s agencies, community organisations, academics, journalists and individual women were present.
KMEWO is primarily a London wide organisation but time to time there are telephone enquiries from elsewhere in the Country, from Europe and from Kurdistan.