Leila Qassem, was born in Başûr's city of Khanaqin (southern Kurdistan) on December 27, 1952, from a modest family of three brothers; Abdessalam, Leila and Sabiha. They grew up on the love of the homeland and the people. She studied primary school in Khanaqin and finished high school in 1972. She completed her studies at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Baghdad and specialized in sociology.
Qassem was a distinguished personality and had political, cultural and social interests that qualified her to enter the ranks of the Kurdistan Students Union. At the beginning of the 1990s, the Iraqi Baathist regime intensified its crackdown on Khanaqin area by following the ethnic cleansing against the Kurdish people. So Leila was forced to take refuge with her family in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Qassem began her struggle and political career with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) at the university through one of her colleagues from Khanaqin. She was characterized by her activism, competence and clear dedication and became one of the most active student faces within the university.
She chose the struggle path
Known among her colleagues for her patriotism and high sense of Kurdish nationalism, Qassem combined her struggle for Kurdish rights with women's struggle for their rights.
Following the collapse of the March 11 agreement in 1970 between the Iraqi government and Mala Mustafa Barzani which recognized Kurdish rights, providing guarantees to the Kurdish people in Iraq, and teaching the Kurdish language, all of Qassem's comrades were forced to leave Baghdad, but Leila chose to stay in Baghdad to continue her struggle against the dictatorial regime. Qassem contacted many of her comrades to reorganize their party, away from the eyes of the security services.
However, this group of youths was unable to continue their political work for a long time, as there were breaches in their organization, consequently the regime authorities arrested four of them, including her militant fiancé Jawad al-Hamondi who was later executed.
On the night of April 24, 1974, the security services cordoned off Qassem's house, placed her in a solitary cell and prevented visits. The Baathist government tortured her with the most severe forms of torture, as they had goggled her right eye out and mutilated her body.
During the investigations, the Security Investigations Committee accused her of blowing up cafes, clubs and cinemas and killing innocent people in Iraq, but she replied, "I am not a criminal, but I am fighting for the legitimate Kurdish cause. I will give my soul for it".
Qassem, the bride of Kurdistan
During her mother and sister's first visit, Leila recommended them to bring her Kurdish uniforms and scissors. She cut a strand of her hair and gave it to her sister to witness her struggle, "After a few days I will be the bride of Kurdistan, so I want the earth to embrace me in full elegance."
On May 12, 1974, she was executed without trial in less than two weeks after her arrest. She dressed in her Kurdish uniform, chanting the loudest voice of "Kurdistan", thus becoming a symbol for all Kurdish women and the entire Kurdish people.
The militant Leila Qassem was buried in Wadi al-Salam cemetery in Najaf, far from her home and family.
Women who followed their struggle
After the martyrdom of Leila Qassem, hundreds of Kurdish girls were named after her. They became a flame in the path of all women and became a symbol of resistance to Kurdish women. Her pictures were hung in Kurdish homes, agencies and institutes. The spirit of Leila Qassem was embodied in the resistance of women in Rojava.
Women commemorate her anniversary in all cities of Kurdistan.
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