„It’s just gone lunchtime when we reach Three Sisters, a tiny restaurant in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, north Iraq. (…) All three women are from Kirkuk, a disputed area west of Sulaymaniyah. They were forced to leave their homes in the early 90s as a result of Saddam Hussein’s ruthless persecution of the Kurdish population. They have been in Sulaymaniyah ever since – a city contoured by snow-capped mountains and rolling hills, not far from the Iranian border. Unmarried and largely homebound, Naska devised a way to escape her domestic chains by creating a business that would justify her spending whole days outside the house. She decided to open her own restaurant.
But for a single woman in a patriarchal society like the Kurdish one, getting a foot in the male-dominated hospitality industry came with challenges. ‚It was shameful for me to open a restaurant, but I didn’t care what people said, I wanted to be more independent,‘ she says. Unbeknown to her, Naska’s argument had echoes of Virginia Woolf’s famous satire on the ‚Angel in the House‘ – a critical response to the Victorian ideal of the pure, domestic, self-sacrificing woman and an anthem to female emancipation. ‚I was at home without a job and wanted to be independent and go out. If you want to come out of the house you shouldn’t listen to people’s chatter,‘ she explains. After surmounting familial backlash and a long battle with landlords’ unwillingness to rent their business spaces to a woman, Naska and her two partners finally set up shop last December. (…) ‚It’s hard for single women, but if you have your own principles you can live the way you like,‘ one petite woman tells me.“