In conversation with Judge Mehraban Ahmed Hasan- Judge in Said Sadiq District Court, Sulaimaniyah Governorate
In a couple of sentences, how would you describe yourself?
Despite working in a stressful environment, I'm a very happy person; if I help one person, that makes me happy. As a working woman in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), I'm here to show other women that they can do the same and lead the way. Of course, many higher-ranking positions are still filled by males, but things are slowly changing. We now have female judges.
What did you want to do when you were younger?
I always wanted to be a lawyer. To be someone who defends others. I studied law, worked across different organizations and sectors, and eventually became a judge.
Who was the most influential person in your life?
Two people influenced me the most. We are six sisters, and our number one supporter was our father. He went against everyone and everything to support our education. Education was expensive, but he educated us all, despite people telling him it's not valuable.
The other person is Judge Latif from the Court of Appeals. I used to work for him, and he really is someone with such high integrity and values. To me, he is a symbol of integrity, and he never discriminated against the people he works with or those he has to deal in court with. He really inspired me.
What do you say to people who underestimate you and/or women in general?
I tell them that women can. That we already did prove ourselves and do so every day, across all of the KRI.
What impact do you think you have had?
I'd hope for a positive impact. I've always approached any opportunity, not just as an opportunity for myself but as paving the way for other female judges in KRI. When I was first appointed in this area, people had never seen a female judge before. They were used to dealing only with male judges. Now I observe that even in the more rural areas, people almost prefer to engage with female judges. That’s real progress. But it wasn't an easy process at all. The truth is that as a woman, it seems we always have to put in the extra hours make the additional effort till things change. And all through that time, you have to keep working at it and hoping it will make a difference.
What motto do you live by?
I believe in coexistence. We work together, we live together, we complement each other. I don't have to work like a man, I work as a woman, and my work should be recognized and valued.
Tell us about a time when you have worked on addressing human trafficking. What are some of the main challenges?
One of the biggest challenges regarding human trafficking cases is gaining the victims' trust. As criminal justice actors, we must humanely treat them. Before being appointed as a judge, I worked in a humanitarian organization on case management of victims of gender-based violence. I gained a lot of experience building trust with a victim and applying a victim-centred approach.
Because I had this understanding, when I worked as an investigative judge, when I had a human trafficking case, it was easier for me than other colleagues to prioritize gaining the victim's trust. One must understand that someone who has been trafficked has lost faith in everyone and everything, people and systems alike. The difficulty really starts there. The challenge is to gain and maintain victims' trust throughout the criminal justice process.
What can we do to gain and maintain the trust of human trafficking victims?
What we lack are victim-friendly spaces and procedures during court proceedings. We need to provide specialized and private rooms for court hearings instead of victims sitting in open court. We also need to create a pool of specialized criminal justice practitioners, including judges, judicial investigators, and the police, that have expert knowledge on these crime types.
What would you say to women seeking a career in the criminal justice sector in Iraq?
I'd say: "This this not an easy job. You do it because you love it. That to be successful in this job, you must be committed." I want to believe that women can be anything they want to succeed in their careers. But I really think you must love what you do to succeed. I would also say to them: "Knowledge in the law requires ambition and patience." I still feel I'm learning, and I'd encourage others to learn.
Judge Mehraban holds a bachelor’s degree in Law and a higher diploma from the Judicial Institute. Before joining the higher Judicial Institute and being appointed a judge, she worked as a judicial assistant. She then worked for several years as a private lawyer and with a humanitarian organization supporting and assisting survivors of GBV. Afterwards, she joined the higher Judicial Institute, where she graduated to be appointed as a judge.