Zerian Karim studies the BPTC LLM at BPP University in Leeds. She studied Law and Business studies at the University of Bradford and the GDL at BPP University. She works as a Child and Adult workforce interpreter within the Legal Sector. She hopes be Called to the Bar in November 2020 as the first Iraqi Kurdish Barrister in England and Wales.
Why do members from ethnic minorities, instead of following their dreams of becoming a barrister, settle for less? The issue of diversity is an important challenge facing the Bar. Those from ethnic minorities often believe there are limited opportunities for them at the Bar; as a result they deprive themselves of following their dreams. I want to initiate a change in thinking and help inspire others to follow their dream of becoming a barrister.
My own story started in 2003 with my family’s move from war-torn Iraqi Kurdistan (Southern Kurdistan) to Sweden. Cultural and social differences became immediately apparent, at times even diametrically opposed. This was especially so in respect to the perceived role of women in society. I observed what I perceived to be injustices being suffered by Kurdish women in my own community, such as gender inequality and disenfranchisement. I began to ask myself, what could I do? However, as a Kurdish woman I felt powerless to be able to make a difference. This was made very apparent when visiting family in Kurdistan. I suddenly realised that boundaries were being set for my sisters and me. As young women we were not given the same freedoms as young men our age. When questioned we were told that such boundaries were in place because women are perceived as being weak and unable to think clearly. Instead of being despondent, I became motivated to show that I, as a woman, was able to achieve my goals and prove them wrong.
In 2012, I moved to England following my marriage to my Kurdish husband. My intention was to continue my education. I had always had a passion for the field of law and was interested in being able to represent the most vulnerable and disenfranchised in society. However, even here in England I was confronted by the taught cultural norms of the Kurdish community that made it clear that such aspirations of university and studying law would be beyond my capabilities as a married woman. Cultural norms dictated that family took priority over career aspirations and especially when we talk of women. I often heard people say that there was little point in me pursuing my dream career, since I would end up being a housewife in the end anyway. Such gender inequality within my adopted British Kurdish community surprised and saddened me. Such barriers motivated me to strengthen my resolve to achieve my goal of studying law. It was important to keep reminding myself of the power within me, of the need to break stereotypes. To prove that people like me, a Kurdish woman from an ethnic minority in the UK, could dream bigger and achieve anything you set your mind to.
I also saw it as my responsibility to help break the often hidden cultural and social barriers prevalent within the British Kurdish community and the wider British culture around the perceived position of women. This belief has strengthened my passion to act as an advocate for the vulnerable within society and what better way than becoming a barrister.
In order to achieve my dream, I studied Law with business at Bradford University. In addition, I sought work as an interpreter within the legal sector. This experience exposed me to a variety of cases in and outside court. I then gained more work experience at chambers and firms, including mini pupillages, in order to gain a deeper insight into the profession. These experiences made me realise that my areas of interest are immigration, family and criminal law. I also participated in pro- bono work at university over the past two years. I am currently studying the LLM full-time and hope to be Called to the Bar in November 2020.
A career at the Bar, I have learned, is not necessarily one without risks, but these risks motivate me to succeed. I have shown through my own journey of learning that dreams are possible to achieve. Determination to succeed has been my driver. Cultural background and life’s experiences should be viewed as a positive. I hope that other women, including those from ethnic minorities, will be inspired to pursue a career at the Bar.