Women, War, Diaspora and Learning - Research Resources
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This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada/Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines du Canada.
  Last updated on April 1, 2004    
Current Research

Role of women's organizations in post-war reconstruction: Diaspora-homeland relations in the Kurdish "Safe Haven," 1991-2003

Shahrzad Mojab and Rachel Gorman

Women have generally been excluded from active or formal participation in peace and reconciliation processes, interim governance and policy making, and post-war reconstruction. Women's participation in reconstruction is especially constrained by the fact that wars and even small scale armed conflicts seriously curtail their civic and political rights and subject them to new forms of hardship and gender-based violence (ICRC 2003; Mojab 2000). If women in war-torn societies such as Iraq and Afghanistan are not allowed to actively participate in reconstruction in part due to the continuing conditions of war, the women of the diaspora find themselves in a position to contribute to the effort. While these new diasporas are themselves products of armed conflicts in the Middle Eastern war zone, exiled or diasporan women in the West have acquired a diversity of skills, which empowers them to make significant contributions to reconstruction and democratization. This project aims at understanding the dynamics of exclusion/inclusion of women in post-war reconstruction in the context of transnationalization and diasporization of Iraqi Kurds.

Since the end of the Gulf War of 1991, Kurdish women have participated in a state-building project initiated within the 'Safe Haven' region of Northern Iraq. While the nature of this state-building project is changing rapidly as a result of the war and occupation in 2003, the period from 1991 till 2003 provides an excellent research opportunity to study the mechanisms and results of the participation of exiled women in state-building and post-war reconstruction projects. Our objective in this research is to trace the transnational participation of Kurdish women in the short-lived experiment to create the foundations of a modern nation-state in Northern Iraq between 1991-2003. This proposed research will be the first to document Kurdish women's transnational political organizing. Our research questions are: 1) through what mechanisms have Kurdish women sought formal participation in post-war reconstruction and state-building project from 1991-2003? 2) What impact have women organizing in diaspora had on the state-building process? and 3) How have politics within the 'Safe Haven' affected the organizing agendas of Kurdish women in the diaspora?

We will explore these questions through organizational analysis, interviews with women activists in the Kurdish region and the diaspora, and archival searches on gender-related policies and practices of the Kurdish Regional Government and UN agencies operating in the region between 1991-2003. We will do a detailed analysis of the activities of four women's organizations in the diaspora during that particular time period. We will trace the impact of these organizations on events and politics unfolding in Iraqi Kurdistan through activist testimony, through contact with women's organizations operating in the region; and through archival verification. We will also trace the impact of homeland politics on these diasporic organizations, paying special attention to the gendered influence exerted by political parties. Throughout our activities related to data collection, analysis, and dissemination of results, we will maintain close ties to academic, policy and community stake-holders in Canada and internationally.

As we are building on established research networks in each of the three areas, we anticipate being able to: 1) contribute to the most current theoretical debates in refugee and diaspora studies, transnational feminist theory, peace and conflict studies, and Middle East studies; 2) offer timely policy advice concerning post-war reconstruction at the national and transnational (UN) levels; and 3) offer forums for debate and further study and reflection to community and women's groups in the Kurdish diaspora.


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