Exploring the representation of gender-based violence against Yazidi women

  • Busra Nisa Sarac

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis aims to contribute to our understanding of how ISIS’s gender-based violence against Yazidi women has been represented; specifically, it contrasts major international newspapers’ portrayals of Yazidi women’s experiences with those of the women themselves. Violence against women is not uncommon; however, how women from the Global South who have experienced violence are represented in the West is often rooted in traditional gender stereotypes, and, given the dominance of Western media, this is how most people around the world learn about women from the Global South. Drawing on feminist security and transnational feminist literature, the main aim is to critically analyse the differences in the portrayal of women’s victimhood and survivorship by exploring representation from two different sources: (i) newspaper analysis, and (ii) interview analysis. Such an approach allows us to better understand the complexities of women’s experiences of violence as well as examine how the gendered and orientalist representations of violence against women render some experiences visible while others remain hidden.
    Existing research on the representation of Yazidi women who survived ISIS has primarily focused on the sexual violence they experienced and is based on an examination of a short period between 2014 - 2016, when ISIS controlled a significant swath of territory in Iraq and Syria. 2014-2016 also marks the period when articles on the rape and mistreatment of Yazidi women dominated the international media. These representations in the global media and academia, however, have failed to reveal the various dimensions of violence experienced by the Yazidi women, particularly following ISIS’s physical defeat in 2019. Few studies have investigated Yazidi women's current situation in the post-ISIS era.
    This thesis, therefore, addresses the research question: ‘How are Yazidi women’s experiences of violence represented?’ to fill this gap in the literature and provide a more holistic assessment of these women’s experiences, drawing on interview and newspapers data. This research project adds to the body of knowledge on victimhood and survivorship narratives regarding women in the -‘Global South’- who have experienced gender-based violence. The results indicate that while women who experienced mistreatment because of armed conflict are not merely passive victims, nor are they active survivors. The results reveal both these women’s agency in their victimisation and their victimisation in their survivorship narratives. Despite the brutal violence experienced by Yazidi women due to ISIS, these women demonstrated a significant level of agency in enduring and surviving their captivity. Moreover, post- ISIS, many Yazidi women continue to be victimised in their own communities by different types of violence and intolerance. The findings of this thesis provide an in- depth analysis of these issues and propose a new understanding of Yazidi women’s’ victimhood and survivorship narratives to replace the highly gendered narratives adopted by the Western media.

    Date of Award18 Oct 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorEd Stoddard (Supervisor), Naheem Jabbar (Supervisor) & Paul Norman (Supervisor)

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