AMEWS Association for Middle East Women's Studies

The  Association  for  Middle  East  Women’s  Studies  (AMEWS),  an  affiliate  of  the  Middle East   Studies  Association (MESA)  would  like  to  express  its  solidarity  with  the  people of Iraq  who   have  suffered  from  dictatorship,  economic  sanctions,  an  invasion  and occupation,  years  of  militarization,  and  a  new  authoritarian  government.  The  most  recent violence,  caused  by  Islamic  State  (IS)  forces,  is  especially  harmful  to  religious minorities,  though  the  far-reaching   consequences  to  majority  Iraqis  should  not  be overlooked.  Iraqi  Christians  have  been  systematically  targeted  by  Islamist  extremists since  2003,  but  the  attack  by  IS  is  unprecedented  and   has  meant  that  most  Christians felt  forced  to  flee  their  homes  and  seek  refuge  in  the  Kurdistan   regional  government (KRG)  -controlled  area.  Yezidis  (Ezidis)  have  been  protected  in  recent   years  by  the KRG  and  its  peshmerga  forces,  but  their  retreat  from  IS  controlled  areas  leaves the Yezidis  exposed  to  forced  conversion  or  death,  and  their  sacred  shrines  subject  to certain   destruction.

The  Yezidi  religion  is  an  offshoot  of  ancient  Iranian  beliefs,  with  later  Islamic  and Christian influences.  Once  widespread  across  the  region,  Yezidis  now  flourish  only  in Sinjar  and   Sheikhan  where  their  holiest  site  of  Lalesh  is  located.  Yezidis  have  long lived  in  harmony  with   their  neighbours,  but  for  the  IS  they  are  not  ‘People  of  the Book,’  and  thus  have  been  singled   out  for  particularly  violent  oppression  and  murder.

Given  our  remit  as  the  Association  for  Middle  East  Women’s  Studies,  we  are particularly concerned  about  reports  of  rapes,  forced  marriages  and  forced  captivity  of  several hundred   Yezidi  women  by  the  IS.  Given  the  extremist  track  records  of  the  IS  and other  Islamist  groups,   both  Sunni  and  Shi’a,  we  know  that  women  suffer  in  gender-specific  ways  from  their  control:   strict  regulation  of  mobility  and  clothing  often  go side  by  side  with  forced  marriages,  forced   prostitution  and  gender-based  violence. While Iraq’s  minority  populations  currently  bear  the   brunt  of  the  IS’  violence  and oppression,  we  are  also  alarmed  by  the  potential  impact  of  an   extremist  reordering  of gender  roles  on  Iraqi  society.  Men  as  well  as  women  have  been conscripted  into  the new IS  social  order,  narrowing  opportunities  for  communication  and  dialogue  between  different groups.  We  believe  that  the  forced  displacement,  rape,  kidnapping   and  killing  of  women and  men  from  minority  groups  is  devastating  for  Iraq’s  future  inclusiveness  and stability.

We  call  on  the  UN,  on  the  US  government,  all  policymakers,  and  on  all  concerned NGOs, to  take   all  possible  humanitarian  measures  to  assure  the  survival  of  the  Yezidi  and Christian  communities   in  their  ancient  homelands,  and  to  channel  humanitarian  aid  to the  KRG  and  relevant  NGOs.  We   call  on  the  Iraqi  politicians  to  establish  a  unity government  to  protect  religious  and  ethnic  minorities  as  well  as  women,  who  are particularly  vulnerable  to  the  invasion  by  IS.

AMEWS  President  and  Board  of  Directors
AMEWS  Human  Rights  Task  Force


AMEWS  Board  Members

Amaney Jamal, Princeton University
Hoda  ElSadda,  Cairo  University
Louise  Cainkar,  Marquette  University
Angie  Abdelmonem,  Arizona  State  University
Nayereh  Tohidi,  California  State  University  Northridge
Sondra Hale, University of California Los Angeles
Suad  Joseph,  University  of  California  Davis
Nancy  Gallagher,  University  of  California  Santa  Barbara
Nadje Al-Ali, SOAS
Frances  Hasso,  Duke  University
Miriam  Cooke,  Duke  University


AMEWS  Human  Rights  Task  Force

Sondra  Hale,  Chair  Human  Rights  Task  Force,
Margot  Badran,  Georgetown  University
Mary  Ann  Fay,  Morgan  State  University
Nadje  Al-Ali,  SOAS
Anita  Fabos,  IDCE  Clark  University


READ: AMEWS Open Letter on Iraq