Dr. Busra Nisa Sarac

By Dr. Busra Nisa Sarac

Busra won the Shirin M Rai  PSA Academic Prize for best international relations dissertation 2022/23.


Journeys of Reflection: Researching Yazidi women and Lessons from the Community

Delving into the nuanced experiences of Yazidi women in the so-called Global South has enabled me to challenge certain narratives and discourses surrounding women who have experienced gender-based violence. While acknowledging their suffering, valuable lessons were drawn from researching the Yazidi community.

Commencing my doctoral journey in 2016, from drafting the initial proposal to navigating the complexities of terrorism research, I found myself captivated by the diverse experiences of women amidst violence. Initially confused by the apparent disparity between femininity and affiliation with misogynistic terrorist groups, my perceptions were gradually shattered through an in-depth exploration.

As I delved into the narratives of women drawn into the folds of terrorism, my understanding evolved beyond preconceived notions influenced by gender clichés. The prevailing stereotypes portraying women as powerless and naive, while characterising men as protectors and warriors, were challenged. Recognising the nuanced motivations transcending gender stereotypes, I began to comprehend that women, akin to their male counterparts, could be driven by a myriad of factors to join terror groups, regardless of the ideological spectrum.

While their roles often became subject to male determinations after they joined, I discovered that the journeys these women undertook belonged to them—they retained agency over their decisions. Between 2016 and 2017, when the spotlight was on women resorting to violence for political, ideological, or religious objectives, my evolving curiosity led me to explore the Yazidi community. This persecuted community, subjected to historical oppression under various regimes, became a focal point of my research, earning me the award from the PSA.

Reflecting on my doctoral journey, conducted by a non-Western woman researching non-Western women in a Western country, I realised the profound impact on both my academic and personal development. Drawing on feminist scholarship, my lens widened to encompass questions often sidelined and undermined by Western media. My journey fostered a feminist curiosity—not imposing feminism but encouraging to ask the right questions, particularly concerning women and terrorism, particularly those in the so-called Global South.

Engaging directly with women during my research shed light on myriad issues, demonstrating that the aftermath of conflict continued to cast shadows on women's lives. The end of conflict, for many, did not signify peace; it marked their escape from oppressors or liberation. Yet, they found themselves in structures where women remained excluded, compelling them to navigate gendered landscapes to reclaim control over their lives.

The violence endured by Yazidi women, as well as men and children, revealed not only the brutality they faced but also the resilience embedded in their strategies to overcome challenges. Their unique identity became a shield, fiercely protected against the onslaughts of adversity. Their narratives, both voiced and silent, offer invaluable insights not only to researchers and scholars but to anyone interested in the demonstration of power within the experiences of women.

I, in essence, am a perpetual learner. Through the narratives of women, I am learning not just what questions to ask but also how to ask them. In conflicts, women invariably bear suffering, yet paradoxically, they emerge as teachers, guiding us on navigating gendered structures in both daily life and during conflict.

Their ongoing fight for justice persists, aiming to redress the impact on those affected and continuing until justice is served for them and all the missing Yazidis are found. The echoes of their resilience reverberate, inspiring a commitment to amplifying the silenced voices and ensuring that their narratives become catalysts for meaningful change.



Dr. Busra Nisa Sarac is a lecturer in terrorism studies at the University of Portsmouth, UK. Her research interest is situated within international relations and centres on security, gender and terrorism, with a focus on the so-called ‘Global South’.

Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/busranisasarac