Women's role in peace and security in Kurdish self-administered areas in Syria


During a six month research project, Utrecht University and its local partner the Women’s Commission of Rojava, investigated the role of women and women’s organisations in peace and security in Rojava, northern Syria. The project focused particularly on female-led initiatives in the realms of local governance, social services, and security that are trying to address the multifaceted threats women face.

Since 2012, women in Rojava have been participating in a co-chair system, they have established safe houses to protect female survivors of SGBV, and they are involved in the local police and military. Although their presence in these new roles is generally perceived positively by the local population, traditional cultural norms are preventing the involvement of some women, and are tainting societal views of women in certain positions. Moreover, many of these female-led initiatives are under-resourced and are therefore not as effective as they could be.

Humanitarian and development aid in Rojava is limited because of regional and geopolitical tensions. During this project, the researchers have informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, law-makers and NGOs, about the roles women and non-state governance actors play, and how policies can be better tailored to women’s needs in Rojava.


This research project focuses on the bottom-up, female-led peace and reconstruction processes in the Kurdish region of northern Syria. The political and economic roles that women are playing in peace and reconstruction processes are the focal point of analysis. Specifically, the efforts being made by local women and women's organisations in delivering social services, security, and good governance in this fragile and conflict-affected environment.

Through this research we will identify entry-points for development organizations to tailor their efforts to the local needs of women in the region in a conflict and gender-sensitive way. Furthermore, based on the data collected, a policy brief, and a conflict and gender-sensitive policy framework will be developed that will not only offer evidence-based knowledge on the nexus between gender and non-state actors, but which will also provide a practical tool to enhance development efforts in the region. The policy framework, although based on context-specific knowledge gained from fieldwork in Syrian Kurdistan, will offer recommendations on how to better evaluate and support women's agency in peace and reconstruction efforts in other fragile and conflict-affected regions.





W 08.400.122


Prof. dr. ir. G.E. Frerks

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, Centre for Conflict Studies


F. Bateson, T. Dirkx, D. Middelkoop, O. Mohammad, A. Omar, N. Stel, N. Tukker


01/06/2016 tot 19/10/2017