Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

On 'Sisterhood': What Iraqi Kurdish Women Migrants Have to Say about Women and the Commonalities They Share

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

On 'Sisterhood': What Iraqi Kurdish Women Migrants Have to Say about Women and the Commonalities They Share

Article excerpt


The broader research project informing this paper explored the connections between the resettlement experiences of Iraqi Kurdish Muslim women migrants in the UK and interlocking subjectivities that exist and relate to women's gender, race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, and immigration status. It intended to investigate and understand the women's social and cultural location in the UK by probing these experiences, illustrating how oppression exercised over the women, as well as transgression of power exercised by the women, results in their very specific social cultural position within the UK.

This paper will look at one particular strand of data coming from the larger research, namely that which explored the relationships of power, control, inequalities, and domestic abuse between men and women. Through this consideration the possibility remains of exploring oppressive relationships of power in a more comprehensive way in order to understand the complexities of commonalities and differences among women themselves, and how they are constituted through discourses of liberalism and liberal feminism.

Spivak (in Landry & Maclean 1996) and Ahmed (2000) offer a useful means, with their proposal of encounters between different women, of achieving an exploration of the racial, social and political spaces that exist among women. This proposal also provides a place from which not to lose sight of an equally-important dimension to forms of feminism: the illumination of patriarchal control and gender inequalities experienced by women. Encounters between women, especially 'close (face-to-face) encounters' are, for Ahmed (2000), about allowing women to engage over issues of oppression and to share common experiences of inequality and abuse, including, and more especially, other forms of violence, such as historical colonial and racial violence done to women by other women. Ahmed (2000) understands these encounters as enabling an uncovering of inequality, discrimination, and oppression, as well as privilege, which exists among women from differing social cultural positions. Engaging in 'close-encounters' is an exercise in un-silencing privileged women as it forces disclosure of, and confrontation with, accountability (Ahmed 2000) through the exploration and illumination of different racial, ethnic, social, economic, and political spaces among women themselves. Using 'close-encounters' allows for the examination of different ways of being in the world that enables the Othered to not always be a projection of dominant ways of knowing, but instead to challenge and resist and to exist beyond such production. For Ahmed (2000) there is all too often an active disengagement by Western feminists that allows them to remain silent, to remain comfortable and not be provoked to recognise, take account of, and act upon their complicity in the construction of Othered women. The research that founded this paper engaged in 'close encounters' (Ahmed 2000) and in so doing was able to reveal not only commonality among women through their differences, but also an illumination of the commonalities among otherwise significantly different women.

This paper now provides some historical and cultural context to the lives of Kurdish women as well as offering some brief methodological background to the research before moving on to the main discussion.


Some contextualisation is important for those who may be unfamiliar with Kurdish history and for noting the colonial connections with the UK and foregrounding the social cultural position of Kurdish women. Understanding the experience of migration as one that is historical as well as cultural recognises the interconnected and multifaceted nature of the national, international, and transnational (Mojab & Gorman 2007).

The Kurdish people are believed to be descended from the Medes and have a cultural history--expressed in their folklore and songs--that holds heroism and self-sacrifice to be noble. …

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