Middle East Studies

Wendy Hamelink

Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Gender Research, University of Oslo – Norway

Displacement and War in the Lives of Syrian Kurdish Women: Gendered Narratives, Motives, and Moralities

This paper investigates the stories of Syrian Kurdish women who, mostly recently, arrived in Scandinavia. It is widely known that the Syrian War has caused millions of people to leave their houses, families, and country. However, also in times of war, reasons and options for escape vary and are based on a complex of economic, social, historical and practical conditions. It appears from my data that the options, decisions, and routes to follow during the escape, are often gendered, in that they are different for women and for men. Besides, Kurdish women’s displacement is, more than men’s, informed by gendered moralities. The paper will also pay some attention to how women look at recent political and social developments in Syrian Kurdistan, such as the foundation of the Federal Government of North Syria-Rojava, the latter’s focus on women’s liberation, and continuing conflict, and how this influenced/s their lives and decisions.

Wendelmoet Hamelink is a Marie Sklodowska Curie Research Fellow at the Centre for Gender Research (STK) of Oslo University. She has an MA and PhD in cultural anthropology and development sociology from Leiden University, the Netherlands. Her book The Sung Home. Narrative, Morality, and the Kurdish Nation (Brill 2016) investigates the lyrics, life stories, and live performances of Kurdish singers that offer fascinating insights into cultural practices, local politics, and everyday life in borderlands. Her methodological and theoretical perspectives consist of narrativity and oral history research, musical anthropology, gender and migration, conflict-studies and nationalism, morality and post-colonial theory. She has long-term fieldwork experience in many countries in the Middle East, Europe and Africa and she speaks Kurdish and Turkish. Her current work includes research on cultural memories and histories of Armenians originating from eastern Turkey, and on cultural resources and resilience of refugees living in Europe. Her research project Images in Exile focuses on gender and representation among Kurdish women who recently fled Syria and live now in Scandinavia.