Since 2012, there has been an increase of media attention on the Kurds, particularly women who are active in the YPJ and Peshmerga. Various publications have equated women's militarization with women's liberation. In an effort to more accurately measure this, the following question must be asked; what is the effect of women's military involvement on women's rights? Women that are active in both nationalist movements and traditional state armies are presented with changing gender roles. Post conflict, there is a struggle for women to transfer their newfound autonomy into political activism. The theory outlines a chain in which women participate in the armed forces, feel empowered, are able to obtain positions of influence, and create policy and social change. A break in any point of this chain will block female excombatants from influencing women's rights. The theory is tested on Kurdish women active in the Iraqi Peshmerga and the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) in Syria. Data on women's military participation and their impact on women's rights was gathered from NGO reports, news articles, scholarly journals, and laws that were passed in Iraqi Kurdistan and Northern Syria. The evidence gathered indicates that women's military participation is not the only mechanism for improving women's rights. While the development of gender equality in Northern Syria can be linked to women's militarization, gender equality efforts in Iraqi Kurdistan do not have a direct link to women's involvement in the Peshmerga. This work adds to the ongoing discussion on Kurdish political rights, particularly women's autonomy.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Ash, Konstantin


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences


Politics, Security, and International Affairs

Degree Program

Political Science



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date