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  • "Women Insurgents, Rebel Organization Structure and Sustaining the Rebellion: The Case of Kurdistan Workers’ Party" Forthcoming, Security Studies

Abstract Article


Book Reviews

World map compiled by Pîrî Reis in 1513.

Dissertation Summary

How do women affect conflict dynamics in different ways than men? My dissertation examines how gender dynamics impact rebel group strategies, as well as attitudes of foreign publics and political elites toward rebel groups. First, women can substantially contribute to rebel groups’ ability to resist governments and maintain their rebellion through unique gendered ways. These include enabling greater tactical diversity, spearheading coup-proofing strategies against intra-organizational factions and appealing to international audiences. Women’s contributions to rebel groups are most salient during times of crises and in settings where gender inequality is stronger. Second, rebel groups with women participants are more likely to attract foreign support from democratic states. People are more likely to be in favor of supporting gender-diverse rebel organizations abroad. They are more likely to consider sponsoring such organizations as a moral duty normatively and as a reputational gain instrumentally. This support is driven by people’s expectations that women militants are less likely to attack civilians and more likely to support inclusive principles. Decisionmakers in democracies can more easily justify supporting gender-diverse rebel organizations to their domestic audiences which increases the odds of sponsoring these groups. These findings are based on the statistical analyses based on the survey experiment data and cross-national observational evidence, including original data on the presence of noncombatant women in rebel groups, and a qualitative case study of the Kurdish armed movement using primary sources based on the PKK's archives. 

Working Papers

  • "Public Preferences and Foreign Support for the Armed Rebellion: The Case of Women Insurgents"  


  • “Gender Norms and Rebel Group Survivability”


Work in Progress

  • “International Status and Domestic Support for Women’s Political Representation”

  • “Gender Differences in International Cooperation”

The Choice Between Intergovernmentalism and Nongovernmentalism:
Projecting Domestic Preferences to Global Governance

This article seeks to explain when governments are more likely to take an intergovernmental approach to resolving global collective problems rather than step back and encourage (or simply allow) nongovernmental actors to become the main global governors. The authors suggest that an important factor driving this choice is the domestic ideological leanings of powerful states toward greater or lesser government activism. Such ideologies connect domestic preferences to international ones. They also lead to the establishment of domestic institutions that, in turn, facilitate the emergence of international organizations. Using these arguments, the authors develop a set of inferences regarding the likelihood that governments will establish and join intergovernmental organizations. The authors test their hypotheses through a study of global governance in the education realm, and also apply a series of statistical analyses covering developments in all issue-areas over the last century and a half.

Women Insurgents, Rebel Organization Structure and Sustaining the Rebellion: The Case of Kurdistan Workers’ Party

How do women insurgents affect rebel organizations’ structure and survivability? Scholars acknowledge the importance of organization-level dynamics and unit composition for conflict outcomes. However, our understanding of how gender-diverse cadres impact rebel survivability remains limited. I examine the mechanisms through which women sustain the armed conflict. I analyze micro-organizational dynamics of rebellion through a qualitative case study of the Kurdish armed movement in Turkey between 1982-2015, based on the official archives of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. I show that women insurgents enable tactical diversity, aid the organization’s coup-proofing strategy against factions, and mobilize domestic and international audiences. Women contribute most to their organization during crises and due to exploitation of gender inequalities. Analyzing the relationship between gender dynamics, group structure, and evolving rebel strategies, this study shows that the gender of the membership is an important factor influencing rebel survivability.

Public Preferences and Foreign Support for Armed Movements:
The Case of Women Insurgents

How does the presence of women in insurgent groups affect receiving foreign support? Does the public support insurgencies with women fighters more than the ones that do not have women? If so, through what mechanisms does support operate? I argue that the presence of women insurgents shapes foreign leaders’ decisions in favor of supporting the insurgent group in democracies because foreign public opinion is willing to support organizations with women more than those with no women. The presence of female fighters in a rebel group gives the leaders an option to take advantage of this positive opinion among the public, which influences the actual decision to support the group. Using macro-level evidence concerning the supporter states and the prevalence of female combatants in a global sample of rebel organizations between 1989 and 2009, I find that democratic states are more likely to support groups with women insurgents. To test the causal mechanism, I use survey experiments evaluating the public opinion on their governments’ decision to sponsor rebel groups with and without women insurgents. The results suggest that people are more likely to be in favor of supporting rebel groups with women compared to those without women. Also, sponsoring gender-diverse groups is considered a moral obligation while all-male groups are not viewed from a moral perspective. This support is driven by gendered expectations that do not consider women as the primary agents of violence. The public tends to perceive that the group is less likely to use violence against civilians and more supportive of gender equality and inclusive principles  if the group includes women.

Gender Norms and Rebel Group Survivability

Existing research argues that rebel organizations that recruit women have higher prospects for survival and victory. However, we have limited understanding about the conditions under which female recruitment can be advantageous for rebel groups. I argue that female combatants’ impact on conflict duration is conditional on the prevalence of traditional gender norms. Results from survival analysis using a global sample of rebel groups from 1979 to 2009 suggest that female members’ advantage in sustaining the rebellion is only salient in societies with restrictive gender norms regarding women’s participation in public life. In contrast, female members do not appear to contribute to rebel group survivability through unique gendered ways in societies embracing more gender-egalitarian norms. The results have important research and policy implications which highlight the need to understand contextual gender dynamics for peace and security.