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Dissertation Summary

World map compiled by Pîrî Reis in 1513.

How do women affect conflict dynamics in different ways than men? In this dissertation, I examine how expectations based on gender identities 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, increased appeal to international audiences, and spearheading coup-proofing strategies against intra-organizational factions.  Women’s contributions to rebel groups are most salient during times of crises and in settings where gender stereotypes are stronger. Second, rebel groups with women participants are more likely to attract foreign support from democratic states. Decisionmakers in democracies can more easily justify supporting gender-diverse rebel organizations to their domestic audiences because people are more likely to be in favor of supporting gender-diverse rebel organizations and are more likely to consider sponsoring such organizations as a moral duty. This support is driven by people’s expectations that women militants are less likely to attack civilians and more likely to support inclusive principles. Greater support for gender-diverse groups is also driven by the belief that such support would improve the sponsoring state’s reputation in the eyes of the international community. These findings are based on observational evidence on rebel group strength and women membership, lab experiments on people’s perceptions of gender-inclusive rebel groups, and a qualitative case study of the PKK in Turkey. The results highlight the multifaceted nature of the relationship between gender norms and political violence. Further, these results imply that conflict scholars should take the social identity of the perpetrator group membership into account in analyzing the relationship between political violence and gender equality.

Working Papers

  • "Women, Gender Roles and Maintaining the Insurgency" (under review)


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


  • "Rebel Recruitment Strategies and Foreign Power Support"                    


Work in Progress

  • "Sexual Violence, Socialization, and Defection in Rebel Groups" 

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, Gender Roles and Maintaining the Insurgency

Does the recruitment of women contribute to the strength of the militant groups or does it disrupt the cohesiveness of the group and reduce rebel groups’ military effectiveness? What are the mechanisms through which women insurgents affect the operation of rebel groups? In this study, I answer these questions by combining cross-organizational large-N analyses and a qualitative case study of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). I use a variety of empirical sources for the analysis, including original data collected on noncombatant women participation in rebel groups, and the archive of PKK’s monthly bulletin Serxwebun between 1982 and 2015. The analyses suggest that women substantially contribute to rebel organizations’ ability to challenge governments. Women insurgents contribute most to organizations during crises. They contribute to rebel groups primarily through enabling tactical diversity and appealing to larger audiences, as well as leading the organization’s coup-proofing strategy against inter-organizational factions. This study argues that exploitation of gender stereotypes is the principal mechanism explaining most of the women’s unique contributions to rebel groups.  

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.

Rebel Recruitment Strategies and Foreign Power Support

Finding people who are willing to risk their lives and fight is a major challenge every rebel group faces. Why do some rebel groups deal with this problem by convincing people to participate voluntarily, while others coerce civilians into their ranks? I argue that support from foreign states is important in rebels' calculus about whether to engage in voluntary or forced recruitment. That said, not all sponsors have the same impact. Authoritarian sponsors increase rebels’ incentives to resort to recruitment by coercion, while democracies have the opposite impact. Democracies are more vulnerable to popular pressure due to domestic constraints on the executive and public opinion is sensitive to civilian abuse during conflicts. I test this using a large-N dataset on rebel groups' recruitment strategies and their sponsors. The results show support for this argument.