A Path out of Patriarchy? Political Agency and Social Identity of Women Fighters

A Path out of Patriarchy? Political Agency and Social Identity of Women Fighters

by Güneş Murat Tezcür, University of Central Florida

Violent movements in different parts of the world have employed large numbers of women fighters. I address the question of how and why so many women from diverse backgrounds join an ethnic insurgency. Informed by an intersectional approach, I suggest that when gender and ethnic inequalities overlap, an ethnic insurgency promising gender emancipation would have strong appeal among women. At the same time, the intersection of class and gender shapes distinctive patterns of mobilization among women of an ethnic minority. In particular, uneducated women with lower class backgrounds join the movement because it provides them with the most viable way out of patriarchal relations. I employ a multi-method research design to study a paradigmatic case of women in arms, the Kurdish insurgency. I use an original large dataset containing information about more than 9,000 militants, from extensive fieldwork entailing dozens of in-depth interviews, and an archival study of sources in primary languages. My findings reveal the effects of unequal relationships based on ethnicity, gender, and class on violent political mobilization and the ambivalent relationship between women’s political agency and empowerment.