Journal of Undergraduate Research


nationalism, tribalism, women's rights, Iraqi Kurdistan


Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science


Iraqi Kurdistan refers to the mountainous region in northern Iraq, which is home to a majority of Iraq’s Kurdish minority. As a distinct ethnic group, Iraqi Kurds have consistently lobbied for greater autonomy and even independence. After the American invasion in 2003, Iraqi Kurdistan gained enough self-autonomy to develop into a “de-facto” state (Stansfield 2001; Voller 2014). In an effort to develop international legitimacy, the Kurdish government has enacted a series of legal reforms to improve women’s rights (KRG Addresses Women’s Rights 2008; Women’s Rights Campaign 2008). My research explored the extent to which these legal reforms improved the daily lives of Kurdish women. Specifically, I evaluated how tribal customs frequently conflict with written laws and impede the enforcement of new reforms. Tribes structure themselves around patterns of marriage and inheritance that favor men and subjugate women. To maintain these unequal power structures, they both explicitly and implicitly condone many forms of discrimination and violence against women. I examined the presence of eight discriminatory practices within Iraqi Kurdistan. These practices are