Degree Name



Political Science


David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies

Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Renata Forste

First Faculty Reader

Valerie Hegstrom

Honors Coordinator

Quinn Mecham


refugees, Middle East, gender-based violence, Yazidi, ISIS, women


In addition to being at risk of violence from war and conflict, Arab refugee women also have an increased vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Aspects inherent to the refugee experience such as a breakdown of the legal system, camp environments, and economic challenges exacerbate the already-pervasive phenomenon of SGBV. This human rights violation is physically, mentally, socially, and economically harmful to women. This thesis utilizes a case study specifically looking at the Yazidi ethnoreligious minority population in northern Iraq, which has been targeted for genocide by Islamic State forces since August 2014. To address the continuing trauma and mental health issues experienced by Yazidi women as a result of sexual and gender-based violence at the hands of Islamic State, AMAR International Charitable Foundation launched the Escaping Darkness program to provide essential psychosocial treatment. An examination of the organization’s programming data found that Yazidi women were more likely to be in need of these services than men or non-Yazidis from the same areas, which can be closely connected to the disproportionate terrorist attacks aimed at Yazidis and the subsequent trauma inflicted through sexual and gender-based violence. Moving forward, innovative practices implemented with women refugees in the Middle East to address sexual and gender-based violence can be applied to the Yazidi population with minimal adaptation. These practices include training for service providers, legal aid, and mobile service intervention.