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Lecture | Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series

Reimaging Peace Democratization in Yemen: Women, Transnationalism and Activism in Exile

Monday 19 February 2024
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Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series
Online via Zoom

This presentation sheds light on the dynamics between gender, war-induced diaspora, transnationalism, and peace-building in Yemen. Since the outbreak of the war in 2014/2015, around 4.5 million people have been internally displaced and over 190,000 Yemenis sought refuge abroad. While the out-migration is predominantly male, the noteworthy engagement of female leaders in peace-building and transnational networks highlights the distinctive role of women. Focusing on Yemeni women activists currently residing in Western countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Canada, this research provides a nuanced exploration of the contributions of women's rights activists and refugees in post-revolutionary conflicts and peace processes. Specifically, the presentation delves into questions about how post-revolutionary violence and the ongoing war have influenced women's participation, and how Yemeni female activists in exile have impacted peacebuilding and political processes both within and beyond Yemen. The research explores the emergence and endurance of feminist transnational networks in the context of peace-building and conflict, examining how the Yemeni diaspora seizes opportunities and navigates constraints to mobilize as transnational social movements for peace, justice, and post-conflict reconstruction.

The argument posits that, regardless of the impetus behind Yemeni migration, be it war or other reasons, the current conflict has played a pivotal role in shaping their transnational identity and fostering new ideas for democratizing peace processes. Yemenis abroad not only maintain strong ties to Yemen but also establish robust connections between their home country and host nation, expanding transnational networks in support of Yemen-related causes. Drawing on interviews with Yemeni female activists predominantly in Western Europe, the research elucidates the impact of conflict-induced migration on their lives and demonstrates how their involvement in peace-making enhances public representation, bringing gender-sensitive expertise to the negotiation table. This, in turn, improves the legitimacy of agreements and enhances the prospects for a more inclusive and equitable culture of peace in Yemen and beyond.

Ewa Strzelecka

Dr. Ewa K. Strzelecka is a researcher at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Between 2021-2024 she led the EU-funded research project "Peace Women: Rethinking Peace-building: Women, Revolution, Exile, and Conflict Resolution in Yemen" under a Marie Skłodowska Curie individual fellowship. She has also held academic positions at Polish, Spanish and Portuguese universities and contributed to the academic landscape through visiting fellowships in over 13 research centers worldwide. With a Ph.D. in Social Science and four Master's or equivalent degrees, Ewa's academic expertise transcends disciplinary boundaries between political science, social anthropology, gender, migration, international development, conflict and peace studies. She has extensive experience working at the crossroads of academic research, development practice, and policy advising. As an award-winning scholar, she has published extensively on topics such as gender justice, conflict and peace-building, women's rights movements, refugees and forced migration, development, human rights, revolutions, and the complexity of socio-political change in and beyond the MENA region, with a particular focus on Yemen. She authored the book “Women in the Arab Spring: the Construction of a Political Culture of Feminist Resistance in Yemen”, published in 2017 in Spanish, based on her almost three years of fieldwork in Yemen. 

Elham Manea

Prof. Dr. Elham Manea is a titular professor of political science, a writer, and a human rights advocate. She works at the Political Science Institute, University of Zurich and as an independent consultant. She is Swiss Yemeni and works and lives in Switzerland.  
Her research focuses on regional politics of the Arabian Peninsula, Fragile States in conflict zones in the MENA region, especially Yemen, Gender and Politics, Women under Muslim Laws, and political Islam. Her research is based on field work in the region.  
Her publications include The Arab State and Women's Rights: The Trap of Authoritarian Governance: Yemen, Syria, Kuwait (Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Politics, 2011); Women and Sharia Law: the Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK (I B. Tauris, 2016). And a Volume co-edited with Sandra Kostner, Lehren aus 9/11: Zum Umgang des Westens mit Islamismus (ibidem, 2021).  
Her latest research project focuses on the outcomes of the Arab Uprisings. Two books are planned. One is slated to be published by the University of Exeter Press in 2024 with title The Yemeni Civil War: The Arab Spring, State Formation, and Internal Instability. The second is forthcoming under the title Gulf Rivalry and Yemeni Civil War. 

The Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series is supported by the Horizon-2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project EMStaD YEMEN.

An overview of all events in this series can be found on the series page.

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