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Voices of Yazidi women: Perceptions of journalistic practices in the reporting on ISIS sexual violence

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Abstract

In this article, we use a global transnational feminist perspective to explore Yazidi women's perceptions of the nature and impact of media reporting on women and girls who survived captivity, rape, and trafficking by the self-declared Islamic State (ISIS). Through 26 face-to-face interviews of displaced Yazidi women, we identify five narrative themes that characterize interviewees' reflections in the wake of these atrocities, including the sense of pressure women felt from journalists and other sources to share their stories of ISIS captivity; the belief that some journalistic practices are putting women and girls at risk; the recognition of the severe emotional toll on survivors' that results from repeatedly telling their stories; the sense of urgency and usefulness of going public nonetheless; and the resultant feelings of frustration and betrayal that the willingness to share their traumatic experiences has not resulted in a concerted global response to the genocidal attacks against the Yazidi people. Our findings suggest a paradoxical narrative of victimization and resistance in women's media engagement that is indicative of a kind of “bargaining at the intersection of patriarchies” that has implications for journalists covering sexual violence in conflict zones.

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... Vícero respondentek výzkumu tak například uvedlo, že když v televizi mluvila právě Nádija Murádová nebo se referovalo o jejích aktivitách v OSN, islamisté vždy ve zvýšené míře trýznili jezídky z vesnice Kódžó, odkud pochází také samotná Murádová. Kapitolou samou o sobě je pak podle výzkumu skutečnost, že znásilněné jezídky byly sice oficiálně přijaty zpět do svých rodin a komunit, nicméně se znásilněním spojené stigma, pocit studu a ponížení je natolik velké, že jezídské ženy nestojí o jmenovitou publicitu [Foster -Minwalla 2018]. ...
... Přitom se ale ukázalo, že se jedná o akt značně nerovnoměrné směny, kde obě strany něco dávají a od té druhé něco očekávají. Zatímco se však jezídky před médii bolestně obnažují a odkrývají svůj příběh sexuálních otrokyň, novináři jim za to prakticky nic nenabízejí, vyjma vágního příslibu, že podané svědectví zranitelné komunitě pomůže [Foster -Minwalla 2018]. ...
... p.59) and Andersson (2014, p.48). Foster and Minwalla's (2018) research found that Yezidi women who survived ISIS captivity felt pressure to talk to journalists undermining their personal and emotional security as well as that of their relatives. At the same time, they believed it was their duty to share their experiences, even though their expectations for international humanitarian and military responses to their stories were greatly unmet, and they had no recourse to hold anyone accountable for unmet promises and expectations. ...
... They have the financial means, institutional organizational support, and necessary legal documents required to engage with refugees' situations at relative will and then return 'home'. This power differential is highlighted in quote from Foster and for(e)dialogue Minwalla (2018)'s Yezidi participants about journalistic attention: "they come from everywhere, and they take our stories and they don't do anything for us" (p. 59). ...
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This paper discusses three factors that contribute to a lack of ‘common information’ among refugees, academic researchers, and humanitarian program workers. The first is power differentials between refugees and many individuals who work with them. Refugees produce information agentively (especially through personal communications), but are also subjugated as targets of research, beneficiaries of humanitarian projects, and contingent recipients of legal protection. The second factor is transitoriness. Refugees often experience prolonged uncertainties about where and how they will live. Researchers and program workers, however, often spend short times ‘in the field’. They often negotiate their jobs’ learning curves in relative independence, with limited opportunities to share key basic aspects of their work with others or collaborate to explore more complex ones. The third factor is a lack of common ground around what information is valuable to share, rooted in the abovementioned factors and differences among academic disciplines. To strengthen collaborations, we propose increasing direct involvement by refugees in academic and program development; longer-term engagements and relationship development; and collaborations among all involved in the further development of theoretical frameworks.
... Previous studies have also revealed that sexual violence that receives little attention is the sexual violence that occurred in Iraq and Syria by ISIS. Sexual violence by ISIS is a form of invasion of territory and power (Al-Ali 2016, Foster & Minwalla 2018, Kaya 2019. For belligerent groups, "controlling" territory by raping women is a critical effort to weaken the enemy or opponents. ...
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... Also, although the discourses on Kurdish combatants are sometimes victimizing-for example, by erasing their political demands or by assuming their motivations to engage -the contrast is striking with the way media portray Yazidi women or part of the female brigades of the Islamic State as helpless victims as if these women had no agency for themselves (Foster and Minwalla 2018;Martini 2018). ...
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This article is a feminist framing and discourse analysis of Western media representations of women in armed conflicts. Looking specifically at the case of Kurdish women fighters, I conducted a qualitative data analysis of 125 news articles in three different media spaces. The results highlight the complex and socially constructed nature of media representations and how these representations are intertwined with larger geopolitical power relations. The analysis suggests that different actors carry the discourses on Kurdish women combatants for different purposes. While mass media and specialized media (including women’s and cultural magazines) are relatively similar in their representation of Kurdish women fighters, only the alternative media (both left and right-wing) are significantly different in their way of portraying them. While the images of Kurdish fighters are often believed to challenge the Orientalist gender stereotypes, I argue that the Western media coverage only reproduces these stereotypes by portraying them both as heroines and victims. The analysis also demonstrates the contrasted agency whether articles talk about Kurdish women vs. Western women fighters, in which the latter are part of larger discourses of “protection” and Western liberal feminism.
... The meaning of this word is properly associated with primary discourse if it is related to the context of violent actions committed by ISIS. In various reports and reports on the Syrian conflict, ISIS is recorded as carrying out brutal acts of violence (Cheterian, 2015;Foster & Minwalla, 2018;Minwalla et al., 2020). Given this contextual reality, the meaning of 'who stepped on' in the relevant dā'is word is associated as the first meaning of primary discourse. ...
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This study aims to analyze the meaning of ISIS names in the Arab mass media from the BREAK theory perspective. The research data were taken from two Syrian mass media: Tishrīn and ‘Inab Baladī. The name Dā’ish is used as the primary discourse, while the name Tanẓīm Al-Dawlah is a secondary discourse. The data was collected by observing the basic technique of tapping and the advanced technique of note-taking. Data analysis was carried out using identity method. The findings show that the meaning of primary discourse is structured through the eclectic use of theory on aspects of sound, form, meaning construction, and meaning changes. The analysis found that primary discourse has a negative meaning tendency and is contrary to religion’s moral values (Islam) and state. Meanwhile, the meaning of secondary discourse is carried out by combining the theory of nominal groups, word structures, nominal relations, and stylistics. Secondary discourse has an ambiguous meaning because it represents ISIS as an entity that can be understood in two domains at once: organization and state. The comprehensive analysis of BREAK has shown clear linguistic stages of meaning so the meaning of ISIS names can be clearly understood.
... nd abducting women and girls who were then taken to Syria and sold or given as sex slaves to Islamic State fighters (H. Elias, personal communication, March 11th, 2020;Hoffman et al., 2018;Kizilhan, 2020). Many of the Yazidi who survived the genocide believe that through the sharing of their experiences they can contribute to the fight for justice (Foster . . . Minwalla, 2018). Marwa, a Yazidi survivor urged the public during an interview: "We are human beings, and it is everyone's responsibility as a human being to help us" (Cook, 2018, p. 294). Mukamana and Brysiewicz (2008) applied a phenomenological approach to explore the experiences of women who were raped during the genocide of Rwanda in 1994. They fou ...
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In August 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and the Levant (ISIL) brutally attacked the Yazidi people and occupied Sinjar and other villages in Northern Iraq. The massacre of Yazidis that began in August 2014 was declared by the United Nations as genocide. To gain a better understanding and raise awareness of these atrocities, we conducted a qualitative, phenomenological study with 35 Yazidis, who survived the genocide. The aim of the study was to elucidate the Yazidis’ processing of the genocide and how it affects their psychological functioning. Coding and theming were the methods used to categorize, bring meaning and identity to Yazidis’genocidal experiences. The interviews took place between April and June 2019. Data analysis of the interview transcripts revealed that Yazidis, who survived the genocide of 2014, commonly experienced 11 themes related to hopelessness, fear, loss, grief, distrust, change, advocacy, optimism, shock, intrusive memories, and guilt. Results from this study reveal the vulnerabilities of ethnic minorities at risk of being abducted, killed, raped, and displaced. Moreover, the inherent risk of future genocides is illustrated through the experiences shared by the Yazidis.
... On August 3, 2014, a small area in Sinjar inhabited by Yazidis, were attacked by Daesh as their religious practices were deemed threatening to Daesh's version of Islam (Sarac, 2020) and to their desire to create an Islamic caliphate. During the attacks, men were killed, but women and children were kidnapped (Erdener, 2017;Foster and Minwalla, 2018). Rape of women is deeply humiliating but for Yazidi women, having sexual relations with a non-Yazidi man effectively makes expels them from the tightly knit Yazidi religious and cultural community. ...
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Gender and sexual violence is historically used as a weapon of war. Yazidi women resettled in Canada directly from northern Iraq after the 2014 Daesh-led attacks in the Sinjar region. This direct resettlement experience makes the Yazidi refugees a very distinct group from a resettlement perspective. The severe human rights violations and sexual and gender-based violence they have experienced has affected both their physical and mental health. However, research on pre-arrival trauma and its impact on resettlement has been limited to individual post-arrival psychological interventions without considering how pre-arrival trauma experiences may affect their overall settlement experience. Our paper focuses on the settlement challenges and needs of 21 Yazidi women resettled in the four Canadian cities with the largest Yazidi communities. Because the resettlement of the Yazidi often happened within weeks after their release from captivity, the structural deficiencies within the Canadian settlement network revealed challenges for resettlement organizations in terms of how they assist those with acute trauma. We argue that although the Canadian resettlement program is generous in many ways, it falls short of adequately addressing trauma at the acute stage, especially sexual and gender-based violence as experienced by the Yazidi women and children. Our analysis reveals that single-female-headed families, particularly those with young children, have a difficult time navigating the resettlement system in Canada. We have identified the resettlement experiences of Yazidi women and recommend resettlement to happen in three stages, to account for the acute level of trauma this particular group faces. The first stage lasts between six weeks and three months as many women require more dedicated support from settlement providers for housing, language, and health. The second stage is a period of adjustment which occurs within the next eighteen months, depending on the available support these refugee women have to navigate the different settlement services. The third stage begins sometime after the second year when many women can start navigating the social support, education and health systems independently. Thinking of how SGBV may influence the resettlement process in these three stages is a good way for us to consider the additional assistance that may be needed and how they may better access resettlement services.
... 21 Snow-20 After these two interviews, we decided not to pursue additional interviews with Yazidis for ethical reasons. In one recent study, many Yazidi women expressed concerns about the harmful consequences of interviews by journalists and researchers including the risk of retraumatization (as a result of being asked to retell horrific stories) and the potential for additional violence (such as honor killings) that might result from disclosure of identifying information (Foster and Minwalla 2018). 21 This field research was covered by [redacted for blinding] University IRB Protocols #1506016040 and #2000020198. ...
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The Islamic State (IS), which controlled significant territory in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2017, engaged in a wide repertoire of violence against civilians living in these areas. Despite extensive media coverage and scholarly attention, the determinants of this pattern of violence remain poorly understood. We argue that, contrary to a widespread assumption that the IS wielded violence indiscriminately, it systematically targeted different social groups with distinct forms of violence, including sexual violence. Our theory focuses on ideology, suggesting it is a necessary element of explanations of patterns of violence on the part of many armed actors. Ideologies, to varying extent, prescribe organizational policies that order or authorize particular forms of violence against specific social groups and institutions that regulate the conditions under which they occur. We find support for our theory in the case of sexual violence by IS by triangulating between several types of qualitative data: official documents; social media data generated by individuals in or near IS-controlled areas; interviews with Syrians and Iraqis who have knowledge of the organization's policies including victims of violence and former IS combatants; and secondary sources including local Arabic-language newspapers. Consistent with our theory, we find that the organization adopted ideologically motivated policies that authorized certain forms of sexual violence, including sexual slavery and child marriage. Forms of violence that violated organizational policies but were nonetheless tolerated by many commanders also occurred and we find evidence of two such practices: gang rape of Yazidi women and forced marriage of Sunni Muslim women.
... 21 Snow-20 After these two interviews, we decided not to pursue additional interviews with Yazidis for ethical reasons. In one recent study, many Yazidi women expressed concerns about the harmful consequences of interviews by journalists and researchers including the risk of retraumatization (as a result of being asked to retell horrific stories) and the potential for additional violence (such as honor killings) that might result from disclosure of identifying information (Foster and Minwalla 2018). 21 This field research was covered by [redacted for blinding] University IRB Protocols #1506016040 and #2000020198. ...
... On August 3, 2014, the so-called Islamic State attacked the area around the Sinjar district of Iraqi Kurdistan and first killed hundreds of Yazidi men before kidnapping the women and children. 1 Despite very few people had heard of the Yazidis before this attack, in the days and weeks following these events, the international media and western governments began to follow the Yazidi community in earnest. 2014 saw a great deal of international media coverage of the Yazidi women who had suffered violence at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ...
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Although as of early 2019 ISIS has lost all of the territories it occupied, scholarly and media attention has continued to focus on its barbarity and brutal treatment of the women living in its former territories. The extremist group has committed a long list of severe human rights violations since it seized territories in Iraq and Syria. In this article, I aim to illustrate the reporting of this violence against the Yazidi women from 2014 to 2019 by the UK’s national newspapers because the media’s portrayal of these women shapes public opinion and policy towards this group in relation to the violence they have endured. The results indicate that while UK national newspapers give preferential treatment in their coverage of Yazidi women’s experiences of violence, abuse, and torture, they often ignore these women’s agency and activism in terms of the extent to which these women resisted and coped with the atrocities they endured.
... Secondly, more recently, the paper by Foster and Minwalla (2018) point out that jihad feminists are used by their male counterparts as recruiting agents of other men and women from neighboring and far distant countries into the operations of the ISIS. In this regard, Foster and Minwalla (2018) argue that it is within the desire of the male ISIS members to use female as a way of encouraging and challenging more male fighters to join the group. It is believed that women who join the ISIS project other Muslim men who are not willing to join ISIS as weak followers of Islam (Winter, 2015b). ...
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The increasing embeddedness of the jihad feminist within the Islamic State’s (ISIS) operations is eliciting works on the role of women in terrorism. However, there is yet to be a more constructive analysis that adequately accounts for the luring of Muslim women into the ISIS as a justification of the patriarchal beliefs and oppressive social systems. This paper is among the first attempts to draw on the Jihad Feminism Theory (JFT) to develop a conceptual discourse that explains the causal relationship between jihad feminist fighters and promotion of patriarchal practices and beliefs within the ISIS. Far from standing against any forms of Western feminization- as espoused by the ISS- , the paper argues that jihad feminism has further subverted Muslim women to sedentary roles within the ISIS as a way of sustaining the organisations’ operations and existence.
... p.59) and Andersson (2014, p.48). Foster and Minwalla's (2018) research found that Yezidi women who survived ISIS captivity felt pressure to talk to journalists undermining their personal and emotional security as well as that of their relatives. At the same time, they believed it was their duty to share their experiences, even though their expectations for international humanitarian and military responses to their stories were greatly unmet, and they had no recourse to hold anyone accountable for unmet promises and expectations. ...
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Trauma victims are often a focus of media attention. However, little is known about the psychological effects that media coverage of their cases can have on the victims themselves. Two contradictory hypotheses exist: One is that media reports lead to retraumatization of victims and may impede recovery, the other that media reports provide social recognition for victims and, thus, constitute a positive form of support that may facilitate recovery. We used a longitudinal group comparison design, and assessed a sample of crime victims at around 5 and 11 months after trauma. Participants were crime victims recruited through a legal aid organization. Data were gathered by checklists and standardized self-reports. Forty-seven percent of the participants had read, listened to or watched at least one media report on their case. Of these, almost two thirds stated that the reports were more or less accurate. Nonetheless, the dominant psychological reaction to the reports was negative (sad 66%, frightened 48%), and few participants expressed positive reactions. Reactions were significantly more negative when the content of the report was not considered to be accurate. Some evidence was found for the theoretical assumption of retraumatization by media reports: There was a moderate correlation (r = 0.48) between negative reaction to the trauma reports and the level of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms at baseline assessment. Coverage in a media report did not predict PTSD symptoms at follow-up. In conclusion, the association between the level of PTSD symptoms and negative psychological reactions to media coverage indicates that media representatives should take particular care when dealing with the most strongly traumatized survivors. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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In an era of increasing globalization, women continue to be underrepresented and stereotyped in national, international and global news media. The problem is exacerbated when traditional geographic boundaries are crossed and the media in one country report on issues and events, particularly those that impact women, in another country. The question addressed in this article is how news organizations can best represent women and our diverse lives within this new global context. In an effort to bridge the local-global dichotomy, this article aims to make connections between macro-level theories of cultural globalization and micro-level theories of feminism. Three scenarios of cultural globalization, as proposed by Pieterse (2004), are extended to show their relationship with journalism, feminism, and story stances. The article shows how the clash of civilizations scenario relates to nationalistic news practices, patriarchal representations, and story stances that only include the voices of the dominant group. Similarly, it shows how the scenario of cultural homogenization relates to cultural imperialism, “global feminism,” and a story stance that homogenizes women's lives. Finally, it shows the relationships among cultural hybridization, glocalized journalism, transnational feminisms, and story stances that give voice to underrepresented groups.
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Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) knows no borders. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have witnessed historically unprecedented levels of violence against non-combatants as well as a concomitant rise in international and local efforts to assist survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. Yet the diversity of cultural contexts in which SGBV occurs challenges us to ask a timely question: what might a transnational feminist analysis of conflict-related sexual violence look like? This is particularly salient because feminist scholar-activists increasingly help shape policy designed to both address sexual violence as a weapon or by-product of war and services to assist its survivors. This article addresses the rise of global and local initiatives and institutions that rely upon the relatively recent emergence of concretized "best practices" recommended as global solutions to what are inevitably local problems. This article demonstrates how such global solutions are recommended for what are inevitably local problems and exemplifies how best practices are couched in human rights discourses that are presumed universally relevant despite their almost exclusive origination and dissemination by individuals in a privileged position vis-à-vis the intended beneficiaries of such discourse's practice. After analyzing the ethical concerns raised by this reality, this article proposes using non-hegemonic feminist models to develop new strategies for respecting both cultural diversity and the humanitarian responsibility to protect individuals from conflict-related sexual violence.
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In studying the ethics of journalistic practices of the newly globalized and liberalized Indian television news media in the aftermath of the events surrounding a rape that occurred in Delhi, India, on December 16, 2012, the author argues that the Indian television news media's portrayal and coverage of rape is narrowly focused on sexual violence against middle-class and upper-caste women and avoids discussing violence against poor, rural, lower-class, lower-caste, and otherwise marginalized women. The prevalence of shame culture, which views the presence of women in the public space with hostility, is both countered and perpetuated by the television media. If inclusiveness, human dignity, and the ideal of giving space to multiple voices are to be considered ethical precepts for global media, India's television news media fails to achieve such inclusiveness in its portrayal of and reporting on sexual violence, and thus perpetuates a pro-affluent bias.
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The brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman on a New Delhi bus became a media spectacle, flooding the news stream worldwide with articles, commentaries, blogs, and images. Drawing on theoretical insights from transnational feminism and social geography, this analysis focuses on the mediated deployment of space and place as potent signifiers of gender and sexuality in news coverage of the event. Using feminist critical discourse analysis to interrogate the verbal and visual texts in mainstream US news media during the first two weeks of coverage, this analysis found that the American news media invoked archetypes of the Third World as a primitive and undisciplined place populated by savage males and subordinate women, a space in which women's mobility is constrained and where state authority is complicit in rendering women vulnerable to sexual assault due to its incompetence. The study found that through this limited and ethnocentric lens, the US news media reinscribed social geographies of power in terms of sex and gender. The overall tenor of the coverage obscured the incidence of sexual violence in the First World/global North, effectively countermanding transnational feminist praxis and collective action against the worldwide problem of sexual violence against women.
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This essay critically reviews some trends in transnational feminist communication studies. It then makes a case for the importance of transnational perspectives in feminist communication scholarship.
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Women's experiences of war are highly misrepresented in mainstream media. A 'news blackout' of women's war experiences, or ongoing distortions of these experiences, inadvertently hide many crucial issues that would otherwise improve the public's understanding of war. The variety and frequency of occurrence of gendered interpretations of war coverage are well worth investigating. This paper provides a comparative study of gendered reporting of the Kosovo conflict using a context analysis model and applying it to the media of twenty-one nations. Additionally, the study briefly traces the commercial, political and social factors within the media business that contribute to ongoing gendered coverage of women and war.