Nikki Junker, INCM Student, Completed Research this Summer in Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq on Sexually Assaulted Women


KENNESAW, Ga. (Aug 16, 2016) — Original article:

In the role of co-researcher on the project, Junker interviewed Yazidi women, who as members of the region’s Kurdish minority, were captured by ISIS, sexually assaulted and ultimately escaped or were rescued. Working with Sherizaan Minwalla, a leading women’s justice advocate, Junker sought to document whether the women were retraumatized when members of the media gathered and published their stories and potentially exposed them to further isolation within their religious community. 

“The Kurdish and Iraqi governments knew that the status of women survivors was a particular problem, but there was little in the way of an organized program for them at the time,” Junker said. “It became very obvious that a structured program was needed for these victims, and this is the focus of my dissertation ─ to create such a structure.”

“I began looking for doctoral programs and chose Kennesaw State because it offered a program focused on international conflict management,” said Junker, who is a member of INCM’s spring 2016 cohort. She also is a Clendenin Scholar, an endowed scholarship program that funds graduate study at Kennesaw State.

“We were both concerned about ethical violations in some of the media coverage of women who had returned from captivity – that by identifying them as victims of rape, journalists were exposing them to re-traumatization during interviews and making reintegration into their religious community more difficult.”

Researching victims of sexual assault in conflict situations is difficult and delicate work that must be conducted under precise ethical guidelines, Junker said. She and her colleagues followed detailed guidelines outlined by the United Nation’s Gender Based Violence Cluster to protect the safety and identity of such victims during interactions with researchers.

In the meantime, Junker continues her focus on the plight of the people in conflict situations. After her work in Iraq, she traveled to The Hague, Netherlands, to attend the three-week International Security and Peace Institute's Annual Symposium on Conflict Transitions and International Justice, where she hoped to learn more about the ongoing push for a tribunal for the Yazidi genocide. She also will continue working on research with Debarati Sen,assistant professor of anthropology and international conflict management, related to reintegration of conflict-related sexual violence victims and ex-combatants.

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Cover photo: Nikki Junker (left) with Sherizaan Minwalla at Lalish, the Yazidis sacred grounds, in Northern Iraq

 -Sabbaye McGriff