Webinar Recordings

Tunisia’s Missionaries of Jihad

Dr Aaron Y. Zelin (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Gender and Violent Extremism Research Series: Friday 3 July 2020

Aaron Y. ZelinTunisia became one of the largest sources of foreign fighters for the Islamic State—even though the country stands out as a democratic bright spot of the Arab uprisings and despite the fact that it had very little history of terrorist violence within its borders prior to 2011. Tunisian women have been involved in jihadist activity both in Tunisia and more militarized activity abroad since the 2011 revolution. The role and prominence of Tunisian female jihadists grew even more as they joined IS abroad. Drawing on findings from his new book, Your Sons Are at Your Service, Aaron Y. Zelin uncovers the longer history of Tunisian involvement in the jihadi movement and offers an in-depth examination of the reasons why so many Tunisians became drawn to jihadism following the 2011 revolution, including women. He highlights the longer-term causes that affected jihadi recruitment in Tunisia, including the prior history of Tunisians joining jihadi organizations and playing key roles in far-flung parts of the world over the past four decades. He contends that the jihadi group Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia was able to take advantage of the universal prisoner amnesty, increased openness, and the lack of governmental policy toward it after the revolution. In turn, this provided space for greater recruitment and subsequent mobilization to fight abroad once the Tunisian government cracked down on the group in 2013.

Dr Aaron Y. Zelin is the Richard Borow Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Visiting Research Scholar at Brandeis University, and an Associate Fellow of the Global Network on Extremism and Terrorism for the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. He is author of the new book Your Sons Are At Your Service: Tunisia’s Missionaries of Jihad (Columbia University Press). Zelin is also the founder of the widely acclaimed and cited website Jihadology.net and its podcast JihadPod. Zelin’s research focuses on Sunni Arab jihadi groups in North Africa and Syria as well as the trend of foreign fighting, online jihadism, and jihadi governance.


Women’s Rights in Armed Conflict Under International Law: A Focus on WPS-CEDAW Synergies

Dr Catherine O'Rourke (Ulster University)

GPS Seminar Series: Monday 15 June 2020

book coverLaws and norms that focus on women’s lives in conflict have proliferated across the regimes of international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international human rights law and the United Nations Security Council. While separate institutions, with differing powers of monitoring and enforcement, implement these laws and norms, the activities of regimes overlap. Drawing on research from her new book, Women’s Rights in Armed Conflict under International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2020), the seminar addresses challenges posed by legal fragmentation and the relatively weak legal status of many women’s rights norms in conflict. The seminar will focus on the potential for synergies between CEDAW and WPS to enhance the protection of women’s rights in conflict.

Dr Catherine O’Rourke is Director of the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. She was commissioned by UN Women (with Aisling Swaine) to author the Guidebook on CEDAW general recommendation no. 30 and the UN Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security (2015), the leading guidance for UN member states and civil society on achieving synergies between CEDAW and the Security Council to advance women’s rights in conflict.

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COVID-19 and Violent Extremism: Gender Perspectives

Dr Fatima Akilu, Professor Mia Bloom, Dr Noor Huda Ismail, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini MBE, Dr Cathrine Thorleifsson and Dr Alexandra Phelan (Chair)

Consortium of W/GPS Centres and Institutes: Wednesday 3 June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented crisis internationally. Though focus is often placed on government responses, the pandemic has also allowed for violent extremist groups to both leverage and capitalise on the effects of COVID-19, impacting women and men differently. We have seen VE organisations respond to the virus by ramping up online propaganda messages, spreading conspiracies and engaging in misinformation campaigns. These organisations seek to foster perceptions of inefficiency and mistrust in government. In some countries, non-state armed groups have adopted state-like functions by providing social welfare services and enforcing local lockdowns vis-à-vis the state. This event will bring together international experts to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted on gender dynamics in violent groups around the world. It is part of a series co-hosted with: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security, the PRIO Centre on Gender, Peace and Security and the Women, Peace and Security Institute in the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre.


Violating Peace: Sex, Aid, and Peacekeeping

Dr Jasmine-Kim Westendorf (La Trobe University)

GPS Seminar Series: Monday 4 May 2020

book coverJasmine-Kim Westendorf's discomforting book investigates sexual misconduct by military peacekeepers and abuses perpetrated by civilian peacekeepers and non-UN civilian interveners. Based on extensive field research in Bosnia, Timor-Leste, and with the UN and humanitarian communities, Violating Peace uncovers a brutal truth about peacebuilding as Westendorf investigates how such behaviors affect the capacity of the international community to achieve its goals related to stability and peacebuilding, and its legitimacy in the eyes of local and global populations.

As Violating Peace shows, when interveners perpetrate sexual exploitation and abuse, they undermine the operational capacity of the international community to effectively build peace after civil wars and to alleviate human suffering in crises. Furthermore, sexual misconduct by interveners poses a significant risk to the perceived legitimacy of the multilateral peacekeeping project, and the UN more generally, with ramifications for the nature and dynamics of UN in future peace operations.

Dr Jasmine-Kim Westendorf is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at La Trobe University. Her research focuses on civil wars, negotiated peace processes, international approaches to peacebuilding, the politics of international law and international organisations, and the role of women in peace and war. She has conducted field research in East Timor, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nepal, Cyprus, Palestine, and at UN Headquarters in New York and with the humanitarian sector in Geneva.

Listen to the recording (via Big Ideas, ABC Radio National)