I am a PhD candidate in comparative politics and international relations at The University of California, Davis. My research explores issues of human rights including local ethnic minority representation, marginalization, and demands for self-determination. My dissertation, funded by the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Russell J. Dorothy S. Bilinski Educational Foundation, argues territorial autonomy increases local ethnic group grievances and triggers demands for self-determination by local ethnic minority groups. Using interview data with Assyrian Christian elites and civilians in Northern Iraq, I trace the consequences of autonomy arrangements in Northern Iraq on self-determination demands by indigenous Assyrian Christians. Augmenting the interviews with multi-country analyses of the Ethnic Powers Relations and All Minorites at Risk Project datasets, I find that territorial autonomy and decentralization policies increase protests by local ethnic minority groups. In a second dissertation chapter, I find that granting ethnic groups the authority to veto legislation may reduce the likelihood of ethnic protests.
My background as a descendent of genocide survivors informs my decision to study political solutions to ethnic conflict. I am a second generation Iraqi-American female. My family comes from the Assyrian Christian community in northern Iraq, an indigenous group that is all but erased from Iraq’s modern society. The reason I am alive today is because my parents and grandparents managed to escape genocide against ethnic Christians throughout the Middle East. As a representative of a minority group in the Middle East, I recognize the plight of underrepresented communities domestically and abroad. I aim to use my PhD in political science to develop evidence-based policy recommendations that promote minority group inclusion in state institutions and foster peace worldwide.
My research is grounded in multiple rounds of fieldwork in Iraq, seven years of involvement with institutions and scholars that focus on the MENA region, and ten years of academic education on ethnic conflict and civil war. I have been invited to speak at the Middle East/South Asia Studies Student Research Symposium at UC Davis, the WPSA Authoritarian Politics Mini Conference, and the Assyrian Policy Institute (virtual) Conference, and organized the first-ever panel on Assyrian studies in political science at the Middle East Studies Association. I also presented my research at the 2020-20221 APSA MENA Summer Workshops. Through my affiliation with the U.S. Institute of Peace, I am active in policy discussions on how decentralization policies impact representation for Iraq’s indigenous groups including Christians, Yezidis, and Turkmen.
In addition to my six years of experience as a teaching assistant, I have taught Introduction to Comparative Politics and a course on Ethnic Conflict as an Associate Instructor, and I expect to teach my own courses on civil conflict as an Adjunct Lecturer during the 2021-2022 academic year. As an Assistant Professor, I am able to offer courses on indigenous minorities of the MENA, subnational ethnic conflicts, self-determination of indigenous minorities, and qualitative research methods. At my own institution, I have been active in various outreach activities. I work as an undergraduate and graduate student mentor; I am a UC Davis Global Education for All Alumni Fellow; I co-organized the Women’s Roundtable in the department of political science; I helped organize the annual workshops for Muslim Women and the Media Institute, an institute funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, and I contributed to workshops through Middle East and/or South Asia (ME/SA) studies program promoting graduate student research on those regions.