Protecting Forcibly Displaced Women and Girls in the Muslim World

The growing scale of forced displacement (reaching over 100 million people) is a global challenge requiring concerted efforts and innovative solutions. The project develops innovative conceptual resources to engage with humanitarian policy and diplomacy in the Muslim world to put displaced women's and girls' protection on the agenda. 

Project Lead: Dr Sandra Pertek

Project summary

Forced migration processes are increasingly feminised – more and more women and children undertake dangerous refugee journeys due to conflict and war, climate emergencies and economic inequalities. Women and girls often travel alone, without male relatives and financial resources. With ruptured social networks, lack of language skills and documentation, they face multiple risks of violence, exclusion, discrimination and exploitation across different locations and stages of forced migration, including in transit and refuge. Despite ongoing humanitarian efforts to tackle protection concerns, the scale of recent forced displacement has not been matched with the appropriate resources, capacity and political will to protect displaced women’s rights and dignity.

The Muslim-majority countries are hosts to some of the highest numbers of refugees worldwide. While the Islamic framework for the protection of forced migrants is an important resource, less is known about the specific mechanisms of women’s protection in forced displacement in the Muslim world. 

Project brief in Arabic: حماية النازحات قسرًا في العالم الإسلامي [Word - PDF (27KB)] 

Research objectives

This policy-oriented research project explores the motivations, opportunities and challenges for protecting displaced women and girls in the Muslim majority countries. It aims to develop an evidence base and conceptual resources for integrating the protection of forcibly displaced women and girls from violence, discrimination and exclusion into humanitarian policy and diplomacy in the Muslim world. In doing so, the project will identify dynamics and opportunities for strategic engagement with women’s and girls’ protection in multilateral organisations and humanitarian policy. A policy seminar will serve to exchange knowledge and co-develop recommendations to put the protection of displaced women and girls on the policy agenda.

Project Team and Collaborators

Dr Sandra Iman Pertek is an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Birmingham and gender and protection practitioner with over a decade’s experience in humanitarian and international development settings. Her research focuses on intersectional and socioecological approaches to strengthen protection of women and girls in forced displacement. In her PhD from the University of Birmingham, she explored the intersection of religion and the continuum of violence from conflict and forced displacement to refuge, particularly focusing on resilience and vulnerability. Sandra has led several research projects on violence against women across regions, including in Turkey, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Zambia, Poland and Ukraine. Previously, she served as Senior Policy Advisor on Gender in a leading humanitarian agency and consulted on behalf of various organisations, including governments, INGOs and international organisations. She holds an MSc in Social Development Practice from University College London and BA in European Studies from University of Warsaw.
Dr Sandra Pertek

Dr Reem Doukmak is a Research Associate at the University of Birmingham. She completed her PhD in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching at Warwick University where she looked at engaging Syrian refugee teachers with using drama as an innovative teaching method to respond to the difficult circumstances of their students.

Reem has had extensive experience working with refugees and refugee organisations in Coventry, Sheffield and Winchester. As an Honorary Research Fellow at Warwick University, she led on research projects with the UK City of Culture 2021 such as Coventry Creates, where she collaborated with artists in Coventry to explore the role of arts in understanding the integration experiences of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa under Covid-19.

Reem Doukmak

Dr Haifaa Jawad is an Honorary Senior lecturer in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, department of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham, UK. From 2010-2020, she was the director of the Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Birmingham. She is specialized in the socio-political study of Islam, Modern and contemporary Islamic thought, Women in Islam, Muslims in Britain especially new Muslims, Islam and the West, Islamic beliefs and practices, and Islam and other religions, especially Christian-Muslim Relations. Apart from her academic work, she also contributes often to the media and blogs on contemporary Islamic issues. Jawad held various senior visiting lectureship positions at the University of Alabama, USA, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, Lancaster University UK and Istanbul Sehir University, Turkey. She is associate editor, Journal of the Study of Islam and Christian Muslim Relations, Birmingham, UK.  She was Associate editor, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, USA. She authored many books, articles and book chapters.
Haifaa Jawad, Theology and Religion

Muhyiddin Ibrahim is a researcher in Islamic and religious studies and a lecturer in Islamic law at al-Azhar University in Cairo. His research and teaching focuses on Islamic law as a legal and ethical system. He is a working member of the al-Azhar Academic Research Unit where he participates in developing bibliographical content on Islamic and religious studies. He is a former legal associate in international humanitarian law (IHL) and Islamic law at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a former legal researcher at al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism. He holds an LL.B. in Sharia and Law from al-Azhar University, an LL.M. in Islamic law from SOAS University of London and an MA in Religion from Temple University. 

Maëlle Noir is an Irish Research Council PhD scholar at the Irish Centre for Human Rights. Her PhD research addresses the question of gender-based violence against women refugees through an intersectional and decolonial feminist perspective, exploring the relevance of feminist lawyering as an alternative approach to legal practice in the Ugandan urban refugee setting. Maëlle has extensive experience in advocacy and community research as she has been working for the past five years with several national and local civil society organisations in India, Ireland, France and Uganda.  She is also a part-time research assistant in a European Union Horizon project on democracy and policy, collaborating with researchers in Slovakia, Austria, Italy and Ireland. She holds an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Galway and an LLB in Law and Languages from the University of Bordeaux.
Maelle Noir

Salma Moustafa Khalil is a Research Associate at the University of Birmingham. She completed a master’s in social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Amsterdam. She has extensive research experience on and within the Middle East and North Africa.

Salma has experience working with Arab and Muslim migrants and political refugees in Berlin and across Europe. She has conducted research on mobilisation and radicalisation in Egypt, Syria and Iraq and is currently a translator and editor at the Middle East Centre London School of Economics and Research Associate with Prof. Roxane Euben at the University of Pennsylvania.

Salma Moustafa Khalil

Madiha Z Sadiq is a PhD researcher in Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in Italy. Her current research focuses on political and social attitudes in post-war migration and displacement contexts. Previous projects have explored the role of faith in conflict and peacebuilding settings, as well as diaspora-homeland relations. She formerly worked as the editor-in-chief at Arab Research and Advocacy Bureau and as a research assistant at Humanitarian Academy for Development, University of Leeds, and other research institutions. She holds an MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development from SOAS, University of London.

Partner organisations and sponsors

Funder: Research England QR Policy Support Fund, University of Birmingham


9 June 2023 

Women and Forced Displacement in the Muslim World: Roadmap for Research and Innovation Agenda

The workshop (by invitation only, at the University of Birmingham) will explore next steps for developing research and innovation agenda to address the challenges women face in forced displacement in the Muslim world, bringing together leading humanitarian, law, gender and protection experts.

Contact us

Sandra Pertek: