Political Science, Department of


First Advisor

Ross A. Miller

Date of this Version

Spring 5-10-2022


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfilment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Political Science (Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs), Under the Supervision of Professor Ross A. Miller. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2022

Copyright © 2022 Naser A. Yahya


Iraq has had a long history of human rights violations since its inception as a modern state in 1921. This is true especially under the personalistic dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Under his regime, the Iraqi people suffered a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including political imprisonment, torture, and summary and arbitrary executions. This regime used a variety of mechanisms to squelch political dissent, including house-to-house searches; arbitrary arrests, often in large numbers; surveillance; harassment and questioning of family members; detention of targeted individuals, such as those returning to Iraq pursuant to amnesties, at unknown locations; and the use of torture prior to and during interrogation.

Due to deep historical ethnic cleavages between its ethnic groups and religious sect, any attempt to build a country where human rights will prevail seemed unachievable. However, events after 1991, the initial Kurdish human rights experience showed different results with the intervention of the international community, especially under the impact of NGOs in the region. Most theoretical assumptions regarding human rights development fail to consider the complex, interconnected events, and historical and psychological elements in Iraq since its formation as a modern state, and the rich political, social and history of one part of the country, namely the Kurdish people.

This research attempts to answer these interrelated questions: why was the Kurdish parliament able to pass some progressive laws regarding respecting human rights for women, children, and minorities? Second, how, and why was the international community, especially through human rights NGOs, successful in Kurdistan while the rest of Iraq failed to implement these human rights changes? This project offers a different perspective on how and why NGOs impact the process of human rights development in Iraq. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the largest qualitative dataset of NGO leaders to date to explain the process of human rights development, regarding women and minorities.

Advisor: Ross A. Miller