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University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies


Hakan Sandal

The Kurdish LGBTI+ Movement: Strategies and Tactics towards Radical Democracy

Supervisor: Dr Ayse Zarakol (Department of Politics and International Studies)



My doctoral research focused on the intersection of ethnic, gender, and sexual identities during times of war and conflict. Studying how queer activists situate themselves in ethnic and democracy struggles presents a holistic understanding of identity construction processes and resistance practices. Exploring the boundaries and formation of identities in the Kurdish queer context, and studying the Kurdish struggle and the queer struggle together, within the framework of resistance and conflict, will contribute to gender studies, queer politics, and conflict studies, and will engender new debates on radical queer movements and their emancipatory potential. The research will eventually not only shed light on a queer struggle in the Middle East context, but also provide an alternative reading and historicisation of the Kurdish movement and Turkey, while providing insights into creative transformative resistance practices.

Other Activities:

I convened a seminar series entitled ‘Methods in Question: Epistemologies of Gender and Sexuality’ ( at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies, where scholars from all levels discussed the research methods they employed in their research. In addition to my scholarly work, I am a committee member of Amnesty UK’s LGBTI Network as Campaigns Officer and lead for the East Anglia Region. I previously served in the committees of the Cambridge University Student Union LGBT+ campaign as Black and Minority Ethnic representative and the Cambridge University Mindfulness Society. I write about Kurdish and LGBTI+ politics in various newspapers and journals, including Jadaliyya and openDemocracy.

Research Interests:

My research interests, in addition to Gender and Sexuality Studies, include Critical Theory, Political Sociology, and Diaspora Studies.

Peer-review Publications:

  • ‘Radical Queer Epistemic Network: Kurdish Diaspora, Futurity, and Sexual Politics’ (Migration Letters, January 2020)
  •  ‘Decolonial Queer Politics and LGBT+ Activism in Romania and Turkey’ (co-authored with Dr Bogdan Popa) (Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics, June 2019)

Conference and seminar papers (selected)

2018 April: ‘Queer Imagination of the Middle East: Kurdish Diaspora, Sexuality and Politics’, Interdisciplinary Conference on Kurdish Politics and Societies, Yale University, New Haven, United States.

2017 June: ‘Queer Imagination of Kurdistan: Diaspora, Gender Identity and Belonging’, International Kurdish Migration Conference, Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom.

2014: ‘Clash of Emotions - The Case of Roboskî’, Turkish Migration Conference 2014, Regents University, London, United Kingdom.

2013: ‘The Construction of the Sanctity of Death - Roboskî Case’, Turkey's Human Rights Agenda Conference, Istanbul, Turkey.

Research Reports:

2016 March: “The two faces of the destruction of Sur: Urban Transformation and Siege in Diyarbakir”, ZAN Institute for Social, Political and Economic Studies.

Teaching and Student Supervision (University of Cambridge):

  • ‘Politics and Gender’, Department of Politics and International Studies
  • ‘Politics of the Middle East’, Department of Politics and International Studies
  • ‘Global Social Problems and Dynamics of Resistance’, Department of Sociology: The ‘Social Movements and Contentious Politics’ module
  • ‘Social Problems in Modern Britain’, Department of Sociology: The ‘Sexual Inequalities and the Lived Experience of LGBT People in Britain’ module

Invited Talks (selected):

October 2019: ‘Report as Method: Intersectionality and the Queer Future of the University’ at the ‘Out at Cambridge’ Report Launch, lgbtQ+@cam, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

October 2019: ‘Queer Movements and Radical Democracy’, Festival of Ideas, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

May 2018: ‘The LGBTI+ ban in Turkey and the rise of new forms of resistance’, Centre for Feminist Research, Goldsmiths – University of London, United Kingdom.

March 2018: ‘Queer and Kurdish Press Under Siege in Turkey’, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

September 2017: ‘States of Emergency in the Middle East: Turkey’s Kurdish Question and the LGBTI+ Struggle’, Amnesty International Cambridge City Group, United Kingdom.

Online Publications (selected):

2017: “Redirecting the Colonial Gaze: ‘Decolonising Queer Liberation’ or Disciplining the Kurds?”, openDemocracy,

2017: ‘Queering Turkey’s Referendum’, Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative,

2016: ‘The Turkish State of Emergency and LGBTI+ Kurds’, Jadaliyya,