‘Home’ and ‘Return’ – the Experience of Second-Generation Iraqi Kurd Returnees to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)

PhD Thesis

Ameen, J. 2018. ‘Home’ and ‘Return’ – the Experience of Second-Generation Iraqi Kurd Returnees to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). PhD Thesis University of East London School of Social Sciences https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.86y4y
AuthorsAmeen, J.
TypePhD Thesis

This research focuses on the experiences of migrants who have ‘returned’ to the Kurdish regions of Iraq from neighbouring countries and Europe. It addresses key issues in the field of Refugee Studies, including concepts of return, understandings of home and negotiations of identity and belonging among second generation Iraqi Kurdish returnees. Scholars and researchers have often used these terms loosely and sometimes interchangeably: critical analysis informed by this research suggests that they are related but are also distinct and specific. The second-generation Iraqi Kurds taking part in the study belong to the generation of migrants who were born in diaspora countries or moved to diaspora in their early childhood from the region of Iraqi Kurdistan. These second-generation migrants have a different understanding of ‘home’ to their parents. Their upbringing in diaspora countries and transnational links to ‘homeland’ create a tension between their constructions of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’.

The empirical data for this study is based upon an in-depth qualitative study of the experiences of 20 Iraqi Kurd returnees in Kurdistan, most of whom were neither born nor grew up in the KRG region, and had little or no previous experience of their ‘homeland’. Interview themes involved home, transnational ties and attachments, identity and belonging. I propose that second-generation migrants are motivated to ‘return’ because of a strong sense of belonging and a need for identity in relation to a familial and/or ancestral ‘home’. Analysing in detail the life-narratives of second-generation returnees, the research identifies multifaceted perspectives in which notions of ‘return’, ‘home’, ‘identity’ and ‘belonging’ are relevant in recent Kurdish experience. It proposes that diasporic links and networks, and earlier experiences outside the KRG, play a key role in shaping aspirations, expectations and experiences in Kurdistan.

The findings from this research suggest that the factors motivating Kurdish returnee migration back to Kurdistan are sophisticated. Certainly, the analysis of my data indicates that for the second generation who have taken the decision to return to KRG region, this migration is facilitated through the social relationships and resources which are generated and sustained through their family networks. It is these family networks which make the difference between the dream or intention to return and the actual reality of doing so. The findings explain that family narratives are vital factors of the second generation’s ‘home’ constructions. However, the return experiences show that their ‘imagined home’ and ‘reality’ do not always match. The KRG region, more often referred to as homeland, is very central in respondents’ narratives. What is most noticeable for the second-generation Iraqi Kurds is that while homeland is very significant for them, no given homeland exists. The homeland is therefore an ambiguous, vague and ambivalent conception. It is mostly about a subjective feeling and individual and political constructions based on lived experiences, collective memory and history and political discourses. For them ‘home’ is a space that exceeds several territorial borders and several nation-states. The meaning of identity, home(land) and belonging for second-generation Iraqi Kurds is more situational, ambivalent and flexible.

PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.86y4y
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Publication dates
PrintSep 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited16 Aug 2019
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