Journal Article

Scars of conflict in the population structure of Iraqi Kurdistan: An unfortunate cohort and its “fortunate” survivors

Using the 2017 Demographic Survey of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, older Iraqi censuses, the 2016 Census of Iran, and reports on displacement in Iraq, we expose the male deficit in the 1958–1962 birth cohort of Iraqi Kurdistan over time, probe its origins, and illustrate its effects on the rest of the population while relating these to the historical context of the exodus of the Kurdish resistance in Iraq to Iran in 1975. In addition to heightened mortality, a number of families appear to have sent some of their teenage sons to Iran to avoid their involvement in the conflict as fighters, victims, or both. Their absence has enabled the remaining males of the 1958–1962 cohort to enjoy an advantageous position in the marriage and labor markets, while their corresponding mating partners, the females of the 1963–1967 cohort, were the first generation of Iraqi Kurdish females to pursue education and employment en masse. Illustrating the effect of conflict over demographic structure, we highlight the need for further research into two interrelated aspects: the strategies of mothers to keep their male offspring safe via selective out-migration during conflict, and the resulting emancipation of females due to postconflict male shortage.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.