Tiba Fatli


This thesis argues that water scarcity causes significant displacement in Iraq’s southern region. It makes two related sub-points. First, in addition to local factors, international and transnational factors contribute to water scarcity and attendant displacement in Southern Iraq. Second, the stakeholders – whether displaced populations, local government officials, federal policy makers, non-governmental organizations or international development organizations – focus on particular factors of water scarcity rather than addressing the causes holistically. In general, researchers and policy-makers underestimate or neglect water-related causes of displacement, not only in Iraq but globally. Even when addressed, emphasis is placed on local and national causes, without contextualizing the relationship between internal and external factors. This thesis asks for more attention to be paid to how national, international, and transnational factors operate alongside and in relation to each other. Effective policies also need to understand how displaced persons perceive these factors because their lived experiences often differ from institutionalized international narratives on resource management. Ultimately, policy-making will be more effective at all levels by better understanding the water-related reasons for displacement in the national, international, and transnational contexts in an interrelated way.


Center for Migration and Refugee Studies

Degree Name

MA in Migration & Refugee Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2018

First Advisor

Natarajan, Usha

Committee Member 1

Al Dafar, Abdulameer

Committee Member 2

Bhuiyan, Shahjahan


120 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Approval has been obtained for this item


The process of completing this degree and thesis was not an easy one for a number of reasons, and at times, I found myself frustrated and on the verge of quitting. But in these moments, I found individuals who helped me stay grounded: To my advisor: Dr. Usha Natarajan, whose work, guidance and passion made this thesis possible. Her critiques and teaching methods pushed me to engage with migration and environmental studies in a critical and productive way. Most importantly, Dr. Natarajan pushed me to think of my own role and my existence in an unequal and unjust world. To my readers: Dr. Abdualmeer Al Dafar who pushed me to do fieldwork and supported me during the process. And Dr. Shahjahan Bhuiyan for his kindness and feedback on the thesis. To Iraq: To Nature Iraq advocates, Jassim Al Asadi, Laith Al Obadi and Ahmed Saleh, who made southern Iraq a home during my fieldwork. To the communities in southern Iraq that shared with me their lived experiences and gave me a life-long supply of tea. To family and friends: Baba and Mama, you crossed rivers and continents to see me succeed. Thank you. My sibling, Hajir, Jaafar, Hamoody and Faidh, for their laughter and support. To the bright, strong and kind women in my life who keep me sane, Claire M., Ayah Abo Basha, and Zerrin Holla. To my partner, Zander Pellegrino, for his support, love and kindness. To Diana for her insightful and great feedback throughout the thesis writing process. To Banan Abdulrahman: the strong woman of color who has challenged me in many ways, kept me grounded and reminded me of my abilities. The woman who made Cairo home by her mere presence and who gives me hope in an unjust and an unequal world. I am forever grateful for your heart, mind and soul. In the words of Arundhati Roy, “another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” A just world is only possible because people like Banan exist.