Dr Sahla Aroussi


I joined POLIS in September 2020. I have received my PhD in Politics from the University of Ulster in 2011 and I was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp until 2013. I also have a Master of Laws (LLM) in Human Rights and Transitional Justice (2007, Transitional Justice Institute) and a Master of Arts in Human Rights (2004, The University of Malta/Utrecht University).

I was an intern at the European Parliament in 2005 and at the Northern Irish Commission for Human Rights in 2006. Prior to joining POLIS, I was working as a Assistant Professor at The Centre for Trust Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University (2014-2020) and I previously taught at the University of Ulster (2013-2014). I have been a member of the UN Women Roster of experts on Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) since May 2020.

I am a feminist researcher interested in questions related to gender, violence and security. My research examines topics such as violence against women; sexual violence in armed conflicts and humanitarian emergencies; the UN framework on ‘women, peace and security’; tranistional justice;  peacemaking and peacebuilding and violent extremism but with a particular focus on the role of gender norms and dynamics in these areas and processes. My research is innovative, interdisciplinary and underpinned by a determination to have real world impact . I am passionate about using participatory methodologies in research including art-based methods and keen on exploring and experimenting with new methods and approaches. 


  • Deputy Director of the Leeds Social Sciences Institute

Research interests

I have conducted several studies on the implementation of the ‘women, peace and security’ agenda. In this work, I have extensively researched peace settlements particularly in African context. My monograph entitled Women, Peace, and Security: Repositioning gender in peace agreements (2015) assessed how gender issues are negotiated and implemented in peace settlements around the world. I am passionate about ending gender-based violence and delivering gender justice. I have also led a number of studies on transitional justice and violence against women and conducted research with survivors of wartime rape particularly in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In this research, I was primarily concerned with the question of how justice can be fulfilled for survivors of sexual violence in the context of violent conflict.

In the more recent years, and particularly since 2015, I have been conducting research on gender violent extremism that critically engages with this concept from a feminist perspective.  In addition to academic studies, I have also conducted research for UN bodies and international organisations. In 2019, I was a Lead Consultant on UN ESCWA project on Women in the judiciary of Arab States: Removing Barriers, Increasing Numbers. The report from this study offers a regional outlook on women’s presence in the judiciary within Arab states and the barriers for their inclusion. The study also formulates evidence-based policy recommendations on how to increase women’s presence in the judiciary, with an emphasis on replicating successful practices from around the region.

  Recently I have been working on the following research projects:

  • I am the Primary Investigator on a British Academy Tackling UK International Challenges Award on Gender and Resistance to Violent Extremism in Kenya (January 2019- January 2021).This project is in collaboration with Dr Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen from Technical University of Mombasa, Dr Michaelina Jakala from Coventry University and Xavier Verhoest from Art2Be in Nairobi. This research explores how men and women in Kenya resist violent extremism in their everyday lives. The project uses a gender and intersectionality lenses and body mapping as a co-creative and art-based method to explore how violent extremism is resisted at a local community level.  As part of this project we have recently published Aroussi, S., Jakala, M, Badurdeen, F.A. and Verhoest, X. (2020) Body Maps of Resistance: Understanding everyday resistance to violent extremism in Kenya , University of Leeds. https://doi.org/10.5518/100/50 
  • I am a Co-Investigator on a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)/ UKRI Global Network research award on Gender and Responding to Violent Extremism (December 2019-December 2021). This project is led by Professor Fatuma Ali from the United States International University of Africa in Kenya and in partnership with the Rift Valley Institute, Nairobi. The network aims to bring together academics and practitioners from across the globe to discuss, exchange knowledge and expertise, highlight best practices and promote critical thinking on violent extremism from a gender perspective. 
  • I am a Co-Investigator on a UKRI funded project on Performing Violence, Engendering Change: Developing Arts-Based Approaches to Peacebuilding (June 2020- April 2021) (See  project website: https://www.performingviolence.com/ ).  This project is led by Daniele Rugo, Brunel University in collaboration with Kirsten Ainley from the London School of Economics. The project connects artists and researchers from ODA recipient countries across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia working with peacebuilding practices rooted in the arts. It does so by bringing together GCRF and British Academy projects on the impact of the Lebanese civil war on infrastructure; gender and resistance to violent extremism in Kenya; the relationship between transitional justice and development in conflict-affected societies; and gender justice and gendered insecurities. The Cluster will enhance participants' roles as stakeholders in peacebuilding by providing opportunities for research collaboration and knowledge exchange during three week-long workshops held in Kenya, Lebanon and Sri Lanka.
  • I am currently also working on UN Women consultancy on Women, Peace and Security and Transitional Justice in the Middle East and North Africa (September 2020- January 2021, PI).

I am eager to supervise PhD students who are interested in the topics related to gender, violence and security and particularly gender based and sexual violence; gender issues and women’s participation in conflicts and peace processes; transitiobnal justice; and the UN framework on women, peace and security. 

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in Politics
  • LLM
  • MA
  • MaĆ®trise

Professional memberships

  • BISA
  • ISA

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>