Marsin Alshamary is a nonresident fellow with the Foreign Policy program, where she was a postdoctoral research fellow from 2020-21. She is also a research fellow in the Middle East Initiative at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs with the Harvard Kennedy School and an assistant professor of political science at Boston College. Her research examines the intersection of religion and politics in the Middle East, looking particularly at how the Shi’a religious establishment in Iraq has intervened in formal politics, in protest, and in peacebuilding. She is currently working on her book manuscript, “A Century of the Iraqi Hawza: How Clerics Shaped Protests and Politics in Modern Day Iraq”, which examines how the Shi’a religious establishment – the Marjayya – reacted to protest movements during various eras of Iraq’s history, from monarchy to republic to dictatorship and democratization.
In addition to her research on religion and politics, Alshamary has written extensively on civil society in Iraq and on post-2003 protests. Her work on civil society interrogates the presumed link between civil society and democratization by examining the development of organization life in the mid-Euphrates region of Iraq after 2003. This research has been published as a report for Brookings. In addition, Alshamary has led a project mapping civil society in Iraq, supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Alshamary’s research has also focused on the October protest movement in Iraq. With support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Institute for Regional and International Studies, she has written a report describing the divide between reformists and revolutionaries in the protest movement. For Brookings, she has written a report examining why secular activists looked to the clerical establishment for legitimation. And, with support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, she has explored the trajectory of protestors from the street to the parliament.
Her most recent research project combines her interest in civil society and protest politics to look at how women get involved in political life in Iraq. “The Protest to Parliament Pipeline: Investigating the Link Between Activism and Women’s Political Participation in Iraq” is supported by the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa Canada, where Alshamary was awarded the Women, Peace, and Security Award by the honorable Mélanie Joly, the foreign minister of Canada.
In addition to her research, Alshamary has written opinion pieces for Order from Chaos, The Washington Post, PRI, War on the Rocks, 1001 Iraqi Thoughts, and other outlets. She has been featured on television and radio with Al Jazeera English, BBC, CNN, PRI The World, Radio France Internationale, and TRT. Her analysis has been featured in articles from Agence France-Presse, Al Jazeera, The Associated Press, Vox Media, The Washington Post, Reuters, and others.
She holds a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s in international relations and French from Wellesley College, where she was an Albright Fellow.
Institute for Regional and International Studies, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani, nonresident fellow
International Organization for Migration, consultant
Areas of Expertise
- Civil society and democratization
- Protest movements and contentious politics
- Religion and politics in the Middle East
- Women’s political participation
- Assistant Professor of Political Science, Boston College
- Research Fellow, Middle East Initiative, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The Brookings Institution
- Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2020
- B.A., Wellesley College, 2013