About me & my work

Dr Esther van Eijk, LLM

I am an independent, self-employed* researcher & consultant based in Leiden, the Netherlands. My work focuses on the intersection of law, society, and migration, and the practical implications thereof for, in particular, people in protracted displacement in the Middle East and diaspora communities in Europe.

As a research consultant I provide the following services:

  • Expertise in (religious) family law, civil documentation, the Middle East (Syria & Iraq), Islamic law, missing persons, human rights;
  • Legal analysis and research, including empirical socio-legal research (qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods);
  • Legal advice upon request by, most importantly, lawyers, public sector/government organisations, NGOs working on migrant and refugee issues;
  • Presentations, courses and trainings.

Main clients:

  • Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
  • International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP)
  • Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Dutch Association of Family Lawyers and Divorce Mediators
  • Tolk- en Vertaalbureau MONA (trainings for professional interpreters and translators)


Before finishing my PhD on Syrian family law at Leiden University, I have completed degrees in International Law and Arabic (Leiden University), specialising in human rights, refugee & gender issues, and Islamic family law. During and after my studies, I also looked in detail at the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) and worked for a Palestinian NGO in the field of human rights and rights of women.

After my PhD, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Maastricht University, where my socio-legal research focused on religious marriage and divorce practices in a transnational context, and women’s rights issues in the Netherlands, including marital captivity and forced marriages.

I am the author of Family Law in Syria: Patriarchy, Pluralism and Personal Status Laws (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016). This study is based on extensive, ethnographic fieldwork in Damascus (Syria), consisting of interviews and court observations in three (Muslim, Catholic and Greek-Orthodox) personal status courts. My work has also appeared in edited volumes and international journals, including Sharia Incorporated: A Comparative Overview of the Legal Systems of Twelve Muslim Countries in the Past and Present (2010), Family Law in Islam: Divorce, Marriage and Women in the Muslim World (2012), Electronic Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (2014), Islamic Law and Society (2018), and Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures (2019).

* Registered company name: Van Eijk Research & Consultancy