Islamic Feminism in the Islamic Republic

Linked with Katajun Amirpur – Germany & Iran.

also linked with Chahla Beski-Chafiq – Iran & France, with Fatemeh Haghighat-Joo – Iran, with Firouzeh Nahavandi – Iran and Paris, with Golbarg Bashi – USA & Iran, with Mahnaz Afkhami – Iran, with Marjane Satrapi – Iran & France, with Maryam Namazie – Iran & UK , and with Tahmineh Milani – Iran.

Text by Katajun Amirpur, Published: 25.02.2003 – Last modified: 22.06.2005 – Katajan Amirpur portrays some of the leading personalities of a new Islamic feminism in Iran. An informative article taken from a 1999 issue of the German academic magazine “Orient”:

Young Iranian woman | The Islamic Republic of Iran does not have a reputation as a particularly women-friendy country. But when a religious Islamic government took over power in 1979, many laws instated during the Shah’s rule granting women equal rights were abolished.

A new role for Islamic women was propagated which argued that rather than equality, the new Islamic woman preferred a position subordinate to men. Women who thought differently were denigrated as westernized and unreligious. An emancipatory women’s movement nonetheless emerged, which was based on Islamic arguments for equality. Shortly after the revolution, for example, Shahin Tabataba’i, who emerged as the official representative of Iranian women at international conferences, wrote articles concerning the role of women.

She argued for a new interpretation of Koran verses concerning women. In the early years of the movement, women’s arguments for equality did not go as far as they do today; a real strengthening of the Islamic emancipation movement has only occurred in recent years.

But contrary to popular opinion, women were not completely without influence following the revolution. They were never excluded from gainful employment, and employment was generally considered a prerequisite to the demand for political rights because this ensured women’s economic independence from men.

In addition, no significant change in the quality of their education was found. As Moghadam has shown, the continued participation of women in the public sphere undermined the idea of a theocratic and male-dominated society. Women in Teheran demonstrating in favour of Khatami | In the early years, however, many women accepted legal provisions that cemented their inequality, despite the economic and intellectual possibilities available to them to defend against such measures.

And the state maintained an attitude summed up by the Tehran Cultural Studies and Research Institute as follows:

“Obviously, the apparent and quantitative equality is not the only goal of socio-cultural advancement of women. After the Islamic revolution in Iran, the attempt to obtain quantitative equality of women with men in educational centers, offices and factories, in and of itself, is no longer the criterion of progress.”

But women of the 1990s who argue for emancipation from within Islamic traditions expect more than this. They demand the same rights as men, and they do not believe that nature has granted women a status subordinate to men.

Source: Orient 40/1999 Translation from German: Christina White, © Katajun Amirpur.

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