No Going Back?

Women and the Palestinian Movement

by Julie Peteet
published in MER138

During the early stages of national political formation in the Middle East, when crises prevail and mass mobilization is a major organizing strategy, political movements often recruit women and the domestic sector into the political arena. Continuous crises, from which the domestic sector is not immune, compel women to participate. This was the case in the pre-1982 Palestinian community in Lebanon.

Political Roles of Iranian Village Women

by Mary Hegland
published in MER138

Masses of Iranian women, many of them “traditional,” relatively uneducated and from the lower classes, were politically quite active in the Iranian revolution. Many observers assume this to be without precedent. There is, however, a tradition of political participation and struggle in community politics by women, as the case of the village of Aliabad illustrates. Women’s activities, roles and characteristics in local politics were similar to those they exhibited in the Iranian revolution. These village women were not radically departing from their usual behavior by supporting the revolution and joining marches in the nearby city of Shiraz.

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Insurrectionary Women

Women and State in Nineteenth-Century Egypt

by Judith Tucker
published in MER138

The study of women and politics has usually focused on the participation of women in the formal political arena -- that is, in politics as practiced by political parties, by people holding political office or, at most, by political opposition movements. In the Middle East context in particular, the modern history of women in politics has been limited, by and large, to study of the role women played in the various nationalist movements in the region.

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Women and Politics in the Middle East

by Suad Joseph
published in MER138

How are Middle East women political and how do they participate in states, movements, revolts and revolutions? Few activities of ordinary people are inherently political. How something comes to be seen as political at times and non-political at other times, and who gets to define it as such, are basic questions. Neither women nor men are political or apolitical in the abstract. How their activities come to carry a political charge must be understood in the context of their particular histories and cultures.

Prison, Gender, Praxis

Women's Prison Memoirs in Egypt and Elsewhere

by Marilyn Booth
published in MER149

Do you, too, believe that I betrayed my motherhood when I left you, against my will, to go to prison?…. I have read an article by the Moroccan writer Hadiya Sa‘id…she expressed a point of view maintained by some of our friends who love me and are concerned about you. She says that I must cease my political work and leave it to Husayn, for the sake of you children…. [1]

So writes Farida al-Naqqash to her daughter in 1981, during her second confinement in the Barrages women’s prison just north of Cairo.

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Books on Women in Iran

by Mary Hegland
published in MER142

Guity Nashat, ed., Women and Revolution in Iran (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983).

Farah Azari, ed., Women of Iran: The Conflict with Fundamentalist Islam (London: Ithaca Press, 1983).

Azar Tabari and Nahid Yeganeh, eds., In the Shadow of Islam: The Women’s Movement in Iran (London: Zed Books, 1982).

A unique aspect of the Iranian Revolution was the dramatic presence of women. Masses of Iranian women participated in national level politics. Ironically, most women were emboldened in this new political role by the teachings of Shi‘i thinkers and leaders, those same religious figures who supposedly believe the Muslim woman’s place is at home with her children.

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The Challenges for Women Working at Iraqi Universities

by Nadje Al-Ali
published in MER266

Ten years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, Iraqi women suffer from pervasive hardships -- the overall lack of security, gender-based violence, the feminization of poverty and poor access to basic services. Women working at universities face all these challenges, as well as others particular to higher education.

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Permanent Transients

Iraqi Women Refugees in Jordan

by Isis Nusair
published in MER266

“We do not know our destiny. The Jordanian government might ask us to leave at any moment,” said Hana, a widow in her fifties. “There is no rest for a guest.”

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Editor's Bookshelf

by Joel Beinin
published in MER153

The defeat of the Arab states in the June 1967 war was more than a military setback. It was also a blow against the radical nationalist project and its modern and secular cultural orientation which bonded the Arab world and the West even as it provided a framework for resistance to Western economic, political and cultural domination. Since 1967, only the Palestinian national movement has continued to advance the flag of radical nationalism. Elsewhere, a romantic Islamism, brandishing the slogan of cultural “authenticity,” has posed the most consistent challenge to continuing Western domination of the Middle East.

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Muslim Women and Fundamentalism

by Fatima Mernissi
published in MER153

When analyzing the dynamics of the Muslim world, one has to discriminate between two distinct dimensions: what people actually do, the decisions they make, the aspirations they secretly entertain or display through their patterns of consumption, and the discourses they develop about themselves, more specifically the ones they use to articulate their political claims. The first dimension is about reality and its harsh time-bound laws, and how people adapt to pitilessly rapid change; the second is about self-presentation and identity building. And you know as well as I do that whenever one has to define oneself to others, whenever one has to define one’s identity, one is on the shaky ground of self-indulging justifications.

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