Women in the Shadows of Democracy

by Huda Ahmed
published in MER239

“Life would get better.” Women throughout Iraq told themselves that constantly during the first, cautiously hopeful months of the US-British occupation of their country.

As the electricity blinked on and off, the water stopped running and desert-camouflaged tanks churned up the narrow streets of the ancient capital, women consoled themselves with the thought that these troubles could only be temporary. Especially for women, the Iraqi future was bright.

Women in Iraq

Beyond the Rhetoric

by Nadje Al-Ali , Nicola Pratt
published in MER239

At a press conference two weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq, flanked by four “Women for a Free Iraq,” [1] Paula Dobriansky, then undersecretary of state for global affairs, declared: “We are at a critical point in dealing with Saddam
Hussein. However this turns out, it is clear that the women of Iraq have a critical role to play in the future revival of their society.” For the Bush administration, Iraqi women would not only be “helping give birth to freedom” in the post-Saddam
order. [2] US officials spoke publicly about rape, torture and executions of women under Ba‘th Party rule, implicitly linking

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On Women’s Captivity in the Islamic World

by Farzaneh Milani
published in MER246

In the unprecedented flourishing of writings about Islam in the United States in recent years, one category of books—life stories of women—has been the most popular, attracting the attention of politicians, publishers, the media and the reading public alike. In an old narrative frame of captivity recast for the present-day reader, some of these memoirs and autobiographies portray the Muslim woman as a virtual prisoner. She is the victim of an immobilizing faith, locked up inside her mandatory veil—a mobile prison shrunk to the size of her body.

Morocco's Imperfect Remedy for Gender Inequality

by Camilo Gomez-Rivas
published in MER247

"And now no one wants to get married,” says Muhammad, describing the reaction among men at his mosque to Morocco’s 2004 reform of personal status law. “Everyone is afraid to.”

Palestinian Women in the Israeli Knesset

by Suheir Abu Oksa Daoud
published in MER240

On March 28, 2006, Nadia Hilou from the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Jaffa became only the second Palestinian woman to be elected to the Knesset since 1949, the year of Israel’s first national elections. Hilou’s sole predecessor was Husniyya Jabara, who made history in 1999 when she won a seat in the Israeli parliament. Jabara’s election to the Knesset with Meretz, a leftist Zionist party, caught the political system by surprise. Hardly anyone expected an Arab woman to win, much less Jabara, because many other Palestinian women in both Arab and Zionist parties were better known in the media or had longer histories as political and social activists.

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Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

Young Iranian Women Today

by Norma Claire Moruzzi , Fatemeh Sadeghi
published in MER241

In evaluating women’s position in the contemporary Islamic Republic of Iran, it is important to look at the social, as opposed to the legal, aspects of citizenship. In the decades following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian society has become resolutely more modern, despite the public face of elderly tradition presented by its clerical political elite. This modernization enhanced trends that were already evident before the revolution. In 1978–1979, for the first time more Iranians lived in cities than in the countryside, and nearly half the population could read and write. The number of births per family rose in the early years of the revolution, but by 1986 the fertility rate peaked, and then began a dramatic decline.

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The Battle Over Family Law in Bahrain

by Sandy Russell Jones
published in MER242

On November 9, 2005, over 100,000 protesters—approximately one seventh of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s population—flooded the streets of the capital, Manama. Most of the protesters were Shi‘a demonstrating their resistance to the government’s campaign to implement a codified family law, announced a month earlier. The measure, which is ready to be presented to Bahrain’s parliament newly elected in 2006, would remove adjudication of matters having to do with women and the family from Muslim religious (shari‘a) courts, whose rulings are at the judge’s discretion. Instead, family courts would follow an agreed-upon body of black-letter law and legal precedent.

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Activism Under the Radar

Volunteer Women Health Workers in Iran

by Homa Hoodfar
published in MER250