Women and Power in the Middle East
Publication Year: 2001
The seventeen essays in Women and Power in the Middle East analyze the social, political, economic, and cultural forces that shape gender systems in the Middle East and North Africa. Published at different times in Middle East Report, the journal of the Middle East Research and Information Project, the essays document empirically the similarities and differences in the gendering of relations of power in twelve countries—Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran. Together they seek to build a framework for understanding broad patterns of gender in the Arab-Islamic world.
Challenging questions are addressed throughout. What roles have women played in politics in this region? When and why are women politically mobilized, and which women? Does the nature and impact of their mobilization differ if it is initiated by the state, nationalist movements, revolutionary parties, or spontaneous revolt? And what happens to women when those agents of mobilization win or lose? In investigating these and other issues, the essays take a look at the impact of rapid social change in the Arab-Islamic world. They also analyze Arab disillusionment with the radical nationalisms of the 1950s and 1960s and with leftist ideologies, as well as the rise of political Islamist movements. Indeed the essays present rich new approaches to assessing what political participation has meant for women in this region and how emerging national states there have dealt with organized efforts by women to influence the institutions that govern their lives.
Designed for courses in Middle East, women's, and cultural studies, Women and Power in the Middle East offers to both students and scholars an excellent introduction to the study of gender in the Arab-Islamic world.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
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Table of Contents
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The Arab-Islamic world is a mixture of social classes, racial and ethnic groups, religious affiliations, nationalities, and rural, urban, and linguistic communities; any discussion of gender must first account for the tremendous diversity in the Middle East and North Africa. Essays in this collection address relations among gender, politics, and class in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait,...
Part I: Overviews
Women's Activism in the Middle East: A Historical Perspective
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At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Western image of Middle Eastern women’s role in politics is contradictory. Individual women may be accepted in political roles but Middle Eastern women collectively are usually perceived as silenced and passive. On the one hand, through the 1990s, Hanan al-Ashrawi appeared as a sophisticated, articulate spokesperson for the Palestinians in the international arena. On the other,...
Women and Politics in the Middle East
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How are Middle East women political and how do they participate in states, movements, revolts, and revolutions? Few activities of ordinary people are self-consciously political. How something comes to be seen as political at some times and nonpolitical at others, 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...
Women and Work in the Arab World
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According to a labor force participation survey published in the mid-1980s, when men in rural Syria were asked whether their wives worked a large proportion replied that they did not. But when the question was rephrased as, ‘‘If your wife did not assist you in your work, would you be forced to hire a replacement for her?’’ the overwhelming majority answered yes.1 This was just one striking example of the invisibility of Arab...
The Politics of Gender and the Conundrums of Citizenship
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For a long time anyone attempting to address questions relating to women’s human and citizenship rights in the Middle East came up against a persistent tendency to articulate these issues with exclusive reference to Islam. With hindsight, it is possible to recognize that this was not merely the product of a lingering Orientalism but was also indicative of the profoundly ambiguous terms under which women were incorporated...
Part II. Country Case Studies, West to East
State and Gender in the Maghrib
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Women’s rights as defined in family law have represented a political issue in the modern history of the Maghrib, as elsewhere in the Islamic world.1 The issue has involved state power and conflicts or alliances in national politics. This chapter presents a structural framework to analyze the basic choices made by the Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan states when each promulgated a national code of family law (also...
Sex, Lies, and Television: Algerian and Moroccan Caricatures of the Gulf War
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A cartoon image is succinct and does not move when you look at it. Condensing history, culture, gender, and social relationships within a single frame, a cartoon can recontextualize events and evoke references in ways that a photograph or a film cannot. As do graffiti, jokes, and other genres of popular culture, cartoons challenge the ways we accept official images as real and true.
An Interview with Heba Ra'uf Ezzat
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Heba Ra¡uf Ezzat is a teaching assistant in the Political Science Department at Cairo University. Active in the Islamist movement, she is known for her academic research on women’s political role from the perspective of political Islam and its theory. She formerly edited the women’s page in Al-Sha¡b, a weekly opposition newspaper published by a coalition of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Labor Party.
Women on Women: Television Feminism and Village Lives
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In January 1996, when I returned for a short visit to the Upper Egyptian village I had been working in for a number of years, I watched, with friends, some episodes of the current television serial, Mothers in the House of Love. Set in a retirement home for women, the episodes unfolded the stories of each of the residents, showing how they had ended up there (some tricked into it so their share of an inheritance could be stolen by a...
Sudanese Women and the Islamist State
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In the twenty-six years since I first began my association with Sudan, starting with five years residence during the Nimeiri government in the 1970s, its struggling economy, the Islamist movement, and its civil war have each produced strains and pressures on the Sudanese people. But following the accession to power of General Omar al-Bashir in a coup d’état in 1989, the development of an expressedly Islamist state under the...
For the Common Good? Gender and Social Citizenship in Palestine
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For over half a century, to be a Palestinian has meant the absence of formal citizenship and the rights and duties it confers. While important elements of citizenship previously resided in membership in the Palestinian community and its institutions, the coming of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to Palestinian territory in the West Bank and Gaza, with its limited powers, patchwork jurisdiction, and dependence...
Women and the Palestinian Movement: No Going Back?
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The era described in this chapter is precisely that—an era, one that has now ended. Thus it can now be approached from a more or less historical fashion, with the critical hindsight afforded by the passage of time and reflection. During the period 1968–82, Lebanon was a space in which the Palestinian resistance movement achieved a significant degree of autonomy; it was a space in which, loosely speaking, a project in...
Searching for Strategies: The Palestinian Women's Movement in the New Era
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In a heated student election campaign at Birzeit University shortly after the signing of the first Oslo agreement in September 1993, the oppositional ‘‘Jerusalem First’’ coalition made a striking spectacle as hundreds of its supporters marched smartly across the university’s hilltop campus. In a prominent position at the head of the march, female students from the Popular Front, clad in blue jeans, brandished red-splattered...
Gender and Citizenship: Considerations on the Turkish Experience
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In the summer of 1993, the True Path Party (Dog ̆ruYol Partisi) delegates—99.8 percent of them male—selected Tansu Çiller as the Chairperson of their Party and thus their candidate for prime minister. For the first time since 1934, when women gained the right to vote and to be elected to parliament, a woman became Prime Minister of Turkey. If citizenship involves the rights and responsibilities of membership in a state,...
Women in Saudi Arabia: Between Breadwinner and Domestic Icon?
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In September 1998 an official decree was issued in Saudi Arabia that would bar women from riding in taxicabs unless accompanied by a male guardian or by another woman. In this kingdom where women are not allowed to drive cars, the ban was an unwelcome and humiliating decision that called women’s character into question and, if implemented, would immobilize women who depend on public...
Women's Organizations in Kuwait
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Women’s groups, like all voluntary associations in Kuwait, are funded by the state. They have elected boards, written constitutions, and paid memberships. Law 24 of 1962 governing the activity of voluntary associations, partially amended in 1965 and still in force, gives the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor full control over voluntary associations. The ministry has the power to license an association, to dissolve its elected...
The Dialectics of Fashion: Gender and Politics in Yemen
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The situation of Yemeni women is complicated and contradictory. On the one hand, compared with relatively fashion-forward Mediterranean Arabs, or even their affluent sisters in the Gulf, Yemeni women appear to be especially old-fashioned. One rarely sees a Yemeni woman outdoors bare- headed, and in the capital, Sana¡a, most women cover their faces in public. Yet outward appearances can be misleading.
The Political Economy of Female Employment in Postrevolutionary Iran
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The status of women and their labor force participation have been subject to considerable change in Iran during the last four decades. Three distinct phases of government policy can be de- tected: 1960–1979, 1980–1989, and 1990 until the present. In the first phase, the explicit policy was utilization of female labor for economic growth. In the period immediately following the Revolution, the policy aimed at Islamization of the society,...
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Notes on Contributors
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Earlier versions of articles in this volume first appeared in the journal, Middle East Report (previously MERIP Reports) published by Middle East Report and Information Project (MERIP). We are especially grateful to MERIP editor Joe Stork, publishers Jim Paul and Peggy Hutchinson, assistant editor Martha Wenger, and the many contributing editors and staff over the decades...
Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2001