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30 Hum. Rts. Q. 21 (2008)
Prospects for Feminism in the Islamic Republic of Iran

handle is hein.journals/hurq30 and id is 23 raw text is: HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY
Prospects for Feminism in the Islamic
Republic of Iran1
Rebecca Barlow* & Shahram Akbarzadeh**
There is a stark contrast between the level of Iranian women's social and
political engagement and what the conservative regime prescribes. The gap
* Rebecca Barlow is a researcher for the Centre for Muslim Minorities and Islam Policy Stud-
ies, Monash University, Australia. She researches the international human rights system and
women's rights in Muslim societies. Her publications include: co-authored with Shahram
Akbarzadeh, Women's Rights in the Muslim World: Reform or Reconstruction?, 27 THIRD
WORLD QUARTERLY (Dec. 2006); Women's Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran: The
(Shahram Akbarzadeh & Benjamin MacQueen eds., forthcoming 2007); Shirin Ebadi and
Women's Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Reform or Reconstruction? in ISLAM AND THE
Asia Institute (Benjamin MacQueen, Kylie Baxter & Rebecca Barlow eds., forthcoming
** Shahram Akbarzadeh is Associate Professor in Politics and Director of the Centre for Muslim
Minorities and Islam Policy Studies, Monash University, Australia. Professor Azbarzadeh's
research interests include Islam, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Among his latest pub-
lications are UZBEKISTAN AND THE UNITED STATES (London: Zed Books, 2005), ISLAM AND THE WEST
(2005), and ISLAM AND GLOBALIZATION - 4 volumes (London: Routledge, 2006).
1.  In much of the literature on feminist activism in the Islamic Republic the two groups of
women discussed are referred to as Islamic feminists and secular feminists. These
terms can be problematic, as they tend to suggest that these streams of activism occur
within static, definite, and mutually exclusive boundaries. This does reflect some histori-
cal reality in the Iranian context. However, in recent years the women widely referred
to as Islamic feminists and secular feminists have demonstrated perceptible ideological
convergence in terms of both goals and strategies for women's liberation. The terms used
in this article-religious-oriented and secular-oriented feminists-are more conducive
to conveying the fact that although it may be possible to identify women as belonging
to one or the other of these schools, they should be thought of as ideological starting
points for activism, rather than as a strict indication of the confines of that activism and
where it is intended to lead. Furthermore, both secular and religious-oriented Iranian
feminists should be considered analytically distinct from conservative religious women,
such as those in the Seventh Majlis, who identify with the gender ideology of the state.
According to Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi some conservative religious women
Human Rights Quarterly 30 (2008) 21-40 © 2008 by The Johns Hopkins University Press

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