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The Politics of Women's Rights in Iran

The Politics of Women's Rights in Iran

Arzoo Osanloo
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of Women's Rights in Iran
    Book Description:

    InThe Politics of Women's Rights in Iran, Arzoo Osanloo explores how Iranian women understand their rights. After the 1979 revolution, Iranian leaders transformed the state into an Islamic republic. At that time, the country's leaders used a renewed discourse of women's rights to symbolize a shift away from the excesses of Western liberalism. Osanloo reveals that the postrevolutionary republic blended practices of a liberal republic with Islamic principles of equality. Her ethnographic study illustrates how women's claims of rights emerge from a hybrid discourse that draws on both liberal individualism and Islamic ideals.

    Osanloo takes the reader on a journey through numerous sites where rights are being produced--including Qur'anic reading groups, Tehran's family court, and law offices--as she sheds light on the fluid and constructed nature of women's perceptions of rights. In doing so, Osanloo unravels simplistic dichotomies between so-called liberal, universal rights and insular, local culture.The Politics of Women's Rights in Irancasts light on a contemporary non-Western understanding of the meaning behind liberal rights, and raises questions about the misunderstood relationship between modernity and Islam.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3316-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  5. INTRODUCTION Human Rights and Cultural Practice
    (pp. 1-19)

    Given the nature of the Islamic state, Iran’s claim to a 2,500-year-old civilization, the effects of prerevolutionary “Western”-style modernity, and the influences of globalization, one of my central questions when I began this study was whether women in this “Islamic society” envision their rights solely through the lens of Islam, especially Islam as handed down by state agents. As a complement to this question, I also wondered if the women who referred to their “rights” (haqqin Persian) or their “human rights” indeed referred to a Western or international vision of rights. In my research, I sought to explore how...

  6. CHAPTER ONE A Genealogy of “Women’s Rights” in Iran
    (pp. 20-41)

    The concern with “women’s rights” in Iran, as elsewhere in the Muslim Middle East, has been a persistent trope of modernity. This genealogical exploration of women’s rights attempts to situate the research question in broader historical processes that consider the power relations inherent in the approach to research or interpretation (Foucault 1977). The aim is not simply to address biases we bring to our subject matter, but also to consider how research questions and terms are shaped through contingent political and historical formations. To make sense of such terms, it is important to consider their significance in ever-changing contexts. The...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Producing States: Women’s Participation and the Dialogics of Rights
    (pp. 42-74)

    “So tell me about the candidates in Tehran,” Narges asked as she soaked what looked like a gallon of rice in cold water. I was upstairs at the home of my neighbor and landlord as she was preparing a midday feast. Every Friday, Narges prepared a bigger lunch to accommodate her family and friends who came to visit, and she always included me in these holiday gatherings, giving me an opportunity to meet an array of people. I had met Narges through a rental agency in which she advertised her apartment—only to foreigners—so she could earn funds for...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Qur’anic Meetings: “Doing the Cultural Work”
    (pp. 75-107)

    Nanaz opened the meeting with a warm greeting and welcoming words. On a day when a number of new women appeared to be in attendance, she reflected on why she and a small group of friends decided to recommence the Qur’anic meetings. She began with a dream:

    I came upon a poor man reading the Qur’an. He was sitting on a large rock along a rushing stream. I remember that everything was green and fertile. I saw myself watching the man reading very rapidly. At once he looked up at me and cried out, “Are you deaf, dumb, and blind?...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Courting Rights: Rights Talk in Islamico-Civil Family Court
    (pp. 108-137)

    When her name was called, Goli walked into the courtroom. The judge greeted her as he sorted through Goli’s filings. At her previous court visit two months earlier, the judge told Goli that her husband had not responded to her petition and that she would have to wait a little longer before he would enter a divorce order (talaq).¹ Today, Goli was asking the judge to grant her divorce in light of her husband’s failure to provide maintenance.² Her argument was based on Article 1111 of Iran’s Civil Code of Marriage and Family, which allows for a wife to petition...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Practice and Effect: Writing/Righting the Law
    (pp. 138-165)

    Ms. Tabrizi’s law offices looked like any other: waiting clients cast their eyes down, seemingly contemplating the shoes on their feet. Others anxiously scanned the room and tapped their heels as they waited in the small reception area of the ground floor office located in north central Tehran. Several young women in short overcoats, small scarves, and painted nails ran to and fro calling clients, serving tea, and answering phones. Here I, too, waited. I was seeking a meeting with a well-known attorney, a woman in her early forties, who had been active in working to fashion new legal claims...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Human Rights: The Politics and Prose of Discursive Sites
    (pp. 166-199)

    The unmarked door opened to a dim reception area where a family sat waiting. A man turned to me, seemingly responding to my silent confusion, and said, “Yes, this is the right place.” Verifying, I asked, “This is the Islamic Human Rights Commission?” He nodded, adding, “Supposedly.” I first went to the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) to interview one of its staff attorneys in the summer of 1999. Located on the posh upper northwest side of Tehran, the IHRC is housed in the lower level of an imposing high-rise residential building at the north end of Africa Street, one...

  12. CONCLUSION “Women’s Rights” as Exhibition at the Brink of War
    (pp. 200-208)

    How a modern liberal theory of rights is mapped onto an Islamic Middle Eastern society, specifically through women’s articulations of rights, has been the focal point of this book. The Iranian experiment of creating an Islamic republic from France’s postwar vision of secular democracy warrants greater attention in understanding the socio-political underpinnings of women’s perceptions of rights. An examination of Iranian women’s rights provides the perfect point of entry into exploring the secular and religious simultaneously, and for contesting the binaries to which earlier scholars have reverted when exploring Islamic states. How Islam and liberal state impact women’s rights, moreover,...

  13. APPENDIX The Iranian Marriage Contract
    (pp. 209-210)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 211-226)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 227-230)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-250)
  17. Index
    (pp. 251-258)