Culture is not always worth preserving. This sentiment was echoed throughout the panels and workshops at "Breaking Barriers: What it will take to achieve security, justice and peace," a recent conference at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego. The three-day conference drew 150 delegates, mostly women, from nearly 50 countries to discuss working solutions for developing sustainable peace.
Americans are bombarded with media coverage of the three-decade-old Islamic Republic and its nuclear aspirations. But there's more to Iran than Ahmdainejad, as can be seen in the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries' new project, Feast Your Eyes: A Taste of Luxury in Ancient Iran. The Atlantic invited a panel of Iranian-American leaders to discuss the exhibit. Taking part in the dialogue are Azar Nafisi, the much-acclaimed Iranian-American author of long-standing New York Times bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran; Massumeh Farhad, chief curator and curator of Islamic Art Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; and Mahnaz Afkhami.
"The essential problem in relation to our predicament as women, but also with our world, is the architecture of human relations - a system of social organization that is based on hierarchy. This architecture is all pervasive from the family to the state and it holds across the world. We decided that we cannot “fix” what ails women without attending to what ails the world". Mahnaz Afkhami talks to Deniz Kandiyoti.
“The infringement of women’s rights is usually exercised in the name of tradition, religion, social cohesion, morality, or some complex of transcendent values. Anyway, it is justified in the name of culture.” Gender Apartheid, Cultural Relativism, and Women’s Human Rights
“We must pose the question: why is it that the denial of the most rudimentary rights to civil treatment for women is always based on some fundamental point of culture? Is this culture real, or is it a fetish that is used to maintain some economic, social, or simply psychological privilege?” A Vision of Gender [...]
At The American Academy in Berlin / Watch
The most taxing contradiction women leaders in Muslim countries face today is the one between the demands of modernity and the requirements of tradition as determined in advance by the modern Islamist world view. At the center of this conflict is the dilemna of Muslim women’s human rights: whether muslim women have rights because they are human beings or whether they have rights because they are Muslim women.
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars “Dialogue Radio” / By George Liston Seay / Listen
To affect change, women must take charge of their own destiny. They must reclaim the tenets of their faith. They must also be willing to challenge deeply rooted traditions.
In The Future of Women’s Rights: Global Visions & Strategies / Joanna Kerr, Ellen Sprenger, and Alison Symington (eds.)
In the last quarter of the 20th century we witnessed a blossoming of women’s movements. Across the world women are now active in unprecedented numbers, conscious of the need to be involved in the decisions that affect their future. We must insist that the rights of women are rooted in history rather than culture. We must take a new look at the structure of human relations broadly defined, and achieve a balance between the sexes not only in the public arena but also at the level of family. We must change the systemic tendency of globalization by infusing it with feminist ideals. And women everywhere must help women everywhere to become leaders. Then as we negotiate our passage into the new century, our movements will be the force that shapes the future.
VOA News / Listen
Do culture or religion explain why women have lesser status than men in many Muslim countries? Mahnaz Afkhami said she doesn’t think so. She adds that culture is not fixed and is always evolving.
In The Scholar and Feminist Online
The sudden loss of identity started me on a search for the sources of my "self". This journey was to take me to a deeper layer of feelings, thoughts, and experiences that I had not known before, and on which, now, I was to build a new identity.