Despite the perception that strict Islamic law and feminism are incompatible, women's rights advocates argued (at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Submcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues's hearing) that Muslim values could actually help women of the Arab Spring promote greater equality. Mahnaz Afkhami cautioned that while some Islamic countries have provided a more positive outlook, other examples, like Iran, give women reasons to worry.
"The grim truth is that women who are struggling to advance human rights and create secular, pluralistic, democratic societies, face grave challenges rooted in tradition and history. Traditional social and cultural norms have relegated Middle Eastern women and girls to a private space, and they often lack the social, economic, and political power they need to overcome antagonistic groups and regressive policy," Afkhami stated as a witness testifying at the hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operation and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues and Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Central Asia Affairs spotlighting Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
International Museum of Women / By Clare Winterton / Listen
Mahnaz Afkhami spoke with I.M.O.W. Executive Director Clare Winterton as part of the Extraordinary Voices, Extraordinary Change Speaker Series. Together they covered a variety of subjects, including the WLP partnership goal of changing the architecture of human relations, and Mahnaz's hand in helping to create a new generation of powerful women in the Muslim World.
NPR KQED Radio / By Michael Krasny / Listen
In her new book, "Paradise Beneath Her Feet," Isobel Coleman profiles women she calls quiet revolutionaries who are working for social justice in the Middle East. We'll also check in with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an outspoken critic of Islamic fundamentalism, and Mahnaz Afkhami. In the interview, Afkhami takes issue with Muslim 'exceptionalism' and emphasizes the importance of mutual empowerment, learning and solidarity between women's rights advocates.
CNN / By Tom Evans
Even as votes are counted in Iraq's general election, a leading human rights activist in Baghdad said Monday that she is counting on the new parliament to defend and develop women's rights. Basma al-Khateeb, of the Iraqi Women's Network, said it was vital for Iraqi legislators of both genders to defend the Iraqi "Law of Personal Status," which protects women and families, and limits the influence of religious courts.
CNN / By Christiane Amanpour / Part 2; Part 3
Women's rights have advanced in many Muslim countries, but women still suffer from more inequality than anywhere else. Joining Christiane Amanpour are three women who've made it their mission to promote gender equality: the president and CEO of the Women's Learning Partnership, Mahnaz Afkhami, she's a former minister for women's affairs in Iran; Asma Khader, who is secretary general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women and a former culture minister; and Lina Abou Habib, executive director of a Lebanese organization that tries to empower women.
“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 [...]
“To the extent that Islam, defined and interpreted by traditionalist “Muslim” men, is allowed to determine the context and contour of the debate on women’s rights, women will be on the losing side of the debate because the conclusion is already contained in the premise and reflected in the process. This is the heart of [...]
“Islam is not the problem. Rather it is the misuse of Islam by interpreting it to fit the needs of the partriarchal order – the powers that be – and the privileges that one gender has held over the other.” – How are women working to eliminate violence against women in Muslim-majority societies?
“Tuned to the law, Muslim societies are historically and structurally receptive to democracy’s motto of ‘government of law not of men’ “. – Faith and Freedom