The Global-local Intersection of Feminism in Muslim Societies: The Cases of Iran and Azerbaijan
Publisher: The New School
Publication Date: Jun 2002
What is the impact of the present era of Globalisation on women's movements and status in the Moslem countries of Iran and Azerbaijan? Has this impact been negative or positive and if so in what way? The study explores the interplay between local and global cultural forces and their varying influence on these two countries which share similar religious (both are predominantly Shi'a) and geographical (both are located in the oil-rich Caspian region) characteristics. The paper reviews Iranian women's responses to the gender policies of the Islamic republic since its inception, and to a lesser extent explores the challenges facing women in today's post-Soviet 'modernising' Azerbaijan. Although the impact of international human rights and global feminism on women's movements and feminism has generally been positive in both countries, it is weaker in Azerbaijan. This largely due to the latter's dire post- independence socio-economic conditions which lead to negative changes in Azeri women's status and living conditions. Using the Veil as an example from Iran, the paper demonstrates how local/global interactions (with the West and with neighbouring countries) have strengthened the reformist Islamic feminist movement resulting in the increasing relaxation of formerly rigid rules on the Chadour (black veil) and a subsequently more flexible dress codes in terms of style and colour. The paper ends by pointing out the challenges preventing the growth of a strong feminist movement in Azerbaijan, while predicting the rise of a vibrant civil society and women's movement in Iran that will, according to the author, increasingly become linked with larger global movements.