In recent decades, Islamic political movements, and their subsequent political parties, have been increasingly recruiting and nominating women to high-level decision-making positions despite the fact that the ideology they espouse often acts to dissuade women from assuming positions of political leadership. The ethnographic research on religious women’s activism in Iran and Turkey helps explain this unexpected trend by shedding light onto the role of Islamic party women in challenging the gender discriminatory attitudes and behaviours of their male party leaders. In particular, the paper highlights the role that a number of high-ranking Islamic party women with close ties to the ruling elites played in pressuring their male party leaders to address women’s political underrepresentation in formal politics. Women’s close ties to the ruling elites consisted of formal ties with key Islamic leaders that evolved thanks to women’s long-term devotion to the Islamic movement or learning at Islamic seminaries. The author demonstrates that such close ties to the leaders, as well as the presence of a public discourse in favour of women’s increased access to politics, enabled influential Islamic women to leverage a form of ‘internal criticism’ as an important strategy to enhance women’s political rights and status from within the Islamic movements.
To cite this article: Mona Tajali (2017) Protesting gender discrimination from within: women’s political representation on behalf of Islamic parties, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 44:2,176-193, DOI: 10.1080/13530194.2017.1281570
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.