News & Events


Women Reclaim Islam: Illustrations from Post-Revolutionary Iran

Theatre O, Newman Building, UCD
Thursday, 11 October 2012
7.00 - 8.30pm

The School of Politics and International Relations, UCD in collaboration with IBIS and the Dept of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, TCD and in association with the UCD School of Philosophy, hosted Baroness Haleh Afshar at UCD on Thursday, 11th October 2012.  Baroness Afshar (Professor of Politics and Women's Studies, York University) presented on the subject 'Women reclaim Islam: Illustrations from post-revolutionary Iran'

Women reclaim Islam: illustrations from post-revolutionary Iran

It is the contention of this paper that Islam provides a framework that enables its adherents to open pathways towards feminism. If we define feminism in terms of offering women choices and giving their choices respect then we would be able to see that in their long struggle for liberation Iranian women have remained true to both their faith and the ideals of feminists. The most important pathway to this success has been greater access to education and the right that women have exercised of learning about their faith and what it offers them. Women who chose to fight for their rights in the context of Islam and its teaching are breaking new paths that had been barred to them for over a millennium.  The process has been slow and hard and different in different countries. Throughout the most effective strategy has been to insist that Islam does not recognise intermediaries between God and the believers and each Muslim has the God given right to discover her/his faith and engage with it through the very words of God as recorded in the Koran. This immediacy enables women to construct a dialogue and initiate a process of interpretation and development, which places Islam in the framework of what could be called a feminist discourse. This paper explores some of the methods used to begin this process and considers its development in Iran.

Haleh Afshar (BA York, PhD University of Cambridge) teaches Politics and Women's Studies at the University of York and serves as a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords. In 2005 she was awarded an OBE for services to equal opportunities. She is also the Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at the Faculté Internationale de Droit Comparée at Strasbourg. She was born and raised in Iran where she worked as a journalist and a civil servant. She has served as the Chair for the British Association of Middle Eastern Studies and Chair of United Nation Association's International Services. For seven years she served as Deputy Chair of the British Council's Gender and Development Task Force. She has also served with the Advisory Group of the Cabinet Offices Women's Unit to work on raising gender awareness amongst civil servants who adjudicate on applications for asylum from women. She served as a member of Nuffield Council on bioethics' working group on ethics and Pharmacogenetics. In 2008 she was appointed to serve as a Commissioner on Women's National Commission.She has written two and edited/co-edited 13 books on questions relating to women and development; as well as producing books on Islam and feminisms Iranian politics and women in later years.

IBIS would like to acknowledge the Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their support