Homa Hood­far speaks on fem­i­nism

Mcgill Ira­nian Stu­dent As­so­ci­a­tion hosts talk

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Yasna Khademian News Writer

On Wed­nes­day March 14, the Mcgill Ira­nian Stu­dent As­so­ci­a­tion (MISA) hosted a talk fea­tur­ing Homa Hood­far, the au­thor of The Women’s Move­ment in Iran: Women at the Cross­roads of Sec­u­lar­iza­tion and Is­lamiza­tion and pro­fes­sor of so­cio-an­thro­pol­ogy at Con­cor­dia Univer­sity. The event, ti­tled “For the Women’s Day,” was aimed to ad­dress the ori­gins and de­vel­op­ment of fem­i­nist move­ments, fol­low­ing In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day on March 8. Hood­far dis­cussed the wide­spread con­cept of fem­i­nism as a western idea and the dis­cus­sion of its ap­pli­ca­bil­ity to women’s strug­gles in the Mid­dle East, as well as the lesser-known his­tory of women’s move­ments in the Mid­dle East prior to World War I.

The ori­gins of Fem­i­nism

Homa Hood­far dis­cussed whether fem­i­nism com­ing from the West is some­thing that is needed in Mus­lim so­ci­eties. “I be­came quite in­ter­ested be­cause fem­i­nism [...] was a move­ment, some­thing that de­vel­oped be­cause women were claim­ing their rights.”

In 1982 she founded an or­ga­ni­za­tion called Women Liv­ing Un­der Mus­lim Laws, a fem­i­nist in­ter­na­tional net­work, along with eight other women from Pak­istan, Iran, Egypt, Malaysia, and Turkey. The or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ports women’s re­search of fem­i­nist move­ments, and pro­vides aid to women in ac­tivism.

Prior to the for­ma­tion of WLUML, Hood­far ex­plained that lit­tle was pub­li­cized on fem­i­nist move­ments in the Mus­lim world.

“We knew noth­ing of each other’s his­tory; we didn’t know any­thing about Turkey or Iran or Egypt [...] the only model we knew was the Bri­tish or Amer­i­can or the French or the Ger­man model,” noted Hood­far. She said that “Ira­nian women had a long his­tory of strug­gling for women’s rights,” with many other fem­i­nist move­ments en­com­pass­ing var­i­ous back­grounds. For ex­am­ple, the Women’s Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Iran (WOI), founded in 1966, rep­re­sents decades of Ira­nian women’s ac­tivism, both be­fore and after the Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion in 1979.

Hood­far dis­cussed the un­known early his­tory of women’s ac­tivism in the Mid­dle East, con­sist­ing of women from many parts of the world with the common back­ground of liv­ing in a so­ci­ety gov­erned by laws de­rived from in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Is­lam.“their de­mand was ed­u­ca­tion, pos­si­bil­ity of train­ing for jobs, es­pe­cially for low-in­come women, so they could con­trib­ute to de­vel­op­ment; train­ing for health was a very im­por­tant is­sue, the age of mar­riage, and mar­riage re­form,” said Hood­far. She noted that the meet­ings were un­able to con­tinue through­out World War I, and fell by the way­side. Hood­far em­pha­sized that women in th­ese cir­cum­stances con­tin­ued to par­tic­i­pate in po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism through­out the 20th cen­tury and con­tinue to pur­sue re­search of women’s move­ments and sta­tus in Mus­lim so­ci­eties.

The Ques­tion of Women

In June 2016, Hood­far was in­dicted and de­tained in Tehran for fem­i­nist re­search, and was in­ter­ro­gated by Ira­nian in­tel­li­gence ser­vices. Her re­lease was se­cured un­der “hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds” after 112 days of the de­tain­ment in Evin, a no­to­ri­ous prison in Iran.

Dur­ing her im­pris­on­ment, she noted that the in­ter­roga­tors were un­able to agree upon a sin­gle def­i­ni­tion of fem­i­nism other than it be­ing a western con­cept. Hood­far re­sponded to the prison au­thor­i­ties by not­ing that it was in­ac­cu­rate to con­fine women’s strug­gles for rights and op­por­tu­ni­ties to the west. “Did you know that Naser al-din Shah’s daugh­ter was a fem­i­nist, and we have her [...] mem­oirs?” con­tin­ued Hoo­far, “we know in 1907 [...] we had women’s or­ga­ni­za­tions for women’s rights [in Iran].” Thanks to their ef­forts, phrases in­clud­ing “women’s rights are hu­man rights,” “rape as a weapon of war,” and “vi­o­lence against women” be­came a part of the UN Hu­man Rights Man­dates.

The Fight To­day

Sue*, a par­tic­i­pant and mem­ber of MISA, pointed out that the dis­cus­sions per­tain to “the is­sues that we don’t usu­ally talk about in our own friendly gath­er­ings.” Hood­far ref­er­enced mod­ern move­ments against sex­ual vi­o­lence such as the #Metoo move­ment, which sup­ports sur­vivors, not­ing the im­por­tance of hav­ing a mech­a­nism out­side of and in­de­pen­dent from spe­cific re­gions.

“At most, they want to keep ev­ery­thing quiet, so they don’t want peo­ple to so­cial­ize for mo­bile change if it doesn’t give them any ben­e­fit. But, in the world com­mu­nity us­ing nam­ing and sham­ing as a weapon, can push the govern­ment [...] no govern­ment can say we don’t have vi­o­lence against women be­cause women have doc­u­mented it.”

Hood­far con­cluded by en­cour­ag­ing par­tic­i­pants to call out in­jus­tice and op­pres­sion per­pe­trated against women, and bring­ing aware­ness of many women’s sit­u­a­tions to the larger pub­lic eye, as demon­strated in the case of the UN Hu­man Rights man­date.

“Ac­tivism was de­vel­oped be­cause women were claim­ing their rights,” said Hood­far.“women have and will con­tinue to fight to claim their rights around the globe.”

*Name has been changed to pre­serve anonymity

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