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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Halle Ghorayshi: Reformists forgot Women when they got Power!

Original interview: WashingtonPrism in Persian
Interviewer & Translator: Farid Pouya


Halleh Ghorashi is lecturing Anthropology in Vrij University in Amsterdam . She has written a book and many articles about Feminism, Iranian women in Exile and immigration.

Q: You wrote in one of your articles that European countries are building cultural walls within their own societies to separate different cultures from each other, with immigrants on one side, native Europeans on other side. You called it Cultural Fundamentalism. Don't you think that immigrant minorities such as Arabs or Turks started to build such a wall, years ago?

A: Yes, I would agree that they have participated in the construction of such a wall. My point was that fear is dominating our European society now .Immigrants are fearful, and so are host country's people. There is no dialogue and no exchange of ideas and information between the cultures. Immigrants in this situation become very sensitive to their culture, which represents a refuge for them. They think their culture is in danger and so they try, at any price, to preserve it.

Q: In Iran many talk about Islamist feminism. Do you think such a movement exists?

A: I think that, when we talk about something, it already exists! As I have written in many articles, nobody during the 1980s could express himself/herself beyond the Islamic framework. Even secular feminists could only be active if they used Islam's label. I think one of Islamist feminism's origins comes from this period. In general, Iranian Moslem women are divided into two groups: one group sees no contradiction between Islam and women's rights. They don't consider themselves to be feminists. The other group thinks that women can find all of their rights within Islam but believes that current Islam is being narrowly interpretated by men. This group tries to give a new interpretation to Islam, in order to obtain their equal rights. The members of this group act like Jewish or Christian feminists who are trying to enlarge religion in a way that envelopes feminism. I think, in many cases, that these Islamist feminists are similar to secular feminists from outside of Iran. Both want to obtain equal rights with men, and so on.

Q: Feminism in the West emerged with the Industrial Revolution, in your opinion when this movement started in Iran?

A: Each time there is a revolution or radical change in Iran, feminism emerges and grows within the country. In other words, it depends on the political environment. During the Constitutional Revolution in the early Twentieth Century, and during the Mosadegh movement (1953 oil nationalisation), feminism was present .Each time, however, it was influenced and dominated by politics. During the 1979 revolution, there was an emergence of feminism, and many things underwent questioning. Unfortunately, it didn't last, and women subsequently lost ground in their pursuit of equal rights.

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