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A critical analysis of the role of law and feminist legal approaches in women’s life advancement : a… Olyaei, Shiva 2018

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A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE ROLE OF LAW AND FEMINIST LEGAL APPROACHES IN WOMEN’S LIFE ADVANCEMENT: A CASE STUDY OF THE ONE MILLION SIGNATURES CAMPAIGN  by Shiva Olyaei  LL.M., The University of British Columbia, 2007 M.A., International Law, Allameh Tabatabaei University, 2004 B.A., Law, Islamic Azad University, 1999   A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES (Law)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)  May 2018  © Shiva Olyaei, 2018 ii  The following individuals certify that they have read, and recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for acceptance, the dissertation entitled: a critical analysis of the role of law and feminist legal approaches in women’s life advancement: a case study of the one million signatures campaign  submitted by Shiva Olyaei  in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree  Doctor of Philosophy In Law  Examining Committee: Susan B. Boyd, Law Supervisor  Margot Young, Law Supervisory Committee Member  Sunera Thobani, IGRSSJ Supervisory Committee Member Debra Parkes (Law) Professor Leonora Angeles (SCARP & IGRSSJ)   University Examiner Leonora Angeles, SCARP & IGRSSJ University Examiner iii  Abstract Iranian women carry the legacy of five generations of women’s activism over the last 150 years. Through a feminist legal lens, this dissertation surveys this rich history, especially the One Million Signatures Campaign (OMSC). The dissertation raises two major questions. (1) Whether there has been too much emphasis on law and legal reform as means to achieve gender justice in Iranian feminist movements at the expense of other approaches. (2) Whether using certain aspects of liberal and radical feminism as methodologies turned the OMSC into the reflecting surface of the western feminist centre, thus failing to contextualize their work within their sociopolitical and cultural region. This dissertation sheds light on the theoretical and methodological possibilities of drawing more on postmodernist and Third world feminist approaches.  Through historical, textual and discourse analysis, this dissertation explores legal centralist liberal feminism and radical feminism as influential western tropes in contemporary Iranian feminism. Deconstructive postmodern and TW feminism, which tackle universalist and orientalist tendencies in feminist scholarship, are suggested as pertinent approaches for Iranian feminism. Honouring the legacy of and historicizing five generations of Iranian women’s activism, this dissertation complicates earlier categorizations by highlighting class, ideology and religion. OMSC is critically analysed, including its emergence and demise, its strategic legal demands suggesting a paradigm shift from traditional readings of Shari’a law to secular CEDAW norms, and its discursive engagement with western feminism.  By referring to data on the status of Iranian women, this research shows that formal legal indicators fail to capture Iranian feminist praxis in the so-called ‘repressed post-revolutionary era’. It is argued that law cannot be portrayed as the sole factor responsible for stagnation or advancement in women’s lives, as it glosses over how women defy, negotiate, and even bypass discriminatory laws and ideologies. Moreover, it is crucial that future Iranian feminist activism shift its theoretical groundings from hegemonic western feminist legal theory to postmodern and TW feminism. The latter approaches not only de-center law wherever possible, but discursively engage with it. They also challenge totalizing feminist knowledge that homogenizes and universalizes feminist struggles under western feminist standards. iv  Lay Summary  Iranian women carry the legacy of five generations of women’s activism over the past 150 years. This dissertation critically assesses women’s life advancement strategies that invest in law reform as a primary panacea for women’s well-being. The case study is the One Million Signatures Campaign in Iran. Using a feminist legal lens, this project asks whether there has been an over-emphasis on law and legal reform as means to realize gender justice at the expense of other approaches; and whether using certain aspects of liberal and radical feminism as methodologies turned the Iranian campaign into a misinformed feminist praxis that reflects the western feminist centre. I argue that such a strategy may result in failing to contextualize feminist strategic plans within particular sociopolitical and cultural regions. I suggest that drawing more on postmodernist feminist and Third world feminist approaches is vitally important for the future of Iranian feminist activism.  v  Preface This dissertation is the original and independent intellectual product of the author, Shiva Olyaei and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a PhD degree awarded by the University of British Columbia.  Preliminary drafts of limited portions of this dissertation have appeared in the following publications.   Olyaei, Shiva, “Telling Muslim Feminists’ Story: From Intra-religious Discursive Scholarship toward Extra-religious Transnational Dialogue” (August 2013) 10:4 US-China Law Review, 383.    Olyaei, Shiva, “Toward Critical and Discursive Engagement with the Muslim Faith: Exploring Muslim feminists’ role in challenging the construction of religious legal knowledge” (April 2010) 17:1 Views From The Edge, Center for Women and Gender Studies, The University of British Columbia, 20.             vi  Table of Contents Abstract ......................................................................................................................................... iii Lay Summary ............................................................................................................................... iv Preface .............................................................................................................................................v Table of Contents ......................................................................................................................... vi List of Abbreviations .................................................................................................................. xii Glossary ...................................................................................................................................... xiv Acknowledgements ......................................................................................................................xv Dedication ................................................................................................................................. xviii Chapter 1: Introduction ................................................................................................................1 1.1 Statement of the Problem ................................................................................................ 2 1.1.1 First Argument ............................................................................................................ 4 1.1.2 Second Argument........................................................................................................ 5 1.2 Contextual Background: Iranian Women ....................................................................... 7 1.2.1 Who Tells the Story of Iranian women? ................................................................... 12 1.2.2 The Post-Revolutionary Era: A Turning Point for or against Iranian Women ......... 14 1.2.2.1 Educational Attainments ................................................................................... 20 1.2.2.2 Health and Survival Data .................................................................................. 20 1.2.2.3 Economic Participation and Opportunities ....................................................... 21 1.2.2.4 Political and Judicial Empowerment ................................................................ 22 1.2.2.5 Cultural and Artistic Impacts ............................................................................ 25 1.2.3 Iranian Women’s One Million Signatures Campaign ............................................... 26 1.2.4 CEDAW in the Mirror of the Iranian Legal Structure .............................................. 28 vii  1.2.5 Islamic Feminism ...................................................................................................... 32 1.3 Methodology ................................................................................................................. 34 1.4 The Research Road Map ............................................................................................... 36 1.4.1 Chapter Two on Law: Feminist Critique and Methods ............................................ 36 1.4.2 Chapter Three on The First Three Generations of Iranian Women’s Activism: Class, Ideology, and Religion (Phase I) .......................................................................................... 37 1.4.3 Chapter Four on The Fourth and Fifth Generations of Iranian Women’s Activism: Class, Ideology, and Religion (Phase II) .............................................................................. 38 1.4.4 Chapter Five on One Million Signatures Campaign (OMSC) .................................. 38 1.4.5 Chapter Six on OMSC’s Theoretical Analysis ......................................................... 39 1.5 Logistical Challenges .................................................................................................... 40 1.5.1 Election Aftermath .................................................................................................... 40 1.5.2 Cyber Censorship ...................................................................................................... 42 Chapter 2: Feminist Legal Theory and Methods ......................................................................44 2.1 Feminist Legal Theory .................................................................................................. 46 2.1.1 Liberal Feminist Approach to Legal Theory ............................................................ 48 2.1.1.1 Historical Roots ................................................................................................ 48 2.1.1.2 Key Theoretical Concepts ................................................................................. 50 2.1.1.3 Critics ................................................................................................................ 53 2.1.2 Radical Feminism Approach to Legal Theory .......................................................... 57 2.1.2.1 Key Theoretical Concepts ................................................................................. 57 2.1.2.2 Consciousness-raising ....................................................................................... 60 2.1.2.3 Story-telling ...................................................................................................... 65 viii  2.1.3 Postmodern Feminist Critique of law ....................................................................... 68 2.1.3.1 Feminism and Deconstruction .......................................................................... 74 2.1.4 Third World Feminism ............................................................................................. 76 2.1.4.1 Universalizing Effects ....................................................................................... 79 2.1.4.2 Orientalizing Effects ......................................................................................... 82 2.2 Feminism or Women’s Activism in Iran ...................................................................... 85 2.2.1 Conclusion ................................................................................................................ 93 Chapter 3: The First Three Generations of Iranian Women’s Activism: Class, Ideology, and Religion (Phase I) ..................................................................................................................95 3.1 First Generation (1905-1925) ....................................................................................... 99 3.2 Second Generation (1925-1941) ................................................................................. 108 3.3 Third Generation (1941-1979) .................................................................................... 113 3.3.1 Before the CIA-sponsored Coup (1941-1953) ........................................................ 114 3.3.2 Before the Islamic Revolution (1953-1978) ........................................................... 119 3.3.3 Three Major Trends in the Third Generation .......................................................... 123 3.3.3.1 Islamist and Socialist Women’s Activism ...................................................... 124 3.3.3.2 Pahlavi State Women’s Activism ................................................................... 128 3.4 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 133 Chapter 4: The Fourth and Fifth Generations of Iranian Women’s Activism: Class, Ideology, and Religion (Phase II) .............................................................................................136 4.1 Fourth Generation of Iranian Women Activists (1979-2005)..................................... 138 4.1.1 From Islamic Revolution to the End of Iran-Iraq War (1979-1988) ...................... 139 4.1.1.1 The Rise of Islamist and Islamic Women’s Activism .................................... 143 ix  4.1.1.2 From Post-War to Reform Era (1988-2005) ................................................... 150 4.2 Fifth Generation (2005-2010) ..................................................................................... 159 4.3 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 166 Chapter 5: One Million Signatures Campaign: A Case Study of Iranian Feminist Praxis 169 5.1 The Ontology of the OMSC ........................................................................................ 171 5.1.1 OMSC’s Legal Demands ........................................................................................ 175 5.1.2 OMSC’s Progress.................................................................................................... 178 5.1.2.1 First Year: Expansion and Consolidation ....................................................... 178 5.1.2.2 Second Year: Internal Challenges ................................................................... 180 5.1.2.3 Third Year: The Flourishing International Scene vs. Fading National Scene 182 5.1.2.4 Fourth Year: Under the Shadow of the Green Movement .............................. 183 5.1.3 OMSC in the Iranian Diaspora ............................................................................... 185 5.2 OMSC’s Methodology ................................................................................................ 189 5.2.1 Horizontal Structure ................................................................................................ 191 5.2.2 Face-to-Face Dialogue ............................................................................................ 192 5.2.3 Impacts .................................................................................................................... 194 5.2.4 Challenges ............................................................................................................... 196 5.3 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 200 Chapter 6: Theoretical Analysis of OMSC ..............................................................................202 6.1 OMSC and Law .......................................................................................................... 204 6.2 OMSC and the Feminist Approaches to Law ............................................................. 208 6.2.1 OMSC and Liberal Feminism ................................................................................. 209 6.2.2 OMSC and Radical Feminist Critique of Law ........................................................ 210 x  6.2.2.1 OMSC and Face-to-Face Dialogue ................................................................. 213 6.2.2.2 FFD Linking Personal to Political .................................................................. 214 6.2.2.3 FFD Knowledge Making and Norm Generation ............................................ 217 6.2.3 OMSC and Postmodern Feminist Critique of Law ................................................. 219 6.2.3.1 Deconstructing Dominant Gender Ideologies ................................................. 222 6.2.3.2 Deconstructing Religious Knowledge ............................................................ 224 6.2.4 OMSC and Third World feminism ......................................................................... 226 6.2.4.1 OMSC and Universalizing Effects.................................................................. 227 6.2.4.2 OMSC and Orientalizing Effects .................................................................... 229 6.3 Final Remarks ............................................................................................................. 233 Chapter 7: Conclusion: Iranian Feminism: Past and Future ................................................236 7.1 My Journey From Questions To Findings .................................................................. 236 7.2 Critical Observations, Findings and Suggestions ....................................................... 243 7.2.1 OMSC in Relation to Law ...................................................................................... 243 7.2.2 OMSC in Relation to Shari’a Law .......................................................................... 244 7.2.3 OMSC in Relation to Liberal Feminism ................................................................. 246 7.2.4 OMSC in Relation to Radical Feminism ................................................................ 248 7.2.5 Postmodern Feminism and the Future of Iranian Feminism ................................... 249 7.2.6 Third World Feminism and the Future of Iranian Feminism .................................. 251 7.3 Future Research Projects............................................................................................. 253 Bibliography ...............................................................................................................................256 Appendices ..................................................................................................................................304 Appendix I: OMSC Petition.................................................................................................... 304 xi  Appendix II: About One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws . 306 Appendix III: The Effect of Laws on Women’s Lives ........................................................... 312 xii  List of Abbreviations CAIFI  Committee for Artistic and Intellectual Freedom in Iran CEDAW The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women CHRD   Centre for Human Rights Defenders CHRR   Committee of Human Rights Reporters  CIA  Central Intelligence Agency  CR  Consciousness-raising FFD  Face-to-Face Dialogue FIDH  International Federation for Human Rights FPA  Family Protection Act HDI  Human Development Index ICW International Council of Women  IMF  International Monetary Fund  IRI  The Islamic Republic of Iran   MBD  Migration and Brain Drain MP  Member of the Parliament NAM  Non-Alignment Movement NCW  National Council of Women NGO  Non-Governmental Organization NGOTC  Non-Governmental Organisation Training Centre NPO  New Path Organization OIC  The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation    xiii  OMSC  One Million Signature Campaign PBUH  Peace be upon Him PJAK  The Kurdistan Free Life Party RAAHI  The Women’s Center for Legal Training TW  Third World UAF  L'Union de l'Action Féminine UN  United Nations UNESCO  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNICEF  The United Nations Children's Funds USA United States of America  WOI  Women Organization of Iran WCFPB Women’s Coalition against the Family Protection Bill   xiv  Glossary Assembly of Experts: Also known as Assembly of Experts for Leadership is Iran’s only constitutional body with the authority to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader in case the current leader dies or becomes incapacitated. It is ironic that all members have been directly-elected after the vetting process by the Guardian Council, but still have to be approved by the Supreme Leader of Iran before being officially considered as a member to the Assembly of Experts.  Expediency Council: Also known as Expediency Discernment Council was primarily formed to resolve conflicts between the Majles and the Guardian Council. It also undertake an advisory role to the Supreme Leader.  Fiqh: Fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence is a human led enterprise to determine legal rulings from Islamic sacred sources which is the Quran and the Sunnah which is the practice of the prophet Mohammad as narrated in Hadith.  Guardian Council: Guardian Council is a council empowered to vet legislation and oversee elections. The 12-member Council of Guardians is a body of jurists that acts in many ways as an upper legislative house. Half its members are specialists in Islamic canon law appointed by the country’s supreme leader, and the other half are civil jurists nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council and appointed by the Majles (parliament). The Council of Guardians reviews all legislation passed by the Majles to determine its constitutionality  Hadith: Records of Propher Mohammad’s sayings.  Majles: Also known as Islamic Consultive Assembly is the national legislative body of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  National Consultative Assembly: It was also known as Majles Melli was the national parliament of Iran from 1905-1979.  Shari’a Law: It refers to Islamic tradition derived from the primary sources of Islam such as Qur’an, Prophet’s sayings. Later, Fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence developed base on Shari’a and its canon through human scholarly interpretation of Ulama or Islamic Jurists.  Sunnah: The body of Prophet Mohamad’s costumes, practices and behaviors.  Ulama: Islamic Jurists  xv  Acknowledgements I thank almighty God for giving me faith, courage, hope, patience, perseverance and a loving family to make this dream come true.   This dissertation is in honor of all of the generations of Iranian feminist activist who inspired and informed this work. Their tireless efforts, resiliency, and bravery in the face of injustices continue to shape a better future for women in Iran.  As I reflect upon my turbulent journey from the time I decided to pursue my academic life in Canada, to the hardships that led to my nearly four-year hiatus in the middle of my degree, up until now as this journey comes to a close, the memories made with the people who supported me through this journey are ones that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Without their support, advise, love and motivation, this dissertation would not come to this point.  I am eternally indebted to my late supervisor, professor Ian Townsend-Gault who passed away during the writing of this dissertation. The faith that Ian had in me, his ongoing support and words of advice, were instrumental to my academic journey. His unique wisdom, kindness, and mentorship are deeply missed. May his soul rest in peace.    My sincere gratitude goes to my dear supervisor, Professor Susan B. Boyd who graciously accepted to guide me through my journey halfway through. I offer my great respect and appreciation for Susan who truly reshaped my doctoral journey. Susan read many versions of this dissertation, each time with a sharp, fresh and critical lens that raised the bar for my work. Her wholehearted commitment, patience, unfailing support, and thought-provoking guidance persistently encouraged me to refine and reiterate my thoughts and to further find my own voice and develop my ideas.  I have also been honoured to work with the wonderful members of my PhD supervisory committee whose intellectual brilliance and critical observations were invaluable of my realizing of my academic goals. I am grateful to Professor Sunera Thobani whose thoughtful, professional, and xvi  personal visions spurred my dissertation into new horizons. I owe special thanks to professor Margot Young for her eloquent remarks and invaluable structural guidance.  Special thanks are due to the associate deans of graduate studies, Professor Wes Pue, Catherine Dauvergne, Doug Harris and Lilijana Biukovic for their generous support, thoughtfulness, and commitment to caring for their students’ personal well-being as well as their academic endeavours. My heartfelt appreciation also goes to Joanne Chung, our Graduate Program administrator, whose kind heart and sharp visions welcomed me to UBC and consistently cheered me on throughout my academic journey.  Words cannot describe, how grateful I am to Professor Mohammadreza Ziaei Bigdeli and Professor Mostafa Azmayesh whose dynamic wisdom, and distinguished personal and academic characters, shaped my Master degree in international law from Iran, Allameh Tabatabaei University.  I have been blessed to have the companionship of Jalia Kangave, someone I consider a soul sister whom I love and cherish so deeply, to anchor me through a challenging yet rich PhD journey for both of us. She was a trustworthy friend, whose insightful reflections on our personal, spiritual, and professional life, her compassionate prayers, warm hugs, and mere existence even when being continents away, are my source of peace and pride. I wish to further extend my gratitude to my wonderful friends and colleagues Annette Tush, Mosope Fagbongbe, Craig Bateman, Bern Haggerty, Erika Cedillo, Naayeli Ramirez,  Brandon Naef, Benio Andre, Ghada Dbouba and Yue Liu.  Last but not least, I wanted to offer my eduring gratitude to my courageous and bright grandmother, Mahin Dokht, my loving uncles, Mohammad, Ali, Abdi and Hamid and my kind brothers, Reza and Amirhossein.  This project was made possible by the financial and material support of the Norman McKenzie Prize in Public International Law, Law Foundation Fellowship, Special Law Graduate Fellowship, xvii  UBC Graduate Scholarship, Special Graduate Student Award and the Center for Feminist Legal Studies.    xviii  Dedication   I dedicate my humble work To the loving, gentle memory of my father Mohammad  To my caring comrade and ever faithful pillar of life, my mother Nahid To my best friend, biggest comfort and deepest love, my husband Alireza To my earnest joy, greatest pride and the light of my eyes, my daughter Niki   And, to my not-yet-born son! We are already in so much love with you and can’t wait to meet you soon.    1  Chapter 1: Introduction “For every experience, there is a wide range of possible meanings that can be assigned. And for every possible meaning, there is a range of stories we can tell.”1  Women all have many stories to share with the world and many tales that are deeply entrenched in our multidimensional socio-cultural backgrounds. The story of my dissertation is rooted in my experience as both a visibly Muslim woman from the East living in the West, whose religious attire is an anomaly to the Western ideals for modern women, and as a lawyer looking through a feminist legal lens. During my stay in western academia, I found the opportunity to get involved with the One Million Signature Campaign (here and after: OMSC) in Iran due to its proximity in time and space with my generation’s ideals of gender justice.  Hence, I have honored this chance to echo OMSC’s socio-legal demands in the Iranian diaspora. My experience with the campaign is well-said in Joan Scott’s words. I gradually became interested in narrating my story of OMSC as a ‘subject of history’ who is temporally placed in the context of her actions, and to explore and explain the prospects of such actions within certain socio-historical contexts.2 I am aware of Ziba Mir-Hosseini’s critical point that we may work under the guise of objectivity while participating in the reproduction of dominant discourse about “Other” women that can impede the development of ‘resilient feminist politics.’ Her insights encourage me as a story teller of my research to carve a space for ‘disagreement and dissent’ in my feminist/legal praxis.3 Therefore, I tried to be honest about the possible personal and individual motives I face, while writing about feminism, especially in the Islamic-based socio-legal structure of Iran.   In Iran’s post-revolutionary era starting from 1979, Iranian women were truly disappointed by the socio-legal outcome of Islamic revolution in which women’s movements were repressed and                                                  1 Paul Schiff  Berman, “Telling a Less Suspicious Story: Notes Toward a Non-Skeptical Approach to Legal/Cultural Analysis” (2001) 13:1 Yale Journal of Law and Humanities 101 2 Joan Wallach Scott, “Introduction: Feminism and History,” in Joan Wallach Scott ed, Feminism and History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) 1 at 4, cited in Mana Kia, “Negotiating Women’s Rights: Activism, Class, and Modernization in Pahlavi Iran” (2005) 25:1 Project MUSE, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 227 at 232. 3 Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Islam and Gender: The Religious Debate in Contemporary Iran (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999) at 4. 2  women lost many of their legal rights. However, they never ceased to fight for gender justice. Particularly after the Iran-Iraq imposed war (1980-1988), Iranian women achieved extensive opportunities for political involvement and civil activism during President Rafsanjani ‘development era’ (1989-1997) and President Khatami’s ‘reform era’ (1997-2005) and put many gender conscious steps forward to advance their legal status both in public and private spheres. The rise of Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), however, was alarming for Iranian women’s movements. This period convinced them that the rapid progress of socio-economic development and cultural/legal reform under Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami was about to decline. Women learned that their only alternative “lay not in a strategy and practice that seeks solutions within the internal dynamics of social change, but in the social forces arising from below, outside the official discourse of the established authority.”4 Amongst these social forces the OMSC as a feminist movement emerged in Iran in from 2006-2010, seeking legal reform to actualize its gender equality aspirations in the Islamic Republic of Iran (here and after: IRI). The campaign is currently idle, in part due to state oppression, although its affiliated websites are still active and occasionally celebrate the campaign’s anniversary by offering scholarly articles and private gatherings.    1.1 Statement of the Problem Iranian women today carry the legacy of five generations of Iranian women’s activists and feminists over the last 150 years. As I surveyed the dense history of Iranian feminism and their intersection with class, religion, ideology and law, I became particularly interested in critical analysis of the OMSC as a potent example of an Iranian feminist movement. The campaign made two core demands of the Iranian government: (1) Change discriminatory laws against women that are mostly based in Shari’a5 and are mainly interpreted and legislated by male-dominated Islamic jurists. The laws that have the most negative impacts on women’s lives entail the rules governing marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance, which treat women as second-class citizens; (2)                                                  4 Fatemeh Sadeghi, “Bypassing Islamism and Feminism: Women’s Resistance and Rebellion in Post-revolutionary Iran” online: (2012) 128 Féminismes Islami ques, Remmm, Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Mediterranee 209 at para 40. 5 It refers to Islamic tradition derived from the primary sources of Islam such as Qur’an, Prophet’s sayings. Later, Fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence developed based on Shari’a and its canon through human scholarly interpretation of Ulama or Islamic Jurists. 3  Adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (here and after: CEDAW),6 an international treaty promoting secular/liberal norms to achieve gender equality, through the Iranian Islamic parliament’s Majles7 ratification. In its petition,8 the OMSC prescribes a paradigm shift in the Iranian legal approach toward women through moving away from Shari’a law’s classic male-dominated interpretation and adopting CEDAW norms to change discriminatory laws and achieve gender equality.   During my critical observation, as a lawyer looking from within a legal discipline, I encountered numerous questions regarding Iranian women’s activism and their feminist praxis. I questioned whether law is a viable medium for feminist demands? Can women’s well-being be guaranteed through formal changes in the law? Can formal government-sponsored legal reforms secure gender justice, especially in a country where laws are developed within a religious context? Should feminists collaborate with the state? How does the principle of the rule of law apply in developing countries? Further, thinking of the reintroduction of Shari’a in post-revolutionary Iran, I asked to what extent did Iranian women’s agency empower them and elevate their socio-legal status through extra-legal means? Is Shari’a law to be blamed for the absence of, or at least the undermining of, gender justice in Iranian law? What would happen in Iran if Shari’a norms were replaced by the secular norms in CEDAW?  OMSC has provided a platform through which, I, as an academic analyst, can develop the central questions of my dissertation. These questions are as follows:   A) Has there been too much emphasis on law and legal reform in Iranian feminist movements, especially, but not only the OMSC in the recent past, at the expense of other approaches?                                                    6 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 18 December 1979, United Nations,  Treaty Series , vol. 1249, p. 13 (entered into force 3 September 1981) [CEDAW] 7 Also known as Islamic Consultative Assembly is the national legislative body of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 8 See Appendix I “Petition: International Support for Women’s Campaign” (August 27, 2006) online: Change for Equaity <http://we-change.org/site/english/spip.php?article19>.(last accessed February 18, 2018) 4  B) Have Iranian feminists focused too much on certain aspects of liberal and radical feminist approaches, turning them into a reflecting surface of the western feminist center? Would they better be able to work within their specific geographic and cultural location if they drew more on postmodernist feminist and Third World feminist (here and after: TW feminism) approaches that better represent feminism in the global south?  The thesis hypothesis is:  Through over-relying on legal reform as a mean of achieving gender justice instead of discursively engaging with it, and unreflectively using certain aspects of western liberal and radical feminism as methodologies in its activism, OMSC failed to contemplate how socio-legal changes might further be sought through the lens of geographically situated Third World feminism in the global south as well as a contextually informed postmodern feminist critique of law.  1.1.1 First Argument OMSC’s approach implies that law is the ultimate factor responsible for Iranian women’s well-being or misery; hence, the campaign looked for a shift from one legal paradigm to another through law reform. I argue that the legal reform project is a hegemonic mode of socio-legal transformation that gives an imperialistic power to the state and its laws. This approach maintains the constitutive power of law over women’s lives without highlighting the significant role of women’s agency.9 I argue that OMSC is a well-meaning but theoretically ill-informed project. Due to its focus on law (whether secular or faith-based) as the primary medium of change, it failed to tackle underlying power relations in the Iranian political, legal and religious domain. Casting doubt on the ability of law to realize justice, I suggest that the campaign followed a formalist and statist approach to Law in mapping out its egalitarian demands, and reduced the notion of gender justice to legal reform.                                                   9 This approach is very much aligned with the formalist approach of Mahnaz Afkhami who referred to the pre-revolution era in which “[t]he law as the expression of the will of the state was indispensable to the securing of women's rights in Iran.” Mahnaz Afkhami, Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran: A Feminist Perspective in (Mahnaz Afkhami & Erika Friedl eds., In the Eye of the Storm: Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran (New York, USA: Syracus University Press, 1999) 5 at 14, cited in Louise Halper, “Law And Women’s Agency In Post-Revolutionary Iran” (2005) 28:1 Harvard Journal Of Law & Gender 85 at 87. 5   I call this formalist and statist approach a ‘transplanting approach’ which aims to replace a ‘bad law’ that treats women as second-class citizens with ‘proper law’. This view is derived from some campaigners’ firm belief in the inherent misogyny of ‘immutable’ Shari’a Law. I argue that such a simplistic transplantation lacks a profound theoretical knowledge of the nature and limitations of law and the ways in which law should be dealt with, especially in the Iranian context. I do not suggest that law is not or never a viable possibility to move towards justice, but I emphasize the ways in which law should be engaged with and encourage its use alongside other mediums such as authentic, unique and complex women’s agency in other sights of struggle. Attention must be paid to undertaking discursive engagement with law as well as carving space for women to explore and express their positioning in relation to socio-cultural, and particularly legal, limitations. Even though the law and the state have a role to play in any given feminist activism, I argue for the de-centering of law and state by focusing on women’s enhanced agency as a way to develop new modes of thinking and as a way to conceive of new forms of social practice and action. These new modes of thinking can transform the state and its laws to sites of struggle rather than tools of reform. I also argue that women’s agency in Iranian feminist movements can be enriched through a strong theoretical understanding of law and discursive engagement with law and power, drawing on postmodern feminist critiques of law and the insights of TW feminism. As an example of women’s agency, my thesis highlights that indicators such as health, education, political participation, etc. in the post-revolutionary era reveal that Iranian women’s advancement was not dependent on the existing laws (whether proper or discriminatory). Instead Iranian women have influenced the law to generate promising developments.  1.1.2 Second Argument  My dissertation’s second argument builds on and explains the reasons for my first argument.  Through this research, I observed that the OMSC invested heavily in law reform as a promising bridge towards a just future. Agitating for gender justice within the dominant language of law, which obscures law’s gendered orientation in its content and application, and employing a strictly rights-based rhetoric based on equality analysis, OMSC’s theoretical grounding proved itself to be firmly grounded in the western perception of law as well as a liberal feminist legal approach. 6  According to this theoretical framework, which is known as mainstream feminism today, the campaign addressed the state to realize its demands through parliamentary legislation, while holding an ideological distance from the IRI and suggesting the transplantation of CEDAW norms into Iran. Hence, OMSC became a statist feminist campaign in its practice, and yet secular in its ideological affiliation.   Radical feminists, however, highlight the dynamics of power and domination rather than equality rights. They preserve the law at the center of their scholarship, but try to push its boundaries to critique the state institutions and systematic structures that perpetuate women’s oppression through repressive outcomes. Radical feminists try to change law’s patriarchal values through a radical theorization of patriarchy. OMSC did not develop such a nuanced analysis of law, and instead maintained its legal centralist approach inspired by liberal feminism. Although the campaign asked the parliament to respond to OMSC’s petition and ratify CEDAW, it was also unwilling to work with the state, which was viewed as the extension of male dominance. In this respect, OMSC followed the path of early radical feminists. Furthermore, in some methodological aspects of OMSC’s successful women-centered story-telling and consciousness-raising (CR: here and after) sessions through Face-to-Face Dialogues (FFD: here and after), radical feminist effects can be traced. These methods were employed to reveal and discuss the masculinist nature of law and its role in degrading women’s lives.   As a result of the influence of liberal and radical feminist methods, many of which are outdated or discredited, OMSC drew too heavily and unreflectively on two strands of western feminism, at least in its theoretical grounding, without considering the consequences and specificities of Iran. Hence, OMSC became, even as an indigenous Iranian feminist movement, a reflecting surface for a First World feminist center, although it was more of an “agentive” than “passive” enterprise.10 I                                                  10 According to Mansoor, due to “the imposition of certain notions of agency and marginalization prescribed by first world feminist discourses, global feminism has cumulatively remained mired within a binaristic closure. This closure is based on the idea of an agentive Western feminist center and a passive third world feminism at the margin.” One can argue that the margin has the potential within which third world women can define herself as an autonomous, independent agentive subject and turn away her gaze from the any hegemonic discourse of the center. See more at Asma Mansoor, “Marginalization” in third world feminism: its problematics and theoretical 7  propose that future Iranian feminist endeavors would benefit from a closer look at postmodern and TW feminist approaches that are more helpful within global south. The teachings of the postmodern feminist critique of law for OMSC would be that law’s pretense to neutrality is structurally resistant to feminist demands, especially when it is understood in the liberal/radical feminist framework that reduces law to state law and seeks women’s inclusion in the male state. Thus, law needs to be de-centered in feminist activism and turned into a site of resistance whenever it is possible. Moreover, deconstructive methods drawn from postmodern feminism to challenge dominant gender ideologies and hegemonic feminist rhetoric are enlightening for campaigns such as OMSC to avoid them confirming what they originally planned to contest. I also argue that the rich rhetoric of TW feminism and its critical understanding of the universalizing and orientalizing effects of liberal and radical feminism in the global south form a pertinent response to hegemonic feminist discourse and its western conception of law. It also provides tools for Iranian feminism to challenge the universal representation of women and universalism’s hegemonic value systems, and to differentiate their voice, agency and their complex socio-historical positioning from western tropes of mainstream feminism.  1.2 Contextual Background: Iranian Women Inspired by the potent encounter with postmodern discourse, deconstruction, feminism and legal theory11, the motivation for my research is twofold, with both international and national elements. Through my international experience, as I began to build my academic and general public networks in the West, I realized that different parts of my overlapping identities appeared as an oxymoron to many people. For them, modern law and feminism speak to modernity and secularism, while the faith, spirituality and the geography I come from stand for tradition, backwardness, and patriarchy. Striving to distance my surrounding networks from their media-fed narratives of Iranian Muslim women and through narrating my story, I realized that “young Muslim women                                                  reconfiguration” online: (2016) 2 Palgrave Communications 16026  <https://idp.nature.com/transit?redirect_uri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nature.com%2Farticles%2Fpalcomms201639&code=181962dc-9cd8-4d91-b42c-849bafe8bf67>  at 6. (last accessed February18, 2018) 11 See more Smart, Carol, Feminism and the Power of Law (New York: Routledge, 1989) [Smart, Power of Law]  8  have to invest a considerable amount of energy to establish themselves as thinking, rational, literate students/individuals, both in their class rooms and outside.”12   For example, an Islamic veil is known as the stereotypical image of submissive, oppressed women victimized by the patriarchal system. However, “in Muslim cultures, the veil’s functions and social significance have varied tremendously; particularly during times of rapid social change.”13 For instance, in the mid-1970s in Iran, a new image of the hijab as a socio-political phenomenon emerged. This hijab not only conveyed the message of piety but also symbolized a departure and dissent from the secularist Western normative world. For those women who wore this attire, their hijab was the epitome of Third World ideals of solidarity and collective legitimacy.14 In many of the revolutionary protests in Tehran’s streets, the hijab was a means of “resisting and subverting dominant Euro-centric norms of femininity and the objectification of the female body”.15 At the same time, “fusing a western liberal account of individualism with Islamic culture,”16 the hijab of some Iranian women in revolutionary years could be understood as a means to “capture a sense of self-worth.”17   Going through these experiences, I learned that reductionist and homogenizing narratives were profoundly influenced by the competing narratives of orientalist18 and mainstream feminists of the                                                  12 Homa Hoodfar, “The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: Veiling Practices and Muslim Women”, In David Loyd & Lisa Lowe Eds.  Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (Durham; Duke University Press, 1997) 248 at 249.  13 ibid 14 See generally Dianne Otto, “Subalternity and International Law: The Problems of Global Community and the Incommensurability of Difference” in P. & Darian-Smith eds, Laws of the Postcolonial (Ann Arbour: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1999) 147 at 156. 15 K.H. Bullock, “The gaze and colonial plans for the unveiling of Muslim women” (2000) 2:2 Studies in Contemporary Islam 1 at 20; See also H.K. Bullock, Rethinking Muslim women and the veil: Challenging historical & modern stereotypes, (Herndon,VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2002) 16 Yildiz Atasoy, “Governing Women’s Morality: A study of Islamic veiling in Canada” (2006) 9:2 European J. of Cultural Studies 203 at 212. 17ibid at 217.  18 Roksana Bahramitash discusses two terms in her article on War on Terror: feminist Orientalism and Orientalist feminism. For her the former phrase refers to “Orientalists who used women’s rights as an excuse to legitimate their colonial presence and their modern version [was the] neo-conservatives who raise[d] support for war in defense of women’s rights.”  Orientalist feminism, however, is “a modern project and a type of feminism that advocates and supports particular foreign policies toward the Middle East.” In my thesis, I took both phrases into consideration. 9  West, discussing who a woman like me is and how she should be understood, defined and categorized both in academic and mainstream spheres.19 Under the essentialist gaze of orientalism,20 exercising its power to delineate boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, “certain women’s experiences as patriarchal and others’ as emancipator”21 are being constituted and Islam has been hastily turned into “the sole designator of the Middle Eastern society and … the main determinant of women’s position.”22 Consequently, Muslim women are often stereotyped as veiled, doomed “victims and not as agents of social transformation,”23 in an entirely homogeneous static Islamic culture. These Muslim women have also been described as a malleable construct, continually redefined to suit particular political, cultural or ideological purposes.24  Given these different experiences, this dissertation gives me a scholarly medium through which I can contribute to the ongoing dialogue among feminists to enrich legal and feminist literacy, particularly in Iran. I came to understand that my knowledge and experiences are in sharp contrast with the mainstream representations of Iranian and Muslim women. There are first-hand stories available to me that cannot be “acquired through books or even distanced observation and study of a particular reality”.25 Therefore, I will narrate the story of Iranian women who are culturally                                                  See more at Roksana Bahramitash, “The War on Terror, Feminist Orientalism and Orientalist Feminism: Case Studies of Two North American Bestsellers.” (2005) 14:2 Critical Middle Eastern Studies 221 at 221. 19 Narratives of Muslim woman's status evolved from an extensive body of literature by female missionaries and female western travelers that reinforced the dichotomous opposition of the modern Christian west and the traditional Islamic Middle East. Displaying their profound desire to change Muslim women's status, in early twentieth century, between 1907 till 1912. for example, Christian sisters reached out to their "Moslem" sisters' "Cry of need from Lands of Darkness" They mourn for them being buried alive in Hijab by Mohammad, the prophet of Islam and expressed their advancments, saying that Persian women "are adopting our dress, they will get our education in a measure, perhaps our freedom to a certain extent. Shall they have our Christ?" Annie Van Sommer & Samuel Marinus Zwemer eds., Our Moslem Sisters; A Cry of Need from Lands of Darkness (New York: F. H. Revell Co., 1907) at 6. 20 The Orientalist gaze plays an important role in constructing a fantasy of what the non-West is at best or sustaining occupation at worst. In this dynamic a woman is clearly not seen as an equal but rather as a weak, needy and willing conquest for men. See more at Jasmine Zine, “Between Orientalism and Fundamentalism: The Politics of Muslim Women’s Feminist Engagement” online: (2006) 3:1, Muslim World J. Hum. Rts. 5  21 Sara Salem, “Feminist critique and Islamic feminism: the question of intersectionality” online: (2013) 1:1 The Postcolonialist 1 <http://postcolonialist.com/civil-discourse/feminist-critique-and-islamic-feminism-the-question-of-intersectionality/>. (last accessed February18, 2018) 22 Parvin Paidar, Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-Century Iran, (NY, USA: Cambridge University press, 1995) at 5 [Paidar, Political Process] 23 Supra note 18 at 224.  24 ibid at 321. 25 Supra note 15 at 245. 10  defined as Muslims struggling for justice, peace, human dignity and equality. I will recount the story of brave Iranian women whose historical praxis proves that the auspicious notion of gender justice is neither exclusive to the ‘West’ nor necessarily secular. In offering a better understanding of the story of Iranian women, I consider “the complex interaction between class, culture, religion and other ideological institutions. 26 In light of Mohanty’s point that “there can be no apolitical scholarship” 27, it is also a mandate for me not to essentialize western feminism as a monolithic, homogeneous body of theory and practice. Hence, I alternatively employ the term, mainstream feminism, as needed.  My motivation to write this dissertation was also the current contradictory national and international perceptions of women’s activism in Iran, and the latter’s relation to the power of the state and law. I want to examine these differing approaches in the context of post-revolutionary Iran with its Shari’a based laws. Eliz Sanasarian, an Iranian professor of political science at the University of Southern California, identified the Islamic revolution of 1979 as an era during which women’s movements, and subsequently women’s status, were repressed after long periods of mutiny and appeasement.28 She outlined the history of women’s struggles and activism between 1900 to almost 1982 involving the interactions amongst many individuals, groups, associations and different political regimes, and surveyed how these players encouraged or impeded women’s rights according to their agendas. She suggested there was an ‘effective and potent’ development of an independent women’s rights movement during the constitutional era from 1905-1925 and that it waned drastically under Reza Shah’s state-directed organization of women’s activism. She then referred to the ‘co-optation’ and ‘homogenizing appropriation’ of the women’s movement during the 1950’s and 60’s during the reign of Mohammadreza Shah. Sanasarian was of the opinion that women’s movements and feminism in particular were compromised in the years following the                                                  26 Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Under Western Eyes: Feminist scholarship and colonial discourses” (1984) 12:3 boundary 333 at 337 [Mohanty, Feminist Scholarship] 27 Chandra Talpade Mohanty,  Under Western Eyes: Feminist scholarship and colonial discourses  in Chandra Taplade Mohanty, Lourdes Torres & Ann Russo eds, Third World Women And The Politics Of Feminism, (Bloomington, IN, USA: Indiana University Press,1991) 1 at 72. [Mohanty, Under Western Eyes: Colonial Discourses] 28 Eliz Sanasarian, The Women’s Rights Movement in Iran: Mutiny, Appeasement, and Repression from 1900 to Khomeini (New York, USA: Praeger Publishing, 1982) 11  1979 revolution as women failed to carry their feminist and political demands into the post-revolutionary era, and she downheartedly described women’s status in post-revolutionary Iran as ‘non-human’.29 Years later in 1994, Mahnaz Afkhami, minister of women’s affairs under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, also referred to the pre-revolution era as one in which “[t]he law as the expression of the will of the state was indispensable to the securing of women’s  rights in Iran”30 and “loss of governmental support has cost Iranian women dearly”31 in post-revolutionary Iran. Therefore “without the support of the modernizing state and its political organs, which were controlled by men, women’s equality rights are unattainable in an Islamic society.”32   In contrast, Haleh Esfandiari, an Iranian-American academic and the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center and the former colleague of Mahnaz Afkhami in the Pahlavi era, suggested that since the revolution, “women have persistently emerged as one of the most dynamic political forces in the Islamic Republic.”33 In addition to these Iranian perspectives, the American Louise Halper identified the post-revolutionary era as one in which “women have successfully made claims upon the state for public goods, including education and health care.”34 Halper also referred to “the action and agency of Iranian women, sometimes acting together with men, but mobilizing specifically and consciously as women”35 as a crucial factor responsible for promising developments in women’s status. In examining this history, I too will suggest that the legal structure cannot be held as the sole factor responsible for the stagnation or advancement in women’s lives.                                                   29 Ibid at 185 30 Mahnaz Afkhami, Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran: A Feminist Perspective in (Mahnaz Afkhami & Erika Friedl eds., In the Eye of the Storm: Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran (New York, USA: Syracus University Press, 1999) 5 at 14 [Afkhami, Feminist Perspective] 31 Ibid at 12 32 Ibid at 14 33 Haleh Esfandiari, “The Women's Movement” online: Iran Primer: United States Institute of Peace <http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/womens-movement>. (last accessed February18, 2018) [Esfandiari, Women’s Movement] 34 Louise Halper, “Law And Women’s Agency In Post-Revolutionary Iran” (2005) 28:1 Harvard Journal Of Law & Gender 85 at 91 35 Ibid. 12  To provide a smooth entry to a more detailed context within which the thesis questions will be answered, I will briefly relate the story of Iranian women.  1.2.1 Who Tells the Story of Iranian women? “[A]ny conceptualization of movements which attempts to ignore this rich diversity among movements and their often self-contradictory features will become lost in the foggy unreality of its own abstract.”36   The story of Iranian women is both diverse and at some points self-contradictory. Indeed, researching and presenting reports about Iranian women has always been a very delicate and complicated task and may lead to significant socio-political corollaries. For example, homogenizing western reports on women of the Middle East are generally  filled with mottos of the liberation of Muslim women, and have been used to justify the war against countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.37 In particular the “Bush administration’s identification of the ‘liberation’ of Afghan women [was] a key objective in its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.”38 Furthermore, in the Iranian context, essentialist depictions of passive, silent and veiled Iranian women were used to pave the way for another US attack on the region after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and for extending its unprecedented colonial and imperial project. For instance, in the aftermath of the highly contested presidential election on June 12th, 2009 in Iran, Sakineh, a villager woman, was accused of committing adultery and was sentenced to stoning by a rural court. Her story was widely covered by the media around the world and provoked massive uproar                                                  36 Paul Wilkinson, Social Movement (New York: Praeger,1971) 37 President Bush who is not necessarily known as a women’s rights advocated told the FOX News that “the plight of Afghan women should be at the forefront as the U.S. tries to untangle itself from the Afghan war.” “Bush: Stay in Afghanistan for women’s sake” (April 2011) online: POLITICO <http://www.politico.com/blogs/onmedia/0411/Bush_Stay_in_Afghanistan_for_womens_sake.html> (last accessed February18, 2018);  Jodie Evance, “The Military Hides Under the Skirts of Women to Justify War in Afghanistan” (May 2009) online: Alter Net <http://www.alternet.org/story/140174/the_military_hides_under_the_skirts_of_women_to_justify_war_in_afghanistan>(last accessed February18, 2018) ; “Don’t exploit women to justify war, says Afghan activist: The Reality of Life in Afghanistan”  (August 6, 2010) online: RAWA <http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2010/08/06/dont-exploit-women-to-justify-war-says-afghan-activist.html >.(last accessed February18, 2018) 38 Sunera Thobani, “White wars: Western feminisms and the ‘War on Terror” (2007) 8:2 Feminist Theory 169 at 170. 13  worldwide.39 Thus, although Sakineh became a doomed victim by the culture, patriarchy and ultimately the judiciary system, her story was systematically misappropriated as the epitome of subjugation of all Iranian women and used as a pretext to overthrow the theocracy in Iran with the help of the US. This representation of Iranian women is incomplete and reductionist, as my thesis will show.  Unseen in these accounts are Iranian superheroines, such as lawyers and human rights activists who have received little or no coverage from more popular or mainstream media while they were either in prison, living in solitary confinement, on hunger strikes, experiencing travel bans or in exile. These women are courageous, outspoken and very well educated, such as Nasrin Sotudeh,40 Shirin Ebadi, Narges Mohammadi41 or Shiva Nazar-Ahari.42 They did not compromise their feminist or human rights demands and dedicated their lives to justice and equality. The failure to report on the stories of these Iranian women was because their images and the causes they fight for were often incongruent with the western colonial projects and their women’s empowerment projects. Shirin Ebadi was an exception to this rule, being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for “her efforts for democracy and human rights [and her focus] especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children”43 and commanded a much larger and wider audience. These human                                                  39 See e.g. “Iran: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s fate unclear while lawyer Javid Houtan Kiyan languishes in jail” ( July 24, 2012) online: Amnesty International Canada  <http://www.amnesty.ca/news/news-item/iran-sakineh-mohammadi-ashtiani%E2%80%99s-fate-unclear-while-lawyer-javid-houtan-kiyan-langui> (last accessed February18, 2018); The Guardian, Press Release, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani could be hanged in Iran” (December 26, 2011) online: The Guardian <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/26/sakineh-mohammadi-ashtiani-hang-iran> (last accessed February18, 2018); Fox News, “Iran Plans to Execute Woman in Stoning Case” (November1, 2010) online: Foxnews.com  <http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/11/01/iran-plans-execute-stoning-case-woman/>.(last accessed February18, 2018); Associated Press, Press Release, Naser Karimi, “Iran May Commute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's Stoning Sentence” (February 2, 2011) online: The Star.com <https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2011/01/02/iran_may_still_commute_womans_stoning_death_sentence.html>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 40 Nasrin Sotoudeh is a prominent human rights lawyer and a member of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) 41 Narges Mohammadi is a distinguished human rights defender. She is also the vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center that is chaired by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.  42 Shiva Nazar Ahari is a blogger and journalist. She is also a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR) 43 Nobel Prize, Press Release, “Shirin Ebadi, The Nobel Peace Prize 2003” (10 October 2003) online: <https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2003/press.html>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 14  rights and women’s right advocates did not support any form of US meddling and aggressive policies in Iran. They also contributed to building counter-narratives to the images that have been produced both under the patriarchal states and the mainstream western or orientalist gaze. This gaze stemmed from the persisting “scopophilic desire to get behind the veil to know and to contain the elusive Iranian woman”44 and to see them in the prison of veils and harems. Indeed these hegemonic views had roots in colonial and feminist history, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century with female missionaries, later with  women travelers and, most recently, as feminists advocating for universal sisterhood through their version of modernization and advancement in Iran.45  1.2.2 The Post-Revolutionary Era: A Turning Point for or against Iranian Women “[W]ho says that all problems are legal [fiqhi] so that some form of adjudication [ijtihad] can resolve them? Who says that all the intellectual and economic transformations of the present age are summed up in legal transformations?”46   To understand the question of the centrality (or lack of) in law in relation to women’s equality, and to further historicise and contextualize the critical analysis of OMSC’s strategic plans, my thesis requires a brief historical context regarding Iranian women’s advancement and their relation to state law and power in post-revolutionary Iran. I focus on the fluctuating condition of Iranian women’s formal legal status and the contradictory sociolegal perspectives provoked by the 1979 revolution and its effects on women’s lives. More specifically, I address the post-revolutionary era when women experienced regressive laws, yet managed to advance in many aspects of their lives, specifically and consciously as women. Some statistical data lead us to the main statement of the thesis.                                                  44 Nima Naghibi, Rethinking Global Sisterhood: Western Feminism and Iran (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007) at 70.  45 See more Ibid on the orientalist characterization of Persian women both from missionaries, travellers and twentieth-century feminists of the West and post 1979 vocal response of post-1979 indigenous Iranian feminists to such practices.   46 Abdolkarim Soroush, “Islamic Revival and Reform” in Mahmood Sadri, Mahmoud & Ahmad Sadri, eds. & trans., Theological   Approaches, in Reason, freedom & Democracy in Islam: Essential Writings of Abdolkarim Soroush (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 26 at 28. 15   Through my survey of the five generations of Iranian women’s activism in Iran in chapters three and four, I identify the 1979 revolution, popularly known as the Islamic Revolution, as a turning point for women in Iranian history. In this revolution, Iranian women played a crucial role in developing not only the ideology but the actualization of revolutionary Iran. Mobilized as one of the strongest forces against the Shah,47 both religious and secular women inspired by the prominent opposition leader, Imam Khomeini, poured into the streets to support his movement. The “religious women who had always supported … [religious authorities] but remained secluded in their homes” were inspired by female symbols of Islamic resistance to unjust rules, for example, courageous Hazrat Fatemeh48 and outspoken Hazrat Zeinab49 who have been glorified by Ulama50 as well as religious intellectuals. One interesting phenomenon was that these religious figures and their thoughts and teachings created such excitement in women that “some younger, secular, unveiled women resorted to the chador (veil) in a symbolic defiance of the Shah’s Westernized dictatorship and solidarity with the massive women’s participation.”51   However, in the early post-revolutionary days, Iranian women were genuinely shocked by the outcomes of the revolution. When the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in January 1979, the hijab became mandatory for women working in governmental offices52 and women were                                                  47 Shah is a title given to the emperors/kings and lords of Iran a.k.a. Persia. Here the title Shah refers to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the second monarch of Pahlavi dynasty and the last monarch of Iranian monarchy. 48 She is the daughter of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). In the book Fatima is Fatima, she is known for her own personhood as a woman and not for her kinship to the prophet’s and Imam’s progeny. See more at Shariati, Ali, Fatima is Fatima, Laleh Bakhtiar trans., online: Iranian Chamber Society <http://www.iranchamber.com/personalities/ashariati/works/fatima_is_fatima1.php>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 49 She is the granddaughter of the prophet Moammad (pbuh), daughter of Fatemeh and the courageous sister of the third Shai’a Imams, Imam Hossein. This brother and sister “brought deep revolution to mankind and who fought for honor and freedom and who opposed despotism and oppression.” Shariati, Ali, Fatima is Fatima, Laleh Bakhtiar trans., online: Iranian Chamber Society <http://www.iranchamber.com/personalities/ashariati/works/fatima_is_fatima1.php>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 50 Ulama refers to Islamic Jurists. See more at Mahdi, Ali Akbar, “The Iranian Women’s Movement: A Century Long Struggle” (2004) 94 The Muslim World 427. 51 Ibid. 52 Keyhan Newspaper, Press Release, Hejab [Veiling] 10655 (March 7, 1979)10655 at 1 16  prohibited from becoming judges.53 The 1967 Family Protection Act (here and after: FPA) on marriage, divorce, maintenance and children’s custody rights for women was abrogated by a declaration from Imam Khomeini’s office54 in April 1979. This change resulted “in dismantling a large part of the pre-revolutionary reform”55 and the establishment of religious courts with appointed religious judges to oversee the implementation of Islamic laws. Through the application of the FPA, women had been given more and easier grounds to get divorce and custody of their children in civil family courts, the unilateral right of man to divorce and receive child custody was significantly limited and the age of marriage was raised from 13 to 18 years old. However, in the post-revolutionary climate, classic Shari’a law was reintroduced,56 offering a “non-reciprocal and unequal emphasis on the rights and obligations of spouses.”57 This rapid legal change included legalizing polygamy and temporary marriage and decreased the age of marriage for girls58 to puberty.59   Following these changes, women protested on March 8th, International Women’s Day, at Tehran University in 1979. As their gathering was disrupted and microphones were sabotaged,60 the                                                  53 Massoumeh Price, “A Brief History of Women’s Movement’s in Iran(1850 - 2000)” online: Home to Iran <http://www.iranonline.com/history/women-history/index.html>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 54 "The Majles (the Iranian parliament) never formally repealed the FPL." Supra note 38, note 10. 55 Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Marriage on Trial: A Study of Islamic Family Law (New York & London: I.B. Tauris, 1997) at 25. [Mir-Hosseini, Marriage] 56 These provisons matched to their condition of the 1930s and 40s. See Ziba Mir-Hosseini, “Negotiating the Politics of Gender in Iran: Ethnography of a Documentary,” in Richard Tapper, The New Iranian Cinema: Politics, Representation and Identity (London & New York: IB Tauris & Co Ltd., 2002) 167 at 187 cited in Nayereh Tohidi, “Iran” in Sanja Kelly & Julia Breslin, eds, Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance (New York, NY: Freedom House; Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefi eld, 2010) 121at 2. 57 Mir-Hosseini, Marriage Supra note 55 at 35. 58 The Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 23 May 1928, amended in 29 December 1985 & 31 July 2006 online: wipo lex <http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/text.jsp?file_id=197898>. [civil code] (last accessed February18, 2018) 59 Article 1401 of The Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran set the age for marriage of girls at 13 yrs old, however, with the verdict of the court girls can marry at the age of puberty. Article 1210 of civil code sets the age of puberty at 9 lunar years (8 years and 9 months) for girl and 15 lunar years (14 years and 7 months) for a boy; According to the consensus amongst Shi'a depositors the age of puberty for girls is 9 lunar years and for boys is 15 lunar years. If by this age, physical requirements for puberty like menstruation do not occur to them, they will be still considered obliged to religious duties such as fasting and praying. See more at “The definition of pubescence”, Islampedia, <http://islampedia.ir/fa/1390/02/%D8%A8%D9%84%D9%88%D8%BA/#_edn17>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 60 Supra note 53. 17  women’s mass protest moved toward the Justice Palace, Prime Minister Bazargan’s office61 and the Jam e Jam TV station.62 All of these incidents took place within a few months after the revolution, with women being amongst the first groups who felt their revolution, with its inspiring role models, had been hijacked. Reintroduction of the parliamentary approved “Islamic Law of Retribution, introducing flogging, stoning and payment of blood money for crimes ranging from adultery to violation of Islamic dress codes”63 was amongst the unexpected changes caused by the revolutionary forces. The law also prohibited women’s right to “study and work in some areas (such as construction or mining), travel, or enter into education and employment without the consent of either father or husband.”64 In a myriad of ways, women’s achievements were reversed and Iranian women found themselves in a discouraging, passive and defensive position towards the “hasty Islamization”65 of the country. However, they never ceased to fight back for their rights and demands, as opposed to what some scholars suggest.66  Sanasarian’s research in 1982 identified the Islamic revolution as causing repression of women’s movement during which women lost many of their legal rights.67 She suggested that women in the pre-revolutionary era/Pahavi era had a feminist consciousness but failed to carry that consciousness through the revolutionary years. As a result, without problematizing indicators of women’s advancement other than law in her research, she concluded that women’s lives returned to the status of non-human after the 1979 revolution in Iran. In contrast, Haleh Esfandiari claimed                                                  61 Prime minister of temporary Government of I.R.I. 62 Deutsche Welle Persian, Media Release, Mitra Shojaei, Chegooneh dar Avayel Enghelab, Hejab Ejbari Shod? [How Hijab Became Mandatory in Early Days after the Revolutionary] (January 4th, 2014) online: Deutsche Welle Persian <http://www.dw.com/fa-ir/%DA%86%DA%AF%D9%88%D9%86%D9%87-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%88%D8%A7%DB%8C%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%82%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%AD%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%B4%D8%AF/a-17408430>. [translated by author] (last accessed February18, 2018) 63Esfandiari, Women’s Movement, supra note 33. 64 Parvin Paidar, “Gender of Democracy The Encounter between Feminism and Reformism in Contemporary Iran” 6 (October 2001) online: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Programme <http://www.unrisd.org/80256B3C005BCCF9/httpNetITFramePDF?ReadForm&parentunid=A9172CAAB13EA61480256B5E00395FFD&parentdoctype=paper&netitpath=80256B3C005BCCF9/(httpAuxPages)/A9172CAAB13EA61480256B5E00395FFD/$file/paidar.pdf> (last accessed February18, 2018) at 4.  65 I borrowed this term from ibid at 3. 66 See more at [Afkhami, Feminist Perspective supra note 30.  67 See more Supra note 28. 18  that since the revolution, “women have persistently emerged as one of the most dynamic political forces in the Islamic Republic.”68 Although she does not necessarily refer to the post-revolutionary women’s activism and gender awareness, she argues that, despite various barriers, Iranian women “have won considerable freedom in education, employment, the public sphere and personal dress—all of which will be difficult to completely roll back.”69 A study on the situation of women in the [Persian] Gulf States similarly finds that Iranian women were successful in making women’s issues public issues and developing a different discourse on gender equality in the public arena.70 Mahnaz Afkhami, however, insisted in 1994 on the role of “law as the expression of the will of the state” and its essential role to protect women’s rights in Iran.71 For her, women’s status deteriorated in post-revolutionary Islamic state as Iranian women lost the support of a modernizing state such as the Pahlavi’s.72  Halper argues that such perspectives on women’s struggle for advancement are overly focused on formal legal regimes and that this statist and formalist approach places the responsibility for women’s status in the state’s hands through state-sponsored laws. In particular, Afkhami’s view does not consider the agency of women living under the state legal system.73 Halper opines that, to the contrary, women’s status can be observed and analyzed through other means than a strict rights-based perspective, as a legal centralist approach cannot entirely understand women’s day-to-day experiences in Iranian society. As an alternative to the formal legal right approach, Halper looks at the “advancement of women.” She believes that particular attention should be given to other indicators of women’s status, such as “their control of reproductive life, access to education, equality in labor, pension, and criminal legislation, protection against harassment and violence,                                                  68 Supra note 33. 69 Ibid. 70 May Seikaly, Rahil Roodsaz & Corine Van Egten “The Situation of Women in the [Persian]Gulf States”, Directorate General for Internal Policies, Policy Department C: Citizen's Rights and Constitutional Affairs, Women's Rights & Gender Equality” (2014) online: European Parliament <http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2014/509985/IPOL_STU(2014)509985_EN.pdf> (last accessed February18, 2018) at 35. 71 Mahnaz Afkhami, Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran: A Feminist Perspective in (Mahnaz Afkhami & Erika Friedl eds., In the Eye of the Storm: Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran (New York, USA: Syracus University Press, 1999) 5 at 14 cited in supra note 34 at 87. 72 Ibid. 73 Supra note 34 at 87. 19  and women’s role in the so-called public sphere, whether in the labor market or in political action.”74 Halper’s deviation from a formal rights-based approach as the sole indicator of women’s status in any society assists my understanding of, and comparison of, Iranian women’s advancements in the pre and post-revolutionary era in the following data analysis.   A brief appraisal of some relevant statistical indicators of Iranian women’s status supports the claim that the advancement of Iranian women’s lives depends on various factors and indicators, and does not necessarily depend on law that needs to be handed down by the state. In other words, regressive or progressive laws are not the major determinant of women’s status and interestingly, the legal repression of Iranian women was not mirrored in advancement of their status. According to statistical data, it is very clear that while Iranian women continued their collective activism in relation to the state and law during the post-revolutionary era, they also found other mediums through which they could pursue their quest to elevate their social status and regain their lost rights such as the FPA. For example, Halper finds that “[d]ata on literacy, education,  labor force participation,  health, and fertility from the United Nations and World Bank all demonstrate trends favorable to Iranian women”75 as she compares the pre and post-revolutionary status of Iranian women.   As a starting point from which to assess post-revolutionary Iranian women’s activism, Esfandiari asserts that by 1978, “on the eve of Iran’s revolution, 22 women [out of 268 MP’s]76 sat in Parliament and 333 women served on elected local councils. One-third of university students were female. Two million women were in the workforce, more than 146,000 of them in the civil service.”77 The following data refers to a linear comparison of women’s achievements pre and post-revolution.                                                   74 Ibid at 87, n. 8.   75 Ibid at 90. 76 See more “Doreh 24, pdf, Parvandeh” online: wikinebeshteh: <https://fa.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=%D9%BE%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%87:Doreh_24.pdf&page=12>.(last accessed February18, 2018) [translated by author] 77 Supra note 33. 20  1.2.2.1 Educational Attainments In post-revolutionary Iran, although Iran ranked as the 98th amongst 131 countries being studied in 2013,78 the gender gap is closing as the 24.4% literacy rate for adult females aged 15 and above in 1976 rose to 80.7% in 2008.  The detailed data shows that the expected years of schooling for females in 1971 were 4.3 years but rose to 15 years by 2012 and 2013.79 The ratio of female to male tertiary enrollment in 1971 of 36.1% rose to 114.8% in 2008 and was last measured at 100.14% in 2012, according to the World Bank.80 As data shows, male students have been outperformed and yet “female students are increasingly being denied their choice of university because of sex segregation and new regulations introduced in 2007 and 2009, which impose quotas and force students to attend university in their hometowns.”81 At the same time, the presence of female students in non-traditional majors such as engineering, law, natural sciences and medicine grew.82 The female share of graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction at the tertiary level also doubled in five years from 13.3% in 2004 to 28.4% in 2009. Also, the female share of graduates in health at the tertiary level improved from 68.0% to 72.5% between 2004 and 2009. Overall, data shows just how much women’s education improved and even exceeded men’s educational attainments after the 1979 revolution.  1.2.2.2 Health and Survival Data With respect to health and survival data, although the country ranked 87th amongst 130 studied countries,83 the life expectancy of Iranian females at birth increased from 44.147 years in 1960 to                                                  78  “The Global Gender Gap” (2013) online: World Economic Forum <http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2013.pdf>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 79 “The Global Gender Gap” (2013) online: World Economic Forum <http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2013.pdf>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 80 “Iran - Ratio of female to male tertiary enrollment”, online: Trading Economics <http://www.tradingeconomics.com/iran/ratio-of-female-to-male-tertiary-enrollment-percent-wb-data.html>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 81 Nayereh Tohidi, “Iran” in Sanja Kelly & Julia Breslin, eds, Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance (New York, NY: Freedom House; Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefi eld, 2010) 121 at 141. [Tohidi, Iran] 82 Ibid.  83 “The Global Gender Gap” (2013) online: World Economic Forum <http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2013.pdf>.(last accessed February18, 2018) “The Women’s Organization of Iran and the International Institute for Adult Literacy at 227. [Global Gender Gap] 21  76.711 years in 2015.84 While the fertility rate per women in 2013 was 1.92,85 the maternal mortality ratio (modeled estimate, per 100,000 live births) was lowered from 123 cases in 1990 to 25 in 2015,86 with 98.3% of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in 2005.87 Regardless of legislation intended to reduce the age of marriage for Iranian girls, the female age at first marriage continued to rise from 18.5 in 1966 to 23.5 in 2011.88 These data also reveal favorable trends towards women’s life advancements.  1.2.2.3 Economic Participation and Opportunities With regards to women’s economic participation and opportunities, Iran placed in the bottom, ranking 130th out of 131 countries. The details show, however, some positive changes. The labour force participation rate for the female population aged 15-64 doubled in 15 years from 10.1 in 1990 to 20.4 in 2005.89 In the labour law of 1991, Article 38 ordered equal pay for equal work, and prohibited any discrimination based not only on sex but also race, ethnicity and religion. Despite such formal legal support, women’s progression in this area declined and “this [particular formal legal] requirement is not always enforced, and women workers do not receive the same retirement and family benefits as men.”90 In these circumstances, even though the national estimate of the ratio of female labour force participation doubled, female employment in industry decreased to 7.2 % from originally being 34.5 to 27.391 from 1996 until 2015, and in the service sector decreased to 3.8% from 47.6% between 1996 and 2008 and then increased to 53.2% in 2014.92                                                  84 “Life expectancy at birth, female (years)” online: The World Bank <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.FE.IN?locations=IR>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 85 Supra note 83 at 226 86 “Maternal mortality ratio (modeled estimate, per 100,000 live births)” (2015) online: The World Bank <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.STA.MMRT?locations=IR>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 87 “Islamic Republic of Iran Reproductive health profile” 2008 online: <http://applications.emro.who.int/dsaf/dsa1172.pdf>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 88 “Women who were first married by age 18” (2016) online: The World Bank <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.M18.2024.FE.ZS?locations=IR&view=chart>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 89 The World Bank, <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.CACT.FE.ZS?locations=IR>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 90 Tohidi, Iran Supra note 81 at 138 91  “Employment in industry, female (% of female employment)” online:The World Bank <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.IND.EMPL.FE.ZS?locations=IR>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 92 “Employment in services, female (% of female employment)” online: World Bank <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.SRV.EMPL.FE.ZS?end=2014&locations=IR>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 22  Women were also barred from hard, hazardous and harmful jobs according to Article 75 of labour Code.93 However, “[u]nder legislation passed by the Majlis in 1995, the duration of paid maternity leave for breastfeeding mothers in both the public and private sectors increased to four months.”94 This legislation mandated public employers “to provide working mothers with sufficient breaks and proper locations in the workplace to breastfeed their babies”95 once every 3.5 hours during work hours until the child turns two years old.96 Considering the number and the age of the female workers’ children, the employers are required to provide nurseries and childcare centers in the vicinity of the workplace.97 Overall, this section referred to some positive impacts on women’s participation and fair treatment in the workplace that were supported by formal laws. It also indicated, however, that factors beyond the formal legal supports such as employer’s de facto discriminations or limitation in hazardous careers can negatively influence women’s progress in their economic participation and fair opportunities.  1.2.2.4 Political and Judicial Empowerment In the field of political power, female legislators, senior officials and managers in civil service occupied only 12.8% of available positions in 1996 and pushed for further representation, reaching 16.2% in 2005.98 The proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments increased by almost five times in ten years from 1.5% in 1990 to 4.9% in 199899 and eventually reached 5.9% in 2015.100 Their proportion at the ministerial level ranged from 6.07% in 2005, 3.0% in 2010,                                                  93 Islamic Republic of Iran Labour Code, 20 November 1990, (entered into force 17 February 1991, Roozname Rasmi No. 13387, pp. 114.) online: ILO <http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/WEBTEXT/21843/64830/E90IRN01.htm>. (last accessed February18, 2018) [labour code] 94 Tohidi, Iran supra note at 81 at 138. 95 Ibid. 96 labour code art 78 97 Ibid.   98 “Female legislators, senior officials and managers (% of total)” online: Index Mundi <https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/SG.GEN.LSOM.ZS/compare#country=ir>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 99 “Women in National Parliaments” online: Statistical Archive <http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif-arc.htm>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 100 “Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (%)”, online:  <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SG.GEN.PARL.ZS?locations=IR-S4 >.(last accessed February18, 2018) 23  9.1% in 2012 and 10% in 2015.101 In recent years, women of conservative, reformist and Islamic groups pursued the goal of establishing a 30% quota for women in their respective parties’ electoral list. They did not reach this goal but 14 women secured seats in the parliament and seven more candidates have qualified for the second round runoff voting in April 2016.102 This coalition was also successful in enacting changes to the government proposed FPA to secure women’s right to inherit land from deceased husbands.103   Although women are basically excluded from major political positions such as “the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Assembly of Experts,104 and the Guardian Council105, the Expediency Council,106 the judicial branch and the presidency”,107 they still play significant roles in the public arena and push the boundaries to maximize their presence and meaningful participation. The Constitution does not specify108 the gender of the president or cabinet members in article 115,109                                                  101 “Proportion of women in ministerial level positions (%)” online: Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Women in Politics, Data Market  <https://datamarket.com/data/set/15jy/proportion-of-women-in-ministerial-level-positions#!ds=15jy!hkm=1n&display=line>. (last accessed February18, 2018)  102 Al Jazeera, News Release, Ted Regencia, “Iran election: Women make gains in new parliament” (March 7, 2016) online: Al Jazeera <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/03/iran-election-women-parliament-160301121014801.html>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 103 Tohidi, Iran supra note 81 at 139. 104 Assembly of Experts is Iran’s only constitutional body with the authority to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader in case the current leader dies or becomes incapacitated. It is ironic that all members have been directly-elected after the vetting process by the Guardian Council, but still have to be approved by the Supreme Leader of Iran before being officially considered as a member to the Assembly of Experts.  105 Guardian Council is “a council empowered to vet legislation and oversee elections. The 12-member Council of Guardians is a body of jurists that acts in many ways as an upper legislative house. Half its members are specialists in Islamic canon law appointed by the country’s supreme leader, and the other half are civil jurists nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council and appointed by the Majles (parliament). The Council of Guardians reviews all legislation passed by the Majles to determine its constitutionality.” “Council of Guardians: Iranian Government” sub verbo Gaurdian Council Online: Britannica <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Council-of-Guardians>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 106 Also known as Expediency Discernment Council was primarily formed to resolve conflicts between the Majlis and the Guardian Council. It also undertake an advisory role to the Supreme Leader. 107 Supra note 70 at 122.  108 The Arabic term "Rijal" literally, means "men". It also merits to mention that in the Persian language there is no gender distinction. It appears that Arabic literal meaning of the term which is used amongst the Persian language of the constitution, guided guardian council to exclusively qualify male candidates as they define the presidential candidate's qualifications. However, It has been argued that in the detailed manuscripts of the Constitution Council, this term was meant to be read as "personalities". See more at Jamileh Kadivar, “Women and Executive Power” in Women, Power and Politics in 21st Century Iran, Tara, Povey, Elaheh Rostami-Povey eds. (Burlington, USA: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2012) 121 109 Presidential candidates must be “from among religious and political personalities … [who are] convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official madhhab [Shi'a] of the country” 24  so women like Azam Taleghani and Rafat Bayat have tried to run for the president’s office since 1997. For instance, in 2005, 89 women,110 and in 2009, “42 women were among the 475 people who signed up, harboring hope that this time, there was a real chance for a female candidate to stand”.111 However, they were all disqualified by the Guardian Council.112  Women gained some senior level government positions through these years, including Masoomeh Ebtekar, Deputy President, Head of the Environmental Protections Agency,113 Elham Aminzadeh, Deputy President of Legal Affairs with  her “scientific competence” and “legal qualifications”,114 Nayereh Piroozbakht, Head of National Standards Organization with her great expertise,115 Zahra Shojaee, Vice President and head of the Office of Women’s Participation of President Khatami’s government116 and Zahra Rahnavard, artist and the first female university chancellor.117  Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi was also appointed as the first female cabinet minister of Health and Medical Education during Ahmadinejad’s presidency, and Shahindokht Molavardi is now Vice-President of Women and Family Issues.118  In 2014, “the [UN] Secretary-General also welcomes the                                                  (Article 115) The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran, 3 December 1979, amended in 28 July 1989 online: Iran Chamber Society <http://www.iranchamber.com/government/laws/constitution.php> art 115. (last accessed February18, 2018) [IRI Constitution] 110 Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, News Release, Golnaz Esfandiari, “Women Call For Gender Equality Ahead Of Iran's Presidential Vote” 9May3, 2009) online: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org/content/Women_Call_For_Gender_Equality_Ahead_Of_Irans_Presidential_Vote/1620494.html>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 111 TIME, Press release, Nahid Siamdoust, “A Woman as President: Iran's Impossible Dream?” (May 20, 2009) online: TIME <http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1899763,00.html>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 112 Shahla Hare, “Iran's Invisible Candidates” (2006) onine: Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Harvard Divinity School <http://bulletin.hds.harvard.edu/articles/winter2006/irans-invisible-candidates>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 113 BBC, News Release, “Masumeh Ebtekar” (July9, 2003) online: BBC News <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3053145.stm>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 114 Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, News release, Golnaz Esfandiari, “Perhaps Bowing To Pressure, Rohani Appoints Woman To Iranian Cabinet”, (August 13, 2013) online: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org/content/rohani-woman-cabinet-iran/25074111.html>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 115 Radio Zamaneh, News Release, “Rohani names woman as head of standards agency” (December 19, 2013) online: Radio Zamaneh <http://archive.radiozamaneh.com/english/content/rohani-names-woman-head-standards-agency>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 116 “Women in President Rouhani’s Government” (September 24, 2013) online: Iranian Diplomacy <http://www.irdiplomacy.ir/en/page/1921874/Women+in+President+Rouhani’s+Government.html>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 117 Los Angeles Times, News Release, Borzou Daragahi, “Iranian presidential candidate's wife takes spotlight” (June 10, 2009) online  <http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/10/world/fg-iran-women10>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 118 Supra note 70 at 122,124. 25  Government’s pledges to increase the number of women serving as ambassadors”119 as no female ambassadors represented Iran at an international level after the Islamic revolution of 1979,120 until 2015 when Marzieh Afkham has been appointed as ambassador to serve in Malaysia.121  Although women like Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s first female judge of a district court, were barred from presiding over courts after the revolution, “changes made in 2003 allowed women the right to serve as legal counsellors”122 in family and public administrative courts as well as the supreme courts. They also remained active in the central governmental firm dealing with judicial process on children’s custodial decisions. The Law Governing the Appointment of Judges, ratified in 1982, prohibited female “judges issuing the final verdict on a legal matter.”123 However, Akram Poorrangnia, a retired female judge suggested that female legal counsels to judges be presented in the court of appeals as their role is instrumental and they can issue the final verdicts along with two other judges and directly impact the final verdict. The judiciary system expected 34 female prosecutors to join the courts in August 2013.124  1.2.2.5 Cultural and Artistic Impacts In  light of this significant progress in women’s civic activism under the presidency of Khatami, between 1997-2005, women found more space to play roles in cultural and artistic domains and                                                  119 Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, March 2014, UN Watch, March 18, 2014,  <http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/2014/03/18/report-of-the-secretary-general-on-the-situation-of-human-rights-in-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-march-2014/>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 120 In 1976 Mehrangiz Dolatshahi was the only woman to become an ambassador to Denmark in Pahlavi era. 121 Reuters, News Release “Iran to appoint first female ambassador since Islamic Revolution in 1979 –reports” (April 14, 2015) online: Reuters <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-diplomacy/iran-to-appoint-first-female-ambassador-since-islamic-revolution-in-1979-reports-idUSKBN0N50PL20150414>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 122 Tohidi, Iran supra note 81 at 142 123 Mehrangiz Kar, “Discrimination Against Women Under Iranian Law” (2008) online: Merangiz Kar <http://www.mehrangizkar.net/english/archives/000416.php>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 124 Tabnak News Agency, News Release, Mostasahr Zan dar Dadgah: Gom va Napeida [Female Advisory Judge: Lost and Hidden] 342655 (September 3, 2013) online: Tabnak News Agency, <http://www.tabnak.ir/fa/news/342655/%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%B2%D9%86-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AF%DA%AF%D8%A7%D9%87-%DA%AF%D9%85-%D9%88-%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%BE%DB%8C%D8%AF%D8%A7>. (last accessed February18, 2018) [translated by author] 26  explored innovative horizons in modern modes of female self-expression, especially when “restrictions on personal freedoms and dress were loosened”125 during the reform era. In this period, Iranian women “increasingly contributed to cultural and artistic production, and some of the best-selling films, novels, and paintings were produced by female artists.”126 The number of female-authored books in 2000 was 5618, an increase of 21.74% from 1997.127 The number of female authors in 2000 was reported as 2811, which increased 76.270% from 1997. Movies with female directors participating in international film festivals reached 268 in 2000, a 5.737% increase in comparison with their representation in 1997.128  To summarize, in post-revolutionary Iran, many changes appeared to be detrimental regarding women’s status. A statist formalist approach to law and its impact on women’s life advancement would predict that women’s conditions would have further deteriorated as bad laws replaced appropriate ones, and as state-sponsored support for feminism declined. As I have noted, however, statistical data challenged the relevance of bad laws to Iranian women’s well-being, both formalistic understandings of law and women’s status and the popular image of the restrained post-revolutionary status of women. A closer look at these data reveals that women asked for fundamental prerogatives in a number of areas including education, health, political empowerment and cultural impacts, and made extensive coalitions amongst themselves and mounted many campaigns to mobilize against the patriarchal announcements of the Islamic state.  1.2.3 Iranian Women’s One Million Signatures Campaign The OMSC in Iran was a peaceful grassroots movement for gender equality that sprang from the efforts of post-revolutionary Iranian women residing in the country. Based on the campaign’s reports and documents, its emergence was the result of a peaceful gathering of different women’s organizations that happened on 22nd June 2006 in one of the main squares of Tehran known as                                                  125 Tohidi, Iran supra note 81 at 122 126 Ibid. 127 Fars News Agency, News Release, 8411240255, Voghoeh Jorm dar Mian Zanan Kahesh Yaft [Committing Crime Reduced Amongst Women] (13 February 2006) online: Fars News Agency <http://www.farsnews.com/printable.php?nn=8411240255>. (last accessed February18, 2018) [translated by author] 128 Ibid.  27  Haft-e-Tir. The group stemmed from the celebration of Solidarity of Iranian Women a week before. The preliminary activities of the congregation were to prepare sets of booklets which identified particular discriminatory laws to raise awareness among women and to discuss how to move forward towards change regarding these discriminatory laws, and to achieve gender equality. After three months of intensive negotiations, the campaign named “One Million Signatures” was established by 54 founding individuals with 118 signatures, endorsing their desire for change. This moment, as I shall explain, marked a historical turning point for Iranian women after more than a century of struggling for their rights.129  During 2006-2010 the campaign strove to realize its goal of ending gender discrimination in the Iranian legal system through raising consciousness and collecting signatures from Iranians. The campaign’s primary aspiration was obtaining equality between women and men. The campaign believed that until such an objective is met, women have no choice but to continue with their struggle. Under the idea of gender equality in the campaign’s signature sheets, it has been argued that discriminatory laws have negative and direct effects on the lives of citizens. Due to the number of laws on topics such as divorce, child custody, inheritance and blood money that OMSC considered discriminatory against women, OMSC saw a need for amendment of these laws by the government.130 The campaign targeted various nationally legislated laws which mostly claim to have their roots in Islamic Shari’a law, such as women’s limited access to divorce, custody and inheritance. It also generally looked to the CEDAW, which was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. Iran is not amongst its signatories. This convention has often been described as an international bill of rights for women.  Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, CEDAW defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.  OMSC emphasized the constitutive effects of the law on women’s lives. It asserted that “these discriminatory laws will never change and will devastate women’s lives unless, not only a large number of people request for its change, but also to have this message                                                  129 Historically from the constitutional era onwards women have struggled to establish justice and equality on issues such as education and women’s right to vote. I will review this history in chapters 3 and 4. 130 Susan Tahmasebi, “One Million Signatures Campaign: Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Questions” (February 2008) online: Change for Equality  <http://we-change.org/site/english/spip.php?article226>. (last accessed February18, 2018) [Tahmasebi, FAQ] 28  reach and be heard by the authorities and legislators of the country.”131  Changing the content of laws appeared to be the campaign’s central goal.  The dominant theme of the campaign was implicitly secular. However, other voices have been present given the campaign’s pragmatic approach to be inclusive according to the principles of “circumstantial feminism”.132 This so called pragmatic feminist approach to the feminist endeavor, theorized by Noushin Ahmadi, transcends ideological demarcations and situates itself within the lived realities of women’s experiences. While multiple voices such as Islamic ones were represented in OMSC, the campaign did not see these voices as either threats or as crucial building blocks for women’s coalitions. Although Noushin Ahmadi offered circumstantial feminism allowing OMSC to neither see Islam as an enemy nor methodologically ignore it, it further blurred the relationship of the secular campaign with Shari’a law and CEDAW. In other words, circumstantial feminism encourages coexistence of differences and, if necessary, the constant revision of the socio-legal, political and cultural status quo due to its reformist but non-conformist/non-violent nature. However, circumstantial feminism remains silent about defining its relationship with faith-based laws within a theocratic Iran. In particular, the role of Islamic feminists and their vision on law and the state met with ambivalence in the campaign.  1.2.4 CEDAW in the Mirror of the Iranian Legal Structure CEDAW occupied an important place in OMSC’s demands and priorities. The campaign wanted the Iranian Islamic parliament to ratify CEDAW as an international bill of rights for women, and to comply with its rules and aspirations. CEDAW gives women’s rights activists a framework to invoke gender inclusive rights and policies. CEDAW was adopted by the United Nations in 1979. Currently, 185 countries - over ninety percent of the members of the United Nations - are member states. Of the “fifty-seven OIC133 member countries, all but Iran, Sudan and Somalia have ratified                                                  131 See appendix III Tohidi, Rahma, trans. “The Effect of Laws on Women’s Lives” (August 2006) online: Change for Equality <http://we-change.org/site/english/spip.php?article41>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 132 Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, Kampyn Yek Million Emza: Revayati az Daroon [One Million Signatures Campaign: A Narrative from Within] (The Author: Tehran, Iran, 2007) at 97 [Noushin, Narrative] [translated by author] 133 Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) <http://www.oicun.org>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 29  CEDAW.”134 CEDAW provides a broad definition of discrimination against women and suggests wide-ranging protections within domestic law. According to CEDAW the term ‘discrimination against women’ shall mean:  any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.135   Article 16 of CEDAW also asks state parties to take pertinent measures to eliminate discrimination against women in areas related to marriage and familial status and relations to ensure a basis of equality between men and women.136 The Convention also acknowledges women’s rights in different areas, including education, employment, health care, politics and economic life. Many state parties with sizable Muslim populations adopted the convention with reservations due to their concerns regarding discrepancies between Shari’a law and the CEDAW Convention. Their reservations caused the CEDAW committee to make a statement emphasizing that state parties had ratified the whole convention when they agreed to condemn all forms of discrimination against women, especially the ones set out in Article 2.137 The statement also asserted that:   Neither traditional, religious or cultural practice nor incompatible domestic laws and policies can justify violations of the Convention. The Committee also remains convinced that reservations to article 16, whether lodged for national, traditional, religious or cultural reasons, are incompatible with the Convention and therefore impermissible and should be reviewed and modified or withdrawn.138                                                   134 “CEDAW and Muslim Family Laws: In Search of Common Grounds” (December 2011) online: Muslim Women Living Under Muslim Law < http://www.musawah.org/cedaw-and-muslim-family-laws-search-common-ground >.(last accessed February18, 2018) at 5. [CEDAW and Muslim Family Laws] 135 CEDAW art 1. 136 CEDAW art 16. 137 Statement on reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, A/53/38 Rev.1, p. 49, para. 16, online: un.org <http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/reports/18report.pdf>.(last accessed February18, 2018) at 49, para. 16. 138 Ibid at 49, para. 17.  30  In response, the reasons some Muslim majority countries voiced reservations are that some declared “Shari’a as the principal source of law defining rights, duties, and responsibilities of men and women”139 without stating what they meant by Shari’a, or whether this Shari’a was tainted by cultural practices and political ambitions throughout history. Based on this argument, some Muslim countries claim that they cannot “implement [CEDAW-related rights] if inconsistent or in conflict with Islam/Shari’ah.”140 Some countries also claimed that “Islam provides sufficient or superior justice for women or [a] complementarity of rights and duties between men and women.”141   In Iran, three major approaches exist towards CEDAW. Ratification without reservation, ratification with reservation and not joining the convention at all. The latter approach insists on the incompatibility of Islam and the Western ideals of human rights that are employed to universalize their hegemonic culture. The first two groups know that pressure on the Islamic state by the international community may result in the advancement of women’s legal status in Iran. According to Article 9 in the preamble of Islamic civil code, “[t]reaty stipulations which have been, by the Constitutional Law, concluded between the Iranian Government and other governments, shall have the force of law.”142 Therefore, these international treaties are capable of abolishing their nationally equivalent laws. On the other hand, according to Article 72 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1988, “The Islamic Consultative Assembly [majles] cannot legislate laws that contradict the canons and principles of the official religion of the country or the constitution. The Guardian Council is responsible for the evaluation of this matter, as set out in Article 96.”143 Therefore, the Guardian Council’s letter to the Parliament indicates that the Convention contradicts Shari’a in so many cases that making so many reservations to CEDAW would be counter-intuitive.                                                   139 CEDAW and Muslim Family Laws, supra note 134 at 12. 140 Ibid.  141 Ibid at 13 142 Civil code art 9. 143 IRI Constitution art 72. 31   Many of those reservations are contrary to the original goals of CEDAW according to paragraph 2 of Article 28. Furthermore, the letter states that “it would be anti-Islamic to recommend joining the convention, since it contradicts articles 2, 3 (paragraphs 1 and 5), 4, 10, 20, 21, 72, 115 and 153 of the IRI Constitution.”144 In light of the fact that the spirit governing the fundamental concepts of CEDAW is perceived as entirely contrary to Islamic principles and the Iranian Constitution, it becomes impossible for the Iranian government to comply with CEDAW’s Article 18.1 stating that “States Parties undertake to submit to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, for consideration by the Committee, a report on the legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures which they have adopted to give effect to the provisions of the present Convention.”145 Under Article 18.1, the government representative should thoroughly report on every one of CEDAW’s articles’ implications in Iran. If this task is not undertaken properly, it paves the way for issuing an international resolution against Iran. I would argue that such an overly punctilious requirement can make the possibility of CEDAW’s ratification problematic for many countries, and not just the Muslim majority ones. If some of these restrictions were less severe, it may result in a contextually relevant implementation of CEDAW principles that would allow the country in question to adopt these principles and protections, but make them their own as a principle of justice in that state.  On the other hand, women’s rights activists in Iran and feminist activists in OMSC should also be aware of the fact that the egalitarian requirements in CEDAW are very far from turning into Jus cogens. This term signifies a “… a peremptory norm of general international law” that is “… a norm accepted and recognised by the international community of states as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.”146 Because many countries have not reached consensus on CEDAW, especially around human rights issues, CEDAW has a long way go before                                                  144 “Why not the Iranian Regime Does Not Join the CEDAW?” (March 2016) online: NCRI Women's Committee <http://www.women.ncr-iran.org/documents/2336-why-the-iranian-regime-does-not-join-the-cedaw>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 145 CEDAW art 18. 146 The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, vol. 1155, no. 18232 (entered into force 27 January 1970) art. 63 [VCLT] art 63.  32  becoming customary international law,147 which concerns the international obligations arising from generally established and consistent state practice rather than from international treaties. Despite such uncertainties, in August 2015, Ashraf Geramizadegan, the adviser to the vice president in women and family affairs, stated that the CEDAW was the best document formed based on global wisdom and could indeed prevent violence against women.148  1.2.5 Islamic Feminism Islamic feminism is a contested term and encompasses diverse movements with varied methods of interpretations to reclaim the notions of gender equality and social justice. For the purpose of this dissertation, I adopt an Iranian legal anthropologist, Ziba Mir-Hosseini’s perspective149 on Islamic feminism. For her, there is no “necessary association of feminism with lack of religious faith or inspiration.”150 Unlike many early advocates for women’s rights and feminism in the Middle East, who were mostly of a secular liberal and socialist orientation lineage, Islamic feminists emerged in many different Muslim majority and minority societies as well as throughout the Muslim diasporas, largely in urban environments, and primarily among highly educated, middle-class Muslim women as an organic response in post-colonial Islamic states.   Islamic feminists are men and women who (1) have been culturally defined as Muslims and they find “inspiration and even legitimacy in Islamic history and textual sources.”151 Having Islam and its sacred text as their frame of reference to promote substantive equality, equality of opportunity and equality results, they variously apply classic, modern and postmodern exegetical methodologies. (2) As they approach their faith and get involved in the comprehension of their                                                  147 Article 38(1)(b) of the ICJ Statute indicates that customary international law is one of the sources of international law. See more at Statute of the International Court of Justice, UN Charter, Chapter XIV [Statute of I.CJ]  148 Mehrkhane, Konvansion Maneh Tabeiz Alayhe Zanan Behtarin Sanadi Bood keh Mytavanest Baes Kahesh Khoshoonat Alayh Zanan Shavad [CEDAW Was the Best Document that was Able to Reduce Violence against Women] 20277 (Agust 22, 2015) online: Mehrkhaneh <http://mehrkhane.com/fa/news/20277>.(last accessed February18, 2018) [translated by author] 149 See more Ziba Mir-Hosseini < http://www.zibamirhosseini.com/ >.(last accessed February18, 2018) 150 Ziba Mir-Hosseini, “Beyond ‘Islam’ vs. ‘Feminism” (2011) 42:1 online: IDS Bulletin 67 <http://www.zibamirhosseini.com/documents/mir-hosseini-article-beyond-islam-vs-feminism--2011.pdf>. (last accessed February18, 2018) 151 Ibid. 33  religious resources, their experiences shape their practice, which has been influenced by feminist consciousness, as they are taking part in a mission of dismantling the patriarchal structure of a religious legal system with a radical affirmation of women’s humanity.   Islamic feminists’ numerous contributions to both feminist discourses and the world of Islam paved the way for extra-religious and intra-religious conversations. These contributions include challenges to, first, the essentialist view of Muslim women as doomed and victimized passive receivers of their ossified tradition instead of active participants of their faith; and second, to the traditional means of producing religious knowledge to modify and rework it from women’s perspectives. Islamic feminists also offer alternative approaches to the entrenched, official, male-dominated Islamic canon through discursive, critical and deconstructive engagement with Islam to prove that Muslim women’s experiences matter. These experiences indeed influence the ways in which they regulate their families and their personal status laws as well as their sociopolitical atmosphere and make sure that these structures encompass their well-being. Therefore, in Mir-Hosseini’s view, all these challenges resulted in extensive availability of classic jurisprudential resources to the public, which evoked Muslim women’s greater activism and paved the way for some Muslim men and women who are “feminist’ in their aspiration and demands, yet ‘Islamic’ in their language and sources of legitimacy.”152   Many scholars who delve into Islamic teachings in a search for gender egalitarian aspirations and interpretation of Islam, may not accept to be located within the meta narrative of feminism. For example, Asma Barlas,153 whose brilliant scholarship was recently introduced to the Iranian intellectual arena, strongly rejects the title of ‘Islamic feminist’ that was given to her originally by Margot Badran.154 Barlas argued that while at the turn of the 20th century some Egyptian women                                                  152 Ziba Mir-Hosseini “Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality: Between Islamic Law and Feminism” (2006) Critical Inquiery 629 at 640. [Mir-Hosseini, Quest]  153 Dr. Barlas is currently a professor at the department of politics at Ithaca College. Her research interests include but are not limited to Islamic religious/intellectual history; Qur’anic hermeneutics; Muslim women’s rights; colonialism and race and “Third” World See more Asma Barlas <http://faculty.ithaca.edu/abarlas/>(last accessed February18, 2018) ;  Asma Barlas, Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2006). 154 Dr. Badran is a senior fellow of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding, Georgetown University and also affiliated with Wilson Center in various projects such as Islamic Feminism, Human 34  started to read the Qur’an on behalf of women’s rights, she is “troubled by feminism as a discipline that uses up yet silences critics that fall outside its all interesting framework.”155 Barlas challenges the assimilative tendency of feminism by asking “why is it impossible … to speak about sexual equality without immediately being labeled some sort of feminist regardless of how I want to position myself?” and why should these versions of activism fall “under the rubric of western women experiences”156 as feminists? As I understand it, Barlas tries to challenge the imperial eye that feminism offers as a universalizing political theory. Her desire as an ex-colonial subject is that she has a need and right to be addressed from a decolonial perspective and to name herself in her own words. I appreciate Barlas’s anti-colonial positionality and her innovative and uniquely liberating work in the field of Islamic and Qur’anic studies. However, for the purpose of this dissertation, I wish to redeem both TW feminism and Islamic feminism, and discuss them in relation to one another, given the context of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a theocracy ruled by Islamic Shari’a.   1.3 Methodology I first learned about the OMSC during my stay in Vancouver in 2008/2009. I became involved in the capacity of reviving the Vancouver OMSC after its brief activity led by other volunteers in 2007. The Vancouver OMSC was founded in the Iranian diaspora located in North Vancouver and UBC areas in the Lower Mainland. I facilitated a number of educational workshops on prenuptial clauses, women’s actions against domestic violence, and the history of 150 years of Iranian women activism. As more volunteers were recruited, the Vancouver campaign started to collect more signatures, reaching nearly 350 from the Iranian men and women who felt that their signatures would contribute to changing discriminatory laws against Iranian women. One of the major impediments of collecting further signatures for the campaign was the security risks that Iranian individuals and families might encounter, including their passports being confiscated and their                                                  Rights, and Democracy. See more Margot Badran <https://www.wilsoncenter.org/person/margot-badran#sthash.ZDT7MF8g.dpuf>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 155 Asma Barlas: Why I Don´t Consider Myself as a Islamic Feminist, Global Dialogue, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecntwV7Fo5A>.(last accessed February18, 2018) 156 Ibid. 35  routine family and business travels jeopardized. However, the Iranian signatories in Vancouver, who maintained strong familial and hence legal ties with Iranians residing in Iran, were deeply moved by the campaign’s ethos and showed great enthusiasm and support for the cause. These Iranians offered an example of the notion of ‘nationals’ who transcend national geographic borders and transform transnational spaces into a public sphere within which they continue to exercise their agency.  When I decided to undertake a scholarly study of OMSC in 2010, I stepped aside from my volunteer role in Vancouver OMSC in order to focus on critical analysis of its principles and approaches, demands and, most importantly, its feminist legal method. Towards this end, the key sources that I studied were the OMSC’s primary documents including its “petition”, “About One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws” and, finally, “The Effect of Laws on Women’s Lives.” These documents may be found in the Appendices to this dissertation. I have also extensively reviewed and anaysed blogs and articles by OMSC members and those who were commenting on OMSC’s activities on the various campaign’s affiliated websites.  The primary method employed in my dissertation is discourse analysis, which enables analysts to identify, challenge, resist, destabilize and displace dominant views and to map out possible strategies for bringing about change within an increasingly complex system of power through which knowledge and truth are produced and a dominant interpretation of reality is established. Discourse can provide a field of possibilities to contest or conform to instances of hegemonic power. As a feminist lawyer, incorporation of feminist analysis and discourse analysis appeared crucially important, particularly in examining how women as individuals and as a collective negotiate their path through power relations which manifest itself through women's agency. In addition to discourse analysis, I employed four feminist legal theoretical approaches to understand feminist activism in Iran. Critical historicization as well as textual analysis have also employed throughout my dissertation, particularly in studying 150 years of Iranian women activism.  The limits of my method include the fact that I ‘studied down’. That is, instead of starting with the grassroots voices and experiences, I employed discourse analysis and feminis