Gender, religion and the politics of citizenship in modern Iran

Authored by: Shirin Saeidi

Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies

Print publication date:  June  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415519724
eBook ISBN: 9780203102015
Adobe ISBN: 9781136237966


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Citizenship has been both a contested and a controversial notion throughout most of modern Iranian history because of the state’s authoritarian nature. This chapter focuses on the politics of citizenship throughout different spaces and times. In this effort, it is impossible to overlook the interplay between religion and gender in the (re)configuration of subjectivities. From a cultural and historical standpoint, a love of justice and the duty to fight against oppression (zulm) is one of the pillars of the Shi’i Muslim faith (Momen, 1985), to which over ninety-five per cent of Iranians adhere and which is embedded within Persian culture. Therefore, religious teachings and leadership can at vital moments give significant direction to the people’s will. For instance, religious beliefs regarding social and political justice, along with the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, were vital to engendering the 1979 revolution and the post-revolutionary state. Moreover, as the discussion below illustrates, one of the enduring elements of political transformations in modern Iran has been the strong presence of women at these moments, as well as contention and collaboration between men and women in everyday life (Paidar, 1995). In light of these realities, it becomes difficult to discuss activist citizenship without exploring its development through the interplay between religion and gender.

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