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Demanding a Seat at the Table: Iranian and Turkish Women's Organizing for Political Representation

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Demanding a Seat at the Table: Iranian and Turkish Women's Organizing for Political Representation

Tajali, Mona (2014) Demanding a Seat at the Table: Iranian and Turkish Women's Organizing for Political Representation. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the major obstacles and opportunities that women face when attempting to access political decision-making positions in Muslim countries, with particular reference to Iran and Turkey. In recent years, Turkish and Iranian women have been playing an increasingly visible role in politics as voters, voter-recruiters, and as campaign managers, including on behalf of pro-religious parties. At the same time, however, women in both contexts continue to be underrepresented in formal political positions of power.

To date, most scholarship on women’s political representation in Muslim societies emphasizes religious and cultural factors, namely Islam and patriarchal attitudes, as barriers preventing women from participating in politics – a “religious conservative” explanation that cannot account for the high levels of women’s party activism in Islamist and conservative parties. This account also disregards the fact that the percentage of women assuming political office has modestly increased in the wake of conservative and Islamist forces’ rise to power in many Muslim-majority countries, including in Iran and Turkey. In this research I examine how the intersection of religious and cultural norms and attitudes, institutional structures, and voter behavior affects the representation of women and quality of democracy in Iran and Turkey. I argue that while religious, cultural, and institutional obstacles play a key role in the low percentage of women in political decision-making, the ability of women’s rights groups to mobilize the public in support of their demand for increased access to decision-making, and their interaction with political elites also deserves close attention. Through the utilization of two central elements of political process theory—political opportunity structures and framing processes— my comparative study of theocratic Iran and secular Turkey shows women’s groups across the political and ideological spectrum strategically interacting with political elites to address women’s political underrepresentation. Likewise, Iranian and Turkish political elites, having realized women’s political might at the ballot box and in an effort to address their political or electoral interests, are increasingly taking measures to appoint women to political leadership positions. My analysis emphasizes the role of political and discursive opportunity structures as the means by which women are translating their participation in informal politics into gains in more formal arenas of politics.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies
Concordia University > Research Units > Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Tajali, Mona
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Humanities
Date:28 February 2014
Thesis Supervisor(s):Hoodfar, Homa
ID Code:978565
Deposited By: MONA TAJALI
Deposited On:12 Jun 2014 19:51
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:47
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