Political tensions between Iran and the United States in the post-9/11 period and the Global War on Terror have set the stage for Iranian women’s rights activists inside and outside Iran as they seek full legal equality under the Islamic Republic. Axis of Hope recounts activists’ struggles through critical analysis of their narratives, including the One Million Signatures Campaign to End Discriminatory Law, the memoirs of human rights lawyer and Nobel Prize–winner Shirin Ebadi, and the life story of feminist Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and her activist project ZananTV. Catherine Sameh examines how Iranian women’s rights activists have cultivated ways of thinking of and being with each other that rupture the relentless difference-making and violence of coloniality through local and transnational networks along axes of feminist solidarity, friendship, and love.
Crucial to countering despair and cynicism about Iran as well as the dangerous interventions by Western powers “on behalf of” Iranians, activists’ experiences speak to the possibilities and challenges of transnational alliances in confronting oppressive regimes. These stories are particularly germane in such precarious times, marked by war, isolation, sanctions, and the intense demonization of Iranians and Muslims, as well as authoritarianism, militarism, and patriarchal nationalisms around the world. Situating postreform women’s rights activism within the unfolding, decades-long project to democratize Iran from within, Axis of Hope makes a timely contribution to studies of feminist movements, women’s human rights in Muslim contexts, activism and new media, and the relationship between activism, civil society, and the state.
Catherine Z. Sameh is associate professor of gender and sexuality studies at University of California, Irvine.
Piya Chatterjee is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of California, Riverside.
"By centering activist work, Sameh presents initiatives and projects that strive to disrupt existing colonial, patriarchal narratives and ways of life to replace them with feminist solidarities and practices with the goal of increasing women’s rights for Iranian women."
"Focusing on the women’s rights movement in Iran, Sameh (Univ. of California, Irvine) creates a portrait of the country that problematizes common understandings that are framed by dichotomous terms. As such, the book should be of interest not only to those studying women’s rights movements or Iran, but also, due to the book's method of analysis, to anyone who believes the humanities are tasked with helping us understand the dynamism, complexity, contradictoriness, and messiness of social phenomena"