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 Sameh's important and timely work documents the long trajectory of women's rights activists and activism in Iran--sharing the stories of women's strength, perseverance, and humanity--in the the face of seeming insurmountable challenges. She documents recent Iranian history in a way that allows women's participation to be foregrounded and to suggest its role in larger human rights and political rights campaigns throughout the Middle East and beyond. Sameh's scholarship identifying the stories, practices, and creativity of women's rights and human rights activists both inside and outside of Iran challenges us to think beyond a singular historical moment and to think of women's steadfastness as part of a larger national struggle for freedom and democracy.
Persis Karim, Neda Nobari Distinguished Chair, Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, San Francisco State University
Translocal theorizing at its best—with the strategic deployment of both discourse analysis and ethnography.
Pardis Mahdavi, author of Crossing the Gulf: Love and Family in Migrants’ Lives
Convincingly underscores the broad significance of Iranian feminist activism, the intelligent use of social media and information technology, and the way that Iranian feminism has penetrated Iranian culture, the public sphere, and national discourses.
Valentine M. Moghadam, professor of sociology and international affairs, Northeastern University
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.