Homa Hoodfar, PhD.
Professor of Anthropology, Emerita, at Concordia University, Montreal
Creating Transnational Feminist Solidarity Networks: A View From the Inside
There is no shortage of (arguably justifiable) critiques concerning the negative repercussions of globalization, especially regarding deepening economic disparities, labour force exploitation and underemployment. But globalization has other faces:; transnational solidarity and support in times of humanitarian crises and for prisoners of conscience, including women activists, are also significant aspects of the global interconnection in this era of widely accessible, instantaneous world-wide communications technologies.
In March 2016, I was arrested while visiting Iran, and in June I was locked away in the infamous Evin prison on the charges of “dabbling in Feminism” and in security matters. I had no means of communication with the outside world or my family or my lawyer. However, after 112 days in Evin, I was unexpectedly released to the Omani Government and later returned home to Montreal. Just over a year later, the initiatives and the writings that sent me to Evin have me pondering on considerable aspects of transnational solidarity that we so rarely reflect on. Until late 1980s, international civil society and supporters of prisoners of conscience like Amnesty International did not consider women and feminist activists who were jailed as political prisoners. Indeed we founded Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), a feminist solidarity network formally in 1984, (before the advent of email, fax machine, etc.,) to support women activists and feminists who faced imprisonment and harassment by the state and non-state actors and engaged in long and lively and sometime uncomfortable public discourse that “women’s rights are human rights” over two decades. I have witnessed remarkable historic developments in the public discourse on women’s and minorities’ rights. When I reflect on the scale of the campaign to free me, which included considerable input from Amnesty International, I marvel at the transformation of the perspectives of transnational and international networks of civil society perspectives on the question of women’s right and feminism.
In this paper, by reflecting on the history of transnational feminist networks and the campaign for my release, I will review and analyse the strategies, and challenges that feminist networks have faced in the course of creating and transforming androcentric perspectives of transnational civil society to a more feminist friendly, if not quite feminist, environment.