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.

Homa Hoodfar is Professor of Anthropology, Emerita, at Concordia University, Montreal.  Her primary research and expertise lies in legal and political anthropology. She examines the intersection of political economy; gender and citizenship rights; women’s formal and informal politics, gender and public sphere  in Muslim contexts. Professor Hoodfar has also been actively involved in Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) Network’s  Research and Publication division since 1980s.  Her publications include:  Women’s Sport as Politics in Muslim Contexts WLUML (2015); Sexuality in Muslim Contexts: Restrictions and Resistance (edited with Anissa Hellie). London: Zed Books (2012);   Electoral Politics: Making Quotas work for women   London: WLUML (2011)  (co-authored with Mona Tajali).  The Muslim Veil in North America: issues and debates (Edited)  with Sajida Alvi, and Sheila McDonough, Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press (2003). Between Marriage and the Market, Berkeley: University of California Press(1997); Development, Change, and Gender in Cairo: A View from the Household. (edited with Diane Singerman) Indiana University Press, and numerous articles  based on her different research projects.