IRAN: OPPRESSION, EMPOWERMENT, AGENCY Thesis Presented to the Faculty of San Diego State University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts in Women’s Studies by Sevil Suleymani Summer 2018

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To the memory of my grandmother, the first feminist in my life.

To women of my Homeland whom I witnessed their suffering, resistance, resilience, empowerment and agency.

Qızıldan olsa da qəfəsim, azadlığa var həvəsim.


Azerbaijani Women in Iran: Oppression, Empowerment, Agency by
Sevil Suleymani
Master of Arts in Women’s Studies
San Diego State University, 2018

Azerbaijani women in Iran have been invisible citizens because of their ethnicity and gender. They have faced racism and sexism from Persian women and men, as well as sexism within their own community. Azerbaijani women faced racism, colonialism, and sexism from their culture and from the dominant Persian system, which is perpetuated by cultural and linguistic differences. With all their experiences, Azerbaijani women never received enoughattention in Iranian women’s movement; additionally, challenges in the Azerbaijani community, as a semi-colonized community, have faced Azerbaijani local activists with various obstacles.

In this research through using Azerbaijani women’s experiences, I explore howfeminist movements cannot divorce themselves from the hegemonic socio-political system they operate within, as observed in the case of Iran. Thus, the Iranian mainstream feminist movement reflects the power hierarchies in Iran and is complicit in marginalizing minority groups and women. By focusing on how transnational women’s movements are unable tocapture fully the voices of local communities and therefore further that marginalization, I explore the dilemma of identity in Azerbaijani Turk as semi-colonized community has also carried over to feminist debates, while these debates have faced Azerbaijani local activists with challenge to create a bridge to their local community as well as global world.

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