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Rights, Democracy, and Islamist Women's Activism in Tunisia and Egypt

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 October 2020

Anwar Mhajne*
Stonehill College
Rasmus Brandt
The University of Zurich
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Anwar Mhajne, Stonehill College. E-mail:


In the early days after the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, Islamist movements and parties appeared to be the winners of the political transformation. This opened new opportunities for activism and political participation for Islamist men and women. The political organizing of the Egyptian Muslim Sisterhood and Ennahda women in Tunisia before, during, and after the Arab Spring provides a significant case for addressing the gap in the literature on Islamist women's political organizing and agency. Moreover, it addresses the lack of scholarly attention to the Muslim Sisterhood and Ennahda women and the agency they manifest in their sociopolitical activism. Relying on primary and secondary interviews with these activists, this article traces the framing strategies, activism, and roles of Islamist women in Egypt and Tunisia. In both cases, we argue that government repression and backlash against Islamist movements is a shared experience and a central topic of identification for Islamist women. Islamist women in Tunisia and Egypt became more visible in the aftermath of the uprisings and reached into decision-making bodies such as a parliament when their countries were on the path toward democracy. Women from the two groups highlight democracy, freedom, human rights, and women's rights to frame their activism.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association

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