The Arab Spring heralded a new era of women’s grassroots participation in protests and demands for a more democratic and accountable model of governance. Yet despite being pivotal to the success of popular protests, women’s spaces in the post-uprising period remain in many cases closed, if not more restrained. Why has this pattern been persistent in revolutions, radical transitions and social movements in the Middle East? Why are movements for progress continuously turned to repression in terms of women’s spaces and places in society? Even before the upheavals and popularization of the Arab Spring, the experiences of women in other movements in the region reveal a similar pattern. This paper focuses on the Iranian Revolution and the tension relative to women’s agency in the peripheral spaces in social movements. It argues that women’s intervention and unification is far more legitimate, developed and represented during the initial and often spontaneous stages of populist movements. In response to reclaiming previously closed political spaces there is a need to narrate, extend and reconfigure women’s agency and discourse in popular uprisings. Lessons from women in Iran demonstrate the significance of the post-movement spaces as crucial sites for resistance.
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