Middle East Briefs

Parallel to the Center’s scholarly work, Middle East Briefs provides a brief analysis of a single issue at the top of the region’s political, social, or economic agenda. Targeted primarily at decision-makers and opinion leaders, the publication was launched in 2005.

Current Edition

Tunisian women protestingOctober 2019 – Why Did Women's Rights Expand in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia?

Hind Ahmed Zaki

Middle East Brief 131 (Summary) — Tunisian women have gained many new legal rights since the overthrow of President Ben Ali in January 2011, including the right to marry non-Muslims, mandated parity with men in elected bodies, and a comprehensive law against all forms of gender-based violence. This expansion of women's rights surprised many Tunisians who thought that the country's existing "pro-women" policies, often described as the most progressive in the Arab world, would be rolled back after the revolution, particularly as the Islamic party, Ennahda, was gaining political and electoral power. In this Brief, Hind Ahmed Zaki examines this unexpected development and argues that women's rights activists in Tunisia played a critical role after the revolution in both the protection of existing rights and in their further expansion. These activists creatively reframed and rehabilitated the previous regime's nationalist project of state feminism, using legacies from the authoritarian past to mobilize citizens and shape policy outcomes during the transition to democracy.

Read Middle East Brief 131 (PDF)

Hind Ahmed Zaki, 2018-2019 Harold Grinspoon Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center and assistant professor of political science and Middle East studies at the University of Connecticut.