Between Tradition and Fundamentalism: Muslim Women’s Rights in the North Caucasus

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Gogueva, Zemfira
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Global Campus of Human Rights
At present, a significant number of young people in the North Caucasus, especially in urban areas, turn to Islamic fundamentalism. This undermines the influence of the traditional framework, adat, which tends to be supported by the older generation, as well as by those in power. While mass media and the official state narrative paint Islamic fundamentalism as a terrorist movement, supported by a small, marginalised group, the reality on the ground is much more complex. The aim of this study is to develop a better understanding of the religious and social changes taking place in the North Caucasus at the present moment, with a special focus on the rights and status of local women. The conclusions and recommendations offered by the study are based on 25 interviews with young women from Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan, conducted in summer 2021. The survey results indicate that women’s access to education and employment is often severely limited not only by social pressure and adat customs but also by internalised patriarchal ideas about gender roles. The other main finding of the study is that religious devotion often overcomes the adat’s influence in situations related to marriage and family life. Furthermore, North Caucasian women consciously choose fundamentalism as a way for self-improvement. As a result, women aspire to be active participants in the economic life of their republics, receive education and depend less on the traditional family hierarchy. From a theoretical perspective, the study uses the concept of Islamic feminism to articulate the possibility of fundamentalism as a conduit of women’s rights in the region.
Global Campus - Caucasus.
CES - Master’s Degree Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in the Caucasus, Yerevan State University.
Second semester University: Lewis and Clark Liberal Art College (USA).
Islamic fundamentalism, North Caucasus, feminism, women, right to education, right to work