Submission Date


Document Type



International Relations


Rebecca Evans

Committee Member

Ann Karreth

Committee Member

Danielle Widmann Abraham

Committee Member

Rebecca Evans

Department Chair

Rebecca Evans

External Reviewer

Sarah Bush

Distinguished Honors

This paper has met the requirements for Distinguished Honors.

Project Description

This research paper is divided into three case studies: Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. The main focus of the paper is to examine barriers to women’s economic and political participation as well as the limits on their rights within the family and society. All three case studies are Muslim-majority countries. The paper argues that the subordination of women is not intrinsic to Islam but stems from patriarchal interpretations of Islam by religious authorities working in conjunction with autocratic political leaders. Furthermore, the paper analyzes cultural, political, and economic explanations for limits on women’s rights in these Muslim-majority countries and shows how each of these explanations apply to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. Despite variations within and among the pluralistic societies of the region as well as the distinct histories of each country, patriarchal cultures developed by and for male religious and political elites lead to restrictions on women’s economic and political participation. Recommendations include increasing the number of women in religious bureaucracies and in government.