Int. J. Middle East Stud. 26 (1994), 415-426.

Printed in the United States of America

May Seikaly


The number of studies on the status of women and their changing condition in recent times has increased internationally in the past decade, and this is bound to make the development of a comprehensive theoretical methodological framework for the study of women in particular regions or socioeconomic structures easier. In the Arab world, especially the oil-dependent Arabian Gulf states, a concern with the mechanisms of the socioeconomic and political structure of society and the dynamics of its rapid changes has also grown tremendously. A large number of scholars have provided field and theoretical studies on social change and development and its manifestations in the fields of women's studies, labor, education, and industrialization, among others.' From this relatively large body of literature, most of it in Arabic, some consensus seems to have emerged. Since research is being done in all regions of the Arab world, from the Maghrib to the Gulf,? both the heterogeneity of Arab society and some common denominators have emerged from it.

One thread that runs through these studies is that the many and sometimes glaring socioeconomic differences between these regions do not eliminate the common features of history, culture, ethnicity, religion, and religion's ethical and value structure that molds the processes of social change. The whole Arab region shares the same broad process, although each geographic area exhibits different characteristics. The whole Arab region represents a single network. For that reason, any aspect or part can only be understood within the whole.

The Gulf region has gradually been incorporated into the world economic system since World War I and more completely since the discovery of oil.' Particularly after the tremendous growth of oil wealth in the early 1970s and the ability to manipulate the power that went with it, it became essential to bind the oil-producing region into the restructured world economy because the economic and political dependency on the industrialized West had become total. Arab oil money was invested in the West; the oil-rich Arab nations became consumers of foreign, primarily Western, products, and in time of crisis Western arms were sent to resolve it. By 1991, following the Gulf war, the status of the Gulf region as a link in the chain of the world capitalist system was obvious to all. The more integrated the Gulf political and economic structure becomes in the global economy, the more important it is to the West to maintain its stability even at the price of reinforcing the Gulf region's dependency, traditionalism, and backwardness.

May Seikaly teaches at the Department of History, University of California-Los Angeles, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, Calif., 90024, U.S.A.

© 1994 Cambridge University Press 0020-7438/94 $5.00 + .00

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On the regional level, the oil economy and its power moved the oil countries toward conservative, less nationalist and less progressive, governments in the Arab countries and encouraged groups with conservative, traditional, and fundamentalist orientations. There have been many instances of a move toward a more conservative approach to policy and sometimes an alignment with religious trends in the society in the Gulf region as well as in various states of the rest of the Arab Middle East. The most obvious among these has been Kuwait, where the nationalist and liberal opposition movement endorsed conservative and reactionary practices. In Saudi Arabia, in addition to an already conservative social and political policy, there was an obvious strengthening of the religious guardians, the mutawas and their activities tightened the constraints against women and the narrow margin of social freedom. Egypt too experienced a reversal in social freedoms when the law governing family and personal rights was officially abandoned. Another recent instance of this reversal is the condoning by religious institutions of assassination for religious and political reasons, as in the case of the Egyptian intellectual Faraj Foda.

The tremendous growth in oil wealth after the OPEC nations joined to set prices in autumn of 1973 and the development and diversification in investing this wealth that followed produced changes that are now reflected in the self-image of the Gulf citizen and his relations with other Arabs and in attitudes toward imported modern innovations and traditional values. The Gulf system" has been successful in building up the infrastructure and other manifestations of the state along modern lines and has provided citizens with a wide range of services such as education, health, social services, even entertainment. It has also rationalized its legitimacy through these achievements and by building a network of alliances based on tribal and sometimes religious or economic interests." Economic favors in the form of money or land donations or control of power-generating posts are some of the means by which these alliances are cemented. In building this legitimacy and power base within their societies, governments continuously use tribal, conservative, and traditional relationships and logic.

This system has created superficially modern-looking societies without solving the dilemmas that rapid Western modernization has brought. Change has come into conflict with the traditional cultural value systems tied to religion that control social behavior.? The power base manipulates the society's perceptions of the cultural value system in a way that serves their own ambitions. The contradiction between "modernization" and "cultural/religious authenticity" explains the ambivalence shown by political leaders and national strategists toward development." It is most obvious when it involves social change, especially change of customs considered close to or part of the cultural and ideological value system, such as education and employment, and particularly the status of women and their share in the social transformation of society." The policy has always attempted to find a balance between commitment to modernization and economic development and commitment to the internal traditional sociocultural forces, that is, it attempts to achieve the first aim while functioning in a traditional sociopolitical framework that will ensure the stability of the system and its value structures.

This balance has faced serious challenges since 1983 because of the reversal in the fortunes of the oil-producing nations: prices began to fall, causing socioeco-

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nomic inequalities and unrest; the Iraq-Iran War had an unsettling effect on the social fabric; and, more recently, the Gulf War caused sociopolitical as well as psychological dislocations and confusions. The main victims of this unbalance have been women, the weakest element in the social structure, whose problems are most easily ignored, especially their rights and share in development. Although the official policy of the Gulf states is to involve women in the process of development, the actual official contribution toward implementing radical changes in the condition of women is at best hesitant-as in Kuwait and Bahrain-and at worst regressive-as in Saudi Arabia. Today this is more apparent as women in the Gulf experience a clear regression from social achievements accumulated during three decades of change. Now more than ever Islamic fundamentalist thought is dictating limitations to their social development, as a wave of sociopolitical conservatism spreads all over the Arab world. The changes experienced by women differ from one area to the other. Each state in the Gulf has specific economic structures, ethnosocial features, and historical experiences that affect women in different ways.

Bahrain shares with the rest of the region the events that brought Western interference, starting in the 16th century and ending with the discovery of oil and the country's incorporation into the modern Western sphere of influence. However, it is also different because of its strategic position and its history. For thousands of years, Bahrain had had settlements fed by tribes coming from the Arabian Peninsula. These tribes were rapidly converted to Islam in the 7th century." The tribal patriarchal characteristics of Hijazi society were incorporated into the new religion, thus making conversion easier by maintaining the same social structure. This tribal society was further reinforced by the British through their support of the ruling al-Khalifa family, a branch of the Outub confederation whose cousins ruled in Kuwait and whose settlements date to the first half of the 18th century.'?

Whereas this tribal patriarchal feature had been a traditional aspect of life and a link between the various components of the social system, modernization had eroded it and rendered it more ceremonial than effective. In small geographic units such as Bahrain the tribal system was an effective means of control until the 1930s, but then British institutions gradually shifted the functions of authority to the new administration. Previously, the majlis of the sheikh or that of the religious authority gathered the notables of the society who in turn presented the needs and grievances of the extended families in their social units. To some degree the sheikh was in constant contact with a large segment of the society and was privy to their demands. However, the weakening of the role of the majlis and the contraction in the size and dispersion in the units of the extended family weakened the system. Nevertheless, the religiocultural characteristics of tribalism remained intrinsic social features and are still often invoked to confirm adherence to tradition.

The limited resources of the Gulf region, Bahrain included, have given the area a uniform economic history. Agriculture had always been limited; the Gulf peoples have always engaged in sea trading and pearl diving. In Bahrain, where nature has been relatively generous in water resources, all these forms of economic activities are prominent and in the pre-oil era generated a patriarchal system dependent on the extended family and on intermarriages with defined social classes.

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Class differences followed economic lines, but were also influenced by social, ethnic, or tribal backgrounds (asil and ghayr asil, those with roots and those without)." Women shared in the support of the family by doing agricultural work and providing services (they acted as water- and small-household-goods vendors and servants); only a very few were in pearl production.'?

Oil was discovered in Bahrain in 1932, earlier than elsewhere in the Gulf, but it was only found in very limited quantities. Nevertheless, it shares with the other Gulf states its dependency on oil production and labor, but because of low production, the state benefits mainly from refining and distribution. Economically, Bahrain is the weakest Gulf state and the most vulnerable to its neighbor Saudi Arabia, which provides it with oil, funds, and investment.

Oil production entered the area with no preparation and consequently imposed sociopolitical conditions on the region. Labor and expertise had to be imported, and a large proportion of the oil produced is still refined outside the region. Oil prices were determined by the international market and its income was invested abroad. Initially, the government policy was to establish industries related to oil to augment income. By the late 1970s, in an attempt to diversify income and create jobs, it started such industries as aluminum production and a dry dock, and more recently it offered Bahrain as an international banking center. Since the late 1980s, and more so after the Gulf War, these enterprises have visibly weakened. Generally, these projects had limited success because of the international economic atmosphere as well as local economic and political constraints, such as intense concern with security, difficulty in obtaining visas, a lack of expertise, and a lack of legislation. The socioeconomic features of oil dependency and a rentier-style economy!' are excessive consumerism, a fragile basis of local productivity whether in oil byproducts or other industries, full exposure to Western socioeconomic modes of life, and a conservative sociopolitical outlook that seems opposed to its economic policy.

According to a December 1991 census, the population of Bahrain was approximately 500,000. The registered growth in population between 1941 and 1981 has averaged 6.6 percent, but in recent years it has shown signs of decrease. The number of Bahrainis in 1941 was 89,970, in 1981, 350,798, with women accounting for approximately 49.5 percent of that number."

This population has various origins: Arabs of tribal extraction, Arabs from the settled communities of the eastern region in the Arabian Peninsula, Arabs from Iraq, Persian/Arab tribes (Hawala) coming from coastal and inland regions of the Persian coast, Iranians from coastal and inland Iran, in addition to a small number of Baluchis, Indians, and Pakistanis who have lived for generations in Bahrain and have become Bahraini. Each of these groups is large enough to leave an ethnic imprint on the fabric of society."

Shi'iis are a majority (estimated to be 65-70%) especially in villages. They are either descendants of the original Arab inhabitants and from the eastern quarter of Saudi Arabia or Persians who have immigrated in the last fifty years. Sunnis are also either of Arab tribal origin (such as the ruling family), local Arab families of undefined origin, or people from Persian/Arab tribes who settled in Bahrain at different times since the late 18th century." These ethnic origins are obvious in

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linguistic variety, social attitudes, and norms, but the people are distributed among most social classes, with the exception of the rural villages, which are almost exclusively Shi'ii and mostly Arab.

As in all Gulf societies, everyone has been equally affected by the modern oil economy, especially its socioethical developments. Generally, it has affected attitudes toward work, resulting in a disdain for manual labor and indifference to job performance, punctuality, and work regulations. Expatriate workers are resented, ridiculed, and mistreated in varying degrees, depending on whether they are from richer or poorer states. Oil has generated a very large middle class who have become fully dependent on the goodwill of the government and its economic subsidy. Of course, urbanization-with its effects on life-style, the family structure, and male-female relations-has accompanied these changes. In Bahrain, oil has also led to a drastic constriction in the agricultural sector and more social integration among the Bahraini communities.

In the 1950s, oil had not yet touched life in the Gulf, but influences were filtering in through the growing number of young men returning to the Gulf from travel and education in Beirut, Cairo, Baghdad, and Bombay'? and through an influx of eastern Arab educators and workers. In Bahrain, more than in other areas of the Gulf, the cosmopolitan makeup of its population combined with a long history of trade with the outside world and the special role of the British administration was conducive to change. Reform was demanded by urban merchants impressed by British administrative reforms in the 1920s.18 At the heart of their demands was participation in decisions concerning the well-being of the community. In the 1950s, for the first time women began to support the male-led demands for reform. A few women are supposed to have unveiled in public in one of the protest demonstrations against the British."

By the 1960s regional Arab development combined with a growing number of Bahraini university graduates further politicized this protest movement. The influence of the liberation movements, Arab nationalism, and political confrontations with colonialism in the Arab world in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s formed the political orientation of the young Bahraini generation. The tripartite attack on Nasser's Egypt in 1956, the Algerian war of independence, the liberation movement against the British in Yemen in 1963, the Egyptian defeat of 1967, the Dhofar revolution in 1971, and the Palestinian struggle against Israel all had their immediate reflections locally. Whether the reactions were spontaneous street demonstrations, the growth of underground political organizations, or civil servants with heightened sociopolitical consciousness, society changed in unprecedented ways." The unrest culminated in the popular movement for a parliament and political participation following independence from the British in 197 pI

Male and female students educated in Beirut and Cairo, Baghdad and Kuwait, influenced by the nationalist and radical political currents thriving in these university centers, joined political organizations. Whether leftist, nationalist, or procommunist, the women wanted to take part in changing their society. Beginning in the early 1950s women had organized charitable societies, but in the early 1970s voluntary women's societies with political orientations sprang up. Women of the growing middle class and a few from the working class had benefited from the

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developing education system, the scholarships to universities in the Arab countries, and the need for Bahrainis in the job market.

During these decades, the infrastructure of the oil economy in Bahrain was established and took over from the traditional pearl diving and conventional trading economy. Modern administrative departments in industry, education, and labor were created to promote and channel these changes. The working people in the oil industry and its related fields were made up of pearl divers, fishermen, and peasants, but its middle class came from the old merchant class with some newly rich families from many backgrounds and ethnic groups. During the early period, education and the political currents prevailing then combined with the conviction that everyone would become rich, setting the tone for its values and relationships. The new intelligentsia-the teachers, doctors, and civil servants-played a major role in the events of 1975 and their repercussions. During the debates surrounding the establishment of the parliament in 1975, differences between socioethnic groups, between the traditional and modernizing forces, and between the vested interest of the ruling class and the governed were exposed." The parliament was dissolved before any real popular participation in decision making had taken place.

Women had been excluded from the short-lived liberal experiment with a parliament, partly because the traditional tribal orientation was still very strong in society among both Sunni and Shi'f, but mostly because the radical and liberalized men in society did not support them." They had encouraged women to help them bring about social change and contribute to political reform, but when it came to the sociopolitical aims of women, men proved conservative.

Women had made substantial advances, however. They had had their share in the government expansion of services in health, education, and industrial and administrative employment. The overall standard of living had risen; middle-class families could depend on regular income (although per capita income was and remains lower than in other Gulf regions), and people had moved from the villages to towns. The urban population grew from 56 percent in 1941 to 78.1 percent in 1971, to 80.3 percent in 1981,24 and has probably grown more in this past decade. New towns affected social changes, including shifting from an extended to a nuclear family, contacts between socioethnic groups who had lived in separate quarters, and exposure to Western-style consumerism. Villages were much less affected by this change, but even they provided commuting labor to the oil service sectors and acquired elementary schools and, by the 1970s, health centers.

More women were educated, held jobs, and had access to government services.

By 1967 preparatory and secondary schools for boys and girls were equal in number (7:7 for the first and 3:3 for the second) but were to be found only in towns." By 1963 the girls' high school curriculum had been altered to make them eligible for admission to universities, and women were sent to women's colleges in Beirut and, later, to coeducational universities elsewhere in the Arab world. By 1978, the number of female students at all levels was still, however, only 35.5 percent of a total of 65,368 students, and the illiteracy rate for women was still over 80 percent." During this period, the female contribution to the paid work force in Bahrain was relatively large compared with earlier times; by 1971 women made up 3.1 percent of the working Bahraini population. Most worked in education;

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they also made up over 20 percent of total government employees." In the 1960s women began to look for jobs to supplement income as the cost of living and a craving for modern innovations raised the expectations of families. This was more the case in Bahrain than in other Gulf states where both government subsidies and per capita income of males were much higher. Low government salaries forced many educated wives to seek work. They could hire cheap imported Asian housemaids to do their housework, and they also benefited from other government services. Health services were reflected in higher number of births, longer life expectancy, and overall improved health.

By the middle of the 1970s, women were very visible in Bahraini society. The younger, more educated urban generation discarded the abaya, drove cars, took part in political demonstrations, communicated with male colleagues from their student days and from work, and were involved in politics. They joined the Ba-this, nationalists, and radical leftist groups and organized themselves in civil, nongovernmental organizations to further social and political aims. Women's societies, female sections of sports clubs, and professional organizations gave them a role. They also aimed at achieving an equal footing with men, as the men accepted changes and the role of women in relationships between the sexes became more balanced and involved reciprocal respect and confidence. Women of that generation insisted that achievement affect their approach to relationships and their personal ambitions. Although traditional values were not openly challenged, women were confident enough to compete with men for jobs and scholarships.

The government was anxious to build the infrastructure of the Bahraini state.

Women figured as an important element in shifting control of the job market to Bahraini nationals from expatriate workers as well as for projecting a modern image abroad. This legitimized the liberalization demands by women to go out in the society and act in a manner that might otherwise have been considered unacceptable.

In spite of these many achievements, Bahraini women still had few personal and civil rights, especially in the villages and among the lower classes, which had been excluded from what was mainly an urban, middle-class social revolution. In rural areas women were unaware of their personal rights. Lack of or minimal education, economic depression, and conservative, oppressive socioreligious institutions were the overriding causes of this condition. Men supported by religion (which was also male controlled) defined and manipulated these rights to add to the oppression of women, in spite of improvement in their standard of living from overall economic development. The self-image of women reflected the men's degrading view of their status and role. This view is confirmed by respondents interviewed for this study who have been active in social work in the villages and some who had pioneered service to the rural areas through women's societies.

But even in the middle-class, change barely touched on the core issues of feminism. Women had established their right to free education and limited participation in the job market, but they were unable to gain support for legislation on behalf of a personal and family status law, nor were they able to translate their zealous enthusiasm into practical sociocultural rights for all women, regardless of class.

These middle-class women were moved by the overall sociopolitical needs of the whole society. Their initial push came through men, some in official capacities,

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such as department of education officials and reformers, but mainly through young politicized men. For that reason many of the activities of these women, through societies and personal relations, took a political approach that was often elitist and reflected competition between various political currents. These modernized young women had unconsciously distanced themselves from the realities of their society and could not reach all strata of women by traditional mechanisms. In a series of interviews with women pioneers and some active members of women's societies, their work over the last thirty years was candidly discussed. There was general agreement among them that they had failed to reach all classes of women in their activities, especially in rural areas. They had ignored the potent strength of customs and religion in the backward conditions of women, especially in rural areas. Although they succeeded to a limited extent in initiating literacy programs, opening subsidized day-care centers, and holding health and family planning lectures, they were not able to reach rural women or move women generally to a proper awareness of themselves. What often happened was that their more radical modern demands backfired when they were rejected or opposed by others."

Political groups and participation were suppressed after the 1975 unrest and many were imprisoned. Women's political activities followed suit, but the social condition of women continued to improve, especially as oil revenues increased when the economy aligned itself with the international capitalist system.

Until a few years ago Bahrain grew tremendously. Educational, health, and other services were brought to rural and urban areas, and high-rise office buildings, banks, hotels, modern residential apartments, and modern commercial complexes were built. The seafront was reclaimed to extend government land and provide additionalland for business and other development. The local economic market expanded as various corporations (monopolies by certain families of established status and wealth) were set up, and employment in the service sector increased.

In the absence of legal political activities and opposition to the political system, new sociopolitical forces developed to absorb and channel relationships that were based on economic interests. A stratum of glaringly wealthy merchant and technocrat families and high government officials, mostly from traditional merchant families and a few newly elevated families, particularly Shi'iis of Arab or Persian origin, found their way to the upper-middle class. A conglomerate of various ethnic groups also coalesced into a professional salaried and broker merchant stratum whose power was dependent on income from government-sponsored services and enterprises. A lower-middle class formed from a combination of ethnic/religious groups with minimal education whose standard of living had been raised and who found themselves constantly in search of more income while anxiously protecting what they had already acquired. Although all economic power groups were dependent for their prosperity on the relationships dictated by the values of the political structure that were tribal in origin and operated on alliances and relationships of families and on ethnic and religious affiliations, power and economic interest, the lower-middle class were the most in need of balancing these relationships. The lowest economic stratum remains in the villages, and recent developments have yet to make any substantial difference in their economic or conservative social structure. As a result, the reliance of this stratum on the political system is weakest.

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Better living conditions, including clean water, better nutrition, and health services means that a large proportion (41.2% in 1981) of the population is below fifteen years of age." The average family size, although it has diminished from a decade ago, still stands at seven and is probably larger in rural areas. Before the economic constrictions in the mid 1980s, median annual income for a family was $7,400 in rural areas and $8,670 in the towns.'? Considering family size, even accounting for wage increases in recent years and government subsidies on meat and bread, the pressures of consumer habits and raised expectations mean continuing demands for higher income. This in large part explains the growth of the number of women in the work force, which rose from 6.5 to 8.8 percent in 1991Y Middleclass young women now often regard work as normal and a needed support for the family; it is a source of income but it is also a means of achieving fulfillment. 32 For upper-class, university-educated women, work is a source of self-gratification. However, the proportion of women in the labor force remains well below what one would expect from the nation's overall economic development.

In recent years, unemployment among Bahrainis, especially in the unskilled and semiskilled sectors, has grown as a result of a slump in the oil market. Women feel that there is a tacit official understanding that men should be given priority and that women should be discouraged from working wherever men could replace them. There is also a conviction among professional women that the general employment policy of the government is to block the promotion of women even when they are better qualified and have had longer training and experience than men. They also face competition from cheap Asian labor at a time when the average family feels the need for a second income. Even though there is a strong trend toward nuclear families, the extended-family ethics in relationships, orientations, and socioeconomic support is still very strong. Working women often send their children to their parents during the day, for example, which provides a form of financial support. The core family (patriarchal base) in the extended-family structure still holds the decisions in matters of importance-for example, marriage, education, and even the veiling of girls. The economic interdependence between components of this structure is also still strong and binding. From my personal experience of having lived for five years in a village with close contacts with my neighbors, I observed that these features were still strong and still direct social behavior."

Although many Gulf women, especially among the wealthy upper class, do not work, restrictions are also dictated by customs and values: women should be housewives and mothers, they are not efficient and should not mix with men. Generally, women occupy jobs that are traditionally female: more than 20 percent of all government employees are women; the others are in education, nursing, andmore recently-banking.

In Bahrain, unlike the other Gulf states except Kuwait, a few upper-class women hold high administrative posts, but their limited number make them symbolic rather than typical. However, this situation is bound to change as more women graduate in professional and technical fields and demand employment.

Expatriates in the Gulf mainly work in the sophisticated oil-producing installations or in businesses and government posts. From early on it has been a policy to train Bahrainis to replace them, but the training of women for these jobs has been

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selective and conservative. Women continue to be trained to become teachers, nurses, and secretaries; the more specialized technical professions are still predominantly reserved for men.

The government offers free, but not compulsory, education. In the last decade this service has been extended to all areas of the country and now includes a university. Women are offered the same education as men except that they are excluded from technical and religious specialization in high schools." Scholarships to universities outside Bahrain also favor men. In spite of this, the attitude of women toward education is more serious than that of men, and this can be seen in their performance and attendance.

Laws protecting male and female Bahrainis have been promulgated and govern both the public and private sectors. Although such laws were important for absorbing Bahrainis into the economic growth of the country, they also have their drawbacks. Among women employees, particularly in the private sector, legislation governing maternity leave and employment of nationals is considered a drawback to economic viability. Once Bahrainis are employed, it is difficult to dismiss them and the process entails a long legal battle. Another complaint often directed against women employees is that they spend more time gossiping, talking on the phone, or on maternity leave than they do on the job.

In spite of the many efforts by Bahraini women lawyers, by non-government organizations and by women's societies to push for the promulgation of a personalstatus law, they have so far been unsuccessful. The opposition has always come from the religious institutions controlled by the quda, with official and some fundamentalist support behind them. When reviewing cases brought to court, especially those dealing with personal and family disputes, judgment is most often passed in favor of the man, and women are the losers. Religious law as translated by the quda reflects its conservative male bias and coercive power. Women of all social levels are subject to arbitrary judgment if they find themselves at the mercy of judges in cases involving family law, marriage, and divorce.> There have been known cases when qudas decide cases not on justice or the merit of the case but by ethnic and denominational biases. Women find themselves dependent on customs and traditions rather than on laws to protect their rights. The social standing, alliances, and economic power of the woman's family protect her rights more effectively than the law does. Women hope that education will induce men to change their attitude toward woman's rights.

This conservatism and the invoking of tradition and religion affect the view women have of themselves. Interviews with women from most strata of Bahraini society clearly indicate that the traditional role of Muslim women is a source of conflict for the more aware, educated woman trying to balance the modern world with a traditionally conservative social background. This is a dilemma for those Bahraini women who have had the liberalizing experience of the 1970s and 1980s, especially at a time when fundamentalism is growing in all Arab societies, Bahrain included. Although Gulf society has always been a religious and conservative one when compared with other parts of the Arab world, this modern return to tradition is shocking in its intensity and assertiveness, all the more so coming after a period when social change and a loosening of traditional behavior were accepted. The pervasiveness of the Islamic movement is more obvious among women because of the dress and be-

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havior required, and the young generation of women who have joined it see religion as the solution for dealing with modernization without jeopardizing the cultural and religious legacy of a society with such varied ethnic backgrounds and rapid accumulation of socioeconomic benefits. Whether Islamic fundamentalism will succeed, where previous nationalist and ideological movements have failed, and will provide justice to society and women seems debatable, but its features and the number of its adherents are increasing rapidly in Bahrain as in other Middle Eastern states. Nor are its followers only from among the economically depressed or young and impressionable women; it is starting to attract women who once considered themselves politically radical and socially liberal.


'Some examples are Azizah al-Hibri, ed., Women and Islam (New York, 1982); UNESCO, Women in the Arab World (London, 1984); Munira Fakhro, Women at Work in the Gulf (London, 1990); UNESCO, Specialists Conference on Population Policies and Arab Woman (proceedings) (Baghdad, 1989); Nikkie Keddie and Beth Baron, eds., Women in Middle Eastern History (New Haven and London, 1991); Elizabeth W. Fernea, ed., Women and the Family in the Middle East (Austin, Tex., 1985); Linda Soffan, The Women of the United Arab Emirates (New York, 1980); Lois Beck and Nikkie Keddie, ed., Women in the Muslim World (London, 1978); Badriyya al-cAwa4i, at-Mara/a wa-al-qiiniin (Woman and Law) (Kuwait, 1990); Maysun al-Wahidi, al-Mar?a al-Filastiniyya wa-al-ihtiliil al-Isrir'ill (Palestinian Women and the Israeli Occupation) (Amman, 1986); Nadia Hijab, al-Mara?a al'Arabiyva=-da-t wa ua al-taghyir (Arab Women: A Call for Change) (London, 1988); Committee for Women Action in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, proceedings of regional conferences from 1975 to 1989.

2See the work of Fatima Mernisi, Beyond the Veil (London, 1985) and The Veil and the Male Elite (New York, 1987); Institute of Arab Unity Studies, al-Mar?a wa-dawruhii fi harakat al-wahda al'Arabiyya (Woman and Her Role in the Arab Unity Movement) (Beirut, 1982), research and discussions by 15 scholars from all parts of the Arab world. See also a large number of articles by young scholars writing in Arabic, such as Baqir ai-Najjar, Haydar Ali, and Dalal al-Bizri.

3Jasim al-Sa'idun, "Al-Mustaqbal al-iqtisadi lil-khalij al-FArabi" (The Economic Future of the Arabian Gulf), al-Mustaqbal al-cArabi (July, 1992); also Jasim al-Sa'idun and CAli al-Kawari, Risiila ua 'Aqil: al-tanmiya fi aqtiir majlis al-taawun bayna ghayr al-mumkin wa-al-Mumkin ghayr al-marghiib (A Letter to a Wise Man: Development in the States of the Gulf Cooperation Council between What Is Not Possible and What Is Possible but Unacceptable) (Cairo, 1990).

4This term is used here to denote the modern structures that have emerged in the Gulf states and their philosophies of social, economic, and political development.

5Baqir al-Najjar, "Ma'Tiqat al-istikhdarn al-arnthal lil-Qiwa al-camila al-wataniyya fi al-Khalij alcArabi wa-imkaniyyat al-Hall" (Drawbacks to the Proper Utilization of National Manpower in the Arabian Gulf and Possible Solutions) in Conference of Experts on Policies for Arab Labor Mobility and Utilization (Kuwait: Economic and Social Commission for West Asia [ESCWAj and Kuwait Institute of Planning, 1985), 382, 392; see also Muhammad al-Rumaihi, "Athar al-naft cala wad" at-marva alCArabiyya fi al-Khalij" (The Effect of Oil on the Condition of Arab Women in the Gulf) in al-Mar'a wa-dawruha, 237-38.

6AI-Najjar, "MaIlqat," 382. Amal Rassam, introduction to UNESCO, Women, 4.

7 Amal Rassam, "Toward a Theoretical Framework for the Study of Women in the Arab World" in UNESCO, Women, 135.

8Farida Allaghi and Aisha Almana, "Survey of Research on Women in the Arab Gulf Region" in UNESCO, Women, 16-17. Also see Rurnaihi, "Athar al-naft" and Baqir al-Najjar, "AI-MarOa al'Arabiyya wa-tahawwulat al-nizam al-ijtima"I al-cArabi: halat al-mara al-FArabiyya al-Khalijiyya" (Arab Woman and the Changing Arab Social System: The Case of the Arab Gulf Woman), Majallat alcUlUm al-ijtima' ivya 13,4 (Winter, 1985): 155-66.

9cAbd al-Rahrnan Najm, al-Bahrain fi sadr al-lsliim wa-iithiiruhu fi harakat al-Khawiirij (Bahrain at the Dawn of Islam and Its Effect on the Khawarij Movement) (Baghdad, 1973),42-43.

426 May Seikaly

IOMuJ.lammad al-Rumaihi, Al-Bitrul wa-al-taghayyur al-ijtimai fi al-khalij al-CArabj (Oil and Social Change in the Arabian Gulf) (Kuwait, 1984), 15-16. Another important book on the modem history of Bahrain is Fuad Khuri, Tribe and State in Bahrain: The Transformation of Social and Political Authority in an Arab State (Chicago, 1980).

llThis classification polarizes the society into those with access to power owing to their racial, ethnic, economic, and political assets and those without those assets.

12cAli Taqi, "Al-Mar=a al-Bahrainiyya fi al-ta'Tim wa-al-vxmal," in Proceedings of the First Gulf Women Congress (Kuwait, 1975). Rurnaihi, al-Bitrul (Oil), 46-48. Many informants who were young at that time said the same thing.

13Hazem Beblawi, "The Rentier State in the Arab World," in The Rentier State, ed. H. Beblawi and

G. Luciani (London, 1987). This same theme has been thoroughly discussed in the writings of Sa'idun, Khuri, al-Najjar, and Rumaihi.

14State of Bahrain, Statistical Abstracts, 1990 (Bahrain, 1991), 16; Rafiqa Hammud, "Awda': al-Mar=a wa-al-tarbiya al-sukkaniyya fi al-Bahrain" (Arab Woman and Population Policy in Bahrain) (Paper presented to United Nations Conference on Population Policy in the Arab Countries, Amman, September 1991),2-3.

15This variety is very clear among the population of Bahrain where various languages, styles of dress, tastes, and habits are mingled and are natural features of the society.

160ne difference between the Arab Qabili Sunnis and the Persian/Arab (Hawala) Sunnis that is not usually mentioned is that the first group adheres to the Maliki and the second to the Shafi"i school of jurisprudence.

17This is the background of most of the educated generation now active in the intellectual and economic life of Bahrain. A large number of my interviewees came from this age group and were educated in one or more of these centers.

18Khuri, Tribe, 85-133.

19This information was supplied by women who claimed to have witnessed the event and who were able to name a particular woman who had unveiled.

2t>rhis information was repeatedly given in interviews by people of different socioeconomic levels and ages.

21Khuri, Tribe, 218-33.

22Ibid. This was confirmed by individuals involved in the activities or who at least had firsthand information of the events surrounding these debates.

230ral information from women with clear knowledge of the partisan infighting during the deliberations among the groups vying for position in the parliament.

24State of Bahrain, Statistical Abstracts 1990, 17-18.

25Fa°iza al-Zayyanr, WaqiC al-'Amal al-ijtimaii fi at-Bahrain (Condition of Social Work in Bahrain) (Bahrain, 1984), 30, Table 8.

26State of Bahrain, Statistical Abstracts 1990, 195; the figure was estimated by officials in illiteracy programs.

27State of Bahrain, Statistical Abstracts 1990, 288.

28Information from women who were organizing these events and from some of those who had at-

tended them.

29State of Bahrain, Statistical Abstracts 1990, 29. 30Hammud "Awda"." 5.

31State of ~ahrai~, Statistical Abstracts 1990, 284-88. Also see al-Najjar, "AI-MarOa al-CArabiyya," 161, and Hammud, "Awda"," 13.

32Ibid., 14, and Nahid CUsayran, "Silrat al-Maru fi al-Mujtarna" al-Bahraini" (Image of Woman in Bahraini Society) (Paper presented to the Fifth Regional Conference on Women in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, Bahrain, 1989), 17-21.

33 AI-Najjar, "Ma'iuqat," 392-95.

34Mariam al-Sulaiti, Development of Girls' Education System in Bahrain 1928-1984 (Bahrain, 1988), 60-61. In this book the author reviews the curriculum at all levels; see also Hammud, "Awda': ," 7. 35Information from firsthand knowledge by individuals and from court cases relayed by lawyers involved in them.