Tracing the Origins of Early Feminism in the Arab World

Al-Fatah magazine was the first Arab women’s periodical. First published on 20 Nov 1892.

Asma Char
University of Exeter

The 1938 and 1944 pan-Arab conferences in Cairo, Egypt, were the events that “cement[ed] Arab feminist consciousness” (Golley, 2004) and the feminist debate was to erupt in the Arab world from the 1950s onwards. Hadidi and Al-Qadi have since investigated pioneering women’s writing in Syria and acknowledge the existence of new-woman characters, but they argue that the phenomenon only appeared in fiction from the 1970s onwards. They write: “[the] new woman is a type of female character almost wholly absent in previous periods; she starts to appear in the novels of the 1970s, which opened up to collective concerns and constructed fictional worlds based on the political and social reality in Syria and the Arab world” (2008, 87). Arab women’s feminist struggle, however, appeared much earlier — within fin-de-siècle Arabic fiction.  Continue reading “Tracing the Origins of Early Feminism in the Arab World”