Women in Authoritarian Regimes

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Women in Authoritarian Regimes

10th March 2022 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Women’s rights are seldom considered a priority in authoritarian regimes; from the domestic abuse laws in Russia which stipulate that the first time a husband beats his wife he merely receives a fine, to the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women in Xinjiang Province, China, women are second-class citizens in several countries of the world.

The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to welcome you to the panel discussion, which will address this troubling development, addressing how women are trying to fight back against these oppressive regimes and demanding the introduction of more safeguards to protect them.



Rahima Mahmut is an Uyghur singer, human rights activist, and award-winning translator of the poignant prison memoir The Land Drenched in Tears by Soyungul Chanisheff. She translated the testimonies of survivors during the Uyghur Tribunal and is a prominent voice for Uyghurs in the UK. Rahima’s work includes producing music for award-winning Al Jazeera documentary ‘Living in the Unknown,’ working as a consultant and translator for the Bafta-winning ITV documentary ‘Undercover: Inside China’s Digital Gulag,’ and translator for the BBC documentary ‘China: A New World Order.’ She is currently UK Director of the World Uyghur Congress, Executive Director of Stop Uyghur Genocide, and an Advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.



Dr Jennifer Mathers is a Senior Lecturer and former Head of the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University. She holds degrees from Mount Holyoke College (US) and Oxford University. Her research and teaching expertise spans area studies (Russia, Ukraine), gender studies and security studies as well as international relations. She regularly writes for The Conversation and is frequently invited by the BBC and other broadcast media outlets to comment on breaking news stories. She has advised policymakers at the highest levels in both the US and the UK and attended the 2014 Wales NATO Summit at the invitation of the UK Prime Minister’s Office. She gave a talk at the 2021 Hay Festival on “Women and Leadership”. Her recent publications include: “Women, War and Austerity: IFIs and the Construction of Gendered Economic Insecurities in Ukraine”, Review of International Political Economy (2020); “Medals and American Heroic Military Masculinity after 9/11” in Heroism and Global Politics edited by Veronica Kitchen and Jennifer Mathers (2018); “Even The Toys Are Demanding Free Elections: Humour and the Politics of Creative Protest in Russia” in Cultural Forms of Protest in Russia edited by Alexander Etkind et al (2018). She is currently writing a book that examines the ongoing crisis in Ukraine from a feminist security studies perspective.



Zahra Nader is an Afghan journalist who covers women’s stories in Afghanistan. She is a contributing reporter for the Fuller Project, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to women’s stories. She has worked as a journalist for almost seven years in Kabul, working for local and international media, including The New York Times. She has written for the Times Magazine, the Guardian, the Foreign Policy Magazine, ABC News, Deutsche Welle, Huffington Post, BBC Persian and Open Canada.

She is currently based in Toronto, Canada, pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies at York University. Her PhD research focuses on the political history of Afghan women.



Isabel Sawkins is a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. She has a BA in Modern Languages at Durham University and an MA in Political Sociology of Russia and Eastern Europe at UCL. She is currently completing a PhD on Holocaust memory in the Russian Federation at the University of Exeter, funded by the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council). Isabel has presented her research at numerous international conferences. She has also published her findings in academic journals, as well as contributing to online media outlets. Isabel’s most recent accomplishment was the curation of an online exhibition about a Nazi death camp in occupied Poland.





On the 10th of March Isabel Sawkins, Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, Dr Jennifer Mathers, Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University, Zahra Nader, journalist and PhD candidate at York university, and Rahima Mahmut, Executive Director of Stop Uyghur Genocide, discussed the decline in women’s rights in authoritarian countries like China and Russia and what can be done to reverse it.

Isabel Sawkins began the discussion by introducing the topic and the speakers. Dr Mathers spoke about her research on Women’s rights in Russia and how feminism is not popular as a result of the Soviet Union. She argued that the Russian invasion of Ukraine war is boosting feminism and that soldier’s mothers are playing a key role in the anti-war movement. Zahra Nader spoke on the plight of women in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power and how they have been deprived of their rights. She argued that in the face of intensified Taliban repression women are still putting up resistance. Rahima Mahmut discussed her experiencing working to help save Uyghurs from genocide. She spoke of how Uyghur women suffer greatly from forced abortions, sterilisation, forced into inter-ethnic marriages and how communist officials are placed in their homes. Rahima Mahmut stated that the Chinese government is targeting Uyghur women in order to destroy their culture.

The discussion then closed with questions from the audience about, what can the West do for Russian, Afghan and Uyghur women, how can economic power be used to help these women and whether the women of these countries will have a better future.





10th March 2022
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


United Kingdom


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