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Until very recently, it seemed it was just a matter of time before women achieved equality with men.However, the Islamic resurgence of the 1970s has threatened the gains that women have made.Women achieved something approximating legal equality with men under the forceful leadership of the charismatic nationalist heroes Kemal Ataturk (in Turkey in the 1920s) and Habib Bourguiba (in Tunisia in the 1950s), under the Shah of Iran in the 1960s, and in the Marxist states of the Peoples' Democratic Republic of South Yemen and Somalia in the 1970s.
Thus, the influence of European powers, which dominated the Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries both politically and culturally, did not lead to an abandonment of Islamic law in the areas of family law and inheritance even though other areas of law were being Westernized through the borrowing of European law codes.
Legal issues involving women's status in the Middle East tend to be quite different from those in the West.
Although there are feminist organizations in Middle Eastern countries, they tend to be small and to lack significant input into the political process.
Since obtaining their independence from Europe, most Middle Eastern governments have undertaken legal reforms directed at reducing the inequalities between men and women, but they have had to face strong opposition from Muslim clerics (the ulama or fuqaha) as well as from other conservative religious forces, who charge them with violating the Divine Law.
The greatest progress in law reform has been thus achieved by governments which were least dependent on the good will of the Muslim clergy.