How do women's rights activists mobilize in nondemocratic and culturally conservative contexts? Why do some women's movements succeed in securing the policy outcomes they seek while others fail to realize their objectives? Comparing two recent cases of feminist activism in the Middle East/North Africa region—the Moroccan and Iranian campaigns for family law reform—the article demonstrates the way that political opportunity structures shape the strategic options available to activists and influence movement frames. While a political opening is conducive to movement growth and success, including cooperation for legal and policy reform (Morocco), the closing of political space compels extrainstitutional feminist contention and transnational links (Iran). In examining the structure of political opportunity in addition to strategic choices, the paper addresses the interplay of structure and agency in mobilization processes and finds that—to paraphrase Marx—women and men make history, but not under conditions of their own choosing.

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