First Ladies, Authoritarian Rule & the Covid response in the Middle East & North Africa

By Nadine Kreitmeyr
Submitted to Session P6663 (Pandemics and Covid-19: Surveillance, Governance, and Control, 2021 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
All Middle East;
Gender/Women's Studies;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
This paper analyzes the political roles and policy-making of authoritarian first ladies during the Covid pandemic of 2020 in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In so doing, it aims to contribute to a better understanding of first lady politics and (de-)legitimation under authoritarianism which is a largely under-researched field.
Contrary to the very active role of first ladies in the MENA region in many policy areas in the past decade, first ladies have been rather quiet during the current pandemic. This is even more surprising given that female leadership worldwide has been highly praised during the current pandemic. This paper inquires into this puzzle through a case study of Queen Rania of Jordan. It presents the findings of the analysis of the activities, speeches and other public appearances of Queen Rania between March 2020 and February 2021 and contextualizes those in the political action taking by her husband and her son, i.e. the King and the Crown Prince.