Yemeni filmmaker uses her tortured past to help women

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Updated 09 April 2013
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Yemeni filmmaker uses her tortured past to help women

Khadija Al-Salami, Yemen's first female filmmaker, had a tough struggle growing up. The 47-year-old had to endure betrayal, torture and other abuses in her formative years.
“I had a very painful childhood. My father was a doctor, but then he became mentally ill because of the war going on at the time, making him extremely violent toward my mother."
When she turned 11, she was forced by her uncle into an early marriage. “At one point, I tried to commit suicide to escape from it. However, with my mother’s support I was able to withstand this appalling phase of my life and get a divorce.”
Putting that dreadful chapter far behind her, she found a job with the only television channel presenting children’s programs. She also went to school in the mornings. “It wasn’t easy for me because I had to work and support my mother at the same time because we were disowned by the family.”
Despite this huge and sudden responsibility on her young shoulders, she managed to get good grades and got a scholarship to study in the United States. “Right after high school I decided to move abroad for higher studies. It wasn’t a difficult choice to make because I already had my goals and what I wanted to do with my life. I knew deep within that I just wanted to go to the United States," Al-Salami says.
She often had to face abuse at school. “When I told my classmates about my plans for the future, they simply laughed and would say ‘keep dreaming’ to my face. It was quite embarrassing.”
She has vivid childhood memories of how her fellow country women were enslaved and beaten. “Life was so unfair for women when I was growing up and sadly it still remains so," she says.
When she was studying in the US pursuing her dreams, she yearned for her homeland. She wanted to shed light on her country's problems with her films. “I chose filmmaking because I wanted to tell stories and maybe raise awareness and bring about change, “she says.
Al-Salami has made 20 influential documentaries so far, but the most touching one has been the heartrending story of Amina Al-Tuhaif, the woman who was falsely imprisoned for her husband's murder. “Amina’s tragedy needed to be told to wake up Yemeni society. When I found out that she was a victim, I couldn’t help but get involved to fight for her life." Her film, entitled "Amina," helped to get the woman released from prison.
Her latest film, “The Scream,” which premiered at the Ninth annual Dubai International Film Festival last year, also garnered a lot of attention. “The film is about thousands of women who fearlessly came out to scream about the pain and oppression they have been carrying with them for centuries. It also showed their anguish against the regime that made them suffer and deprived them of their basic rights as human beings," she says.
She has faced lots of opposition for her work. She has never been physically attacked, but has faced verbal abuse and insults. Some had even threatened to kill her. "However, I have received several compliments from others who admire my films," she says.
She feels strongly about girls being forced to marry. “When I hear about girls being married at an early age, I feel quite devastated because every time it happens, it brings back bad memories and reminds me of my painful experiences when I was their age," she says. “The psychological impact of it all is terrible. They start to feel desperate and hate everything around them.”
Her foundation “My Future.org” is playing an active role by providing education for these youngsters. “We can protect these girls by giving them a good education. That’s why I have dedicated my life to combat these actions against young girls and women in traditional societies. I even helped young girls get divorced and placed them in school. Education is a tool that will help free them.”
“I was very disappointed when the Islamic Party in Yemen blocked the law prohibiting marriage before the age of 17 with the help of some tribal leaders in 2009," she says. "It’s a long battle but I have faith we are going to win it."
“The reform cannot come from male politicians. It will have to come from women who dare to come out and challenge the authorities. It feels good to see that women are finally valiant enough to cry foul over injustices. They just need to keep their fighting spirit alive.”
Asked about her life so far and what she still wants to do, she says: “I am very satisfied with my life when I look back at where I came from. With hard work and determination nothing is impossible."
“It’s hard to predict where Yemen will be in the next five years, but my personal wish is to see Yemen more stable, secure and making progress in solving economic issues. A good quality education is vital because it will expose the new generation to progressive and healthy thinking. They will then view the world differently," she said.
She says the other big challenge facing Yemen is the law and order situation. "Whenever I get a chance, I visit my homeland, I can't stop myself from going there. In terms of security, it's getting worse because the country is going through a lot of changes politically and economically. It will take time to solve all the problems. This is only possible as long as the politicians govern with complete integrity without worrying about personal gain."

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Mo Salah’s wife: Egyptian women’s icon who shuns limelight

Updated 18 September 2019

Mo Salah’s wife: Egyptian women’s icon who shuns limelight

  • Salah prefers to keep his private life in general away from the glare of the media

CAIRO: Magi Sadeq, 25, is known for keeping a low profile in the media compared to the wives of other footballers. 

The wife of Liverpool and Egypt star Mohamed Salah has become something of a celebrity in her own right after appearing with her husband while maintaining a conservative look.

Salah prefers to keep his private life in general away from the glare of the media, but sometimes there is no escaping the spotlight for his wife and daughter.

Sadeq appeared with her husband at celebrations held by the Confederation of African Football when Salah won the African Player of the Year award. She also appeared with their daughter Makka during celebrations marking Salah’s winning of the Premier League Golden Boot award, and after Liverpool won the 2019 UEFA Champions League.

Sadeq was born and raised in Nagrig, a village in Gharbia where Salah was also born. It is the same place where they like to spend their holidays and special occasions whenever they have the chance.

FASTFACT

Sadeq appeared with her husband at celebrations held by the Confederation of African Football when Salah won the African Player of the Year award.

She has a twin sister, Mohab, and two other sisters, Mahy and Miram. Their parents were both teachers at Mohamed Eyad Al-Tantawi School, where she met the future Egyptian international.

Sadeq, who maintains a simple lifestyle, fell in love with Salah 10 years before they married. Their love story was the talk of the town where they lived.

They were married in 2013 as the player started taking his first steps in Europe with Swiss football club Basel. They married when he returned home for his first holiday.  

She keeps her husband connected to his rural roots. She doesn’t have any social media accounts, and unlike other footballer’s wives, she is not interested in appearance and makeup. She prefers to wear body-covering conservative clothes.

Sadeq and her twin sister both obtained their degrees in biotechnology from Alexandria University. She is responsible for her husband’s charity work in Egypt. Her neighbors say that she helps in buying the necessary home appliances and other needs of newly married couples. She also supervises charity work and regularly attends the special events staged by her village even though she has been made busier after her husband joined Liverpool.

Salah once said of his wife: “I am unfair to Magi as I give her the least of my time due to the nature of my work. I would like to thank her for her support and for being in my life.”