'Our Women on the Ground:' a book that gives voice to Arab female war journalists

Journalist Zahra Hankir began collecting reports of conflicts in the Middle East in 2010. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 August 2019

'Our Women on the Ground:' a book that gives voice to Arab female war journalists

CHICAGO: Journalist Zahra Hankir began collecting reports of conflicts in the Middle East in 2010 before she decided to put this anthology, “Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World” together. From nineteen sahafiya, women journalists, are accounts of their tireless work to report the news from some of the most dangerous conflict zones in the world. From different backgrounds and experiences, these journalists have risked their lives for “their pursuit of truth and their desire to disseminate it,” Hankir states. 

While there are disadvantages to being a female journalist at times, dealing with male egos, misogyny, and social restrictions, there are also many advantages, as Hannah Allam points out when reporting in Iraq. After years of warfare, more than half the population of the country was female in 2006, shifting the dynamics of Iraqi society into the hands of resilient women, who ran households and put themselves in harm’s way for their children. Heba Shibani followed Libyan women whose children faced deportation because of laws that did not allow women to pass on their Libyan citizenship to their children, and Zaina Erhaim had access to women in Idlib to tell their stories when none of her male counterparts could. 

Within the accounts, no sahafiya is short of heroic, as they’ve challenged gender biases for their space in the media world, like Eman Helal and Amira Al-Sharif, with their cameras in their hands in Egypt and Yemen respectively. Lina Attalah, too, fights conservative society to do her job.

Many of these journalist have had to grapple with themselves to understand why they do what they do after years of reporting on traumatic events. Nour Malas, for instance, struggles with her professional and personal self, Hind Hassan had trouble understanding her family until she began reporting, and Shamael Elnoor believes journalism is “our destiny, and we remain ever devoted to it.” Asmaa al-Ghoul and Nada Bakri have dodged bullets and, like Aida Alami, lost friends and loved ones, and Natacha Yazbeck finds that sometimes “it’s not just war. It’s the rest of the world that leaves you traumatized.” 

From herculean careers, like Jane Arraf becoming Baghdad’s first bureau chief in 1998 and Donna Abu Nasr becoming AP’s first Saudi bureau chief in 2008, to Zeina Karam who began her career in 1996 and Roula Khalaf who reported from Algeria in 1995, reporting has changed them, as they’ve moved through the world and its conflicts. Hwaida Saad’s contact list has dwindled over the years as informants joined Daesh, fled to Europe, or died, and Lina Sinjab who, despite being blacklisted in Syria, continues to fight for justice. 

From Lebanon to Marrakesh to Iraq, their lives have been forever altered, as Arab women who have forced themselves into public spaces to be heard. Their lives begin and end with their reporting, and because of the nature of their job, tomorrow is never guaranteed. Their bravery goes beyond these pages and this anthology will undoubtedly be one of the most important reads today. 

Manal Shakir is the author of "Magic Within” published by Harper Collins India.

Rita Ora shows love for Arab fashion in London 

The singer was spotted wearing a shirt dress by Rami Kadi. (Getty Images)
Updated 18 September 2019

Rita Ora shows love for Arab fashion in London 

DUBAI: Earlier this week, celebrities descended on YouTube & LOVE magazine’s London Fashion Week party, including the likes of Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Rita Ora — who chose to sport a Lebanese minidress on the occasion. 

Models and pop stars partied the night away at London’s The Standard Hotel on Monday night and Ora dazzled in a Pied-de-Coq patterned outfit from Lebanese designer Rami Kadi’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection, dubbed “Ometeo.”

The semi-sheer shirt dress featured pale yellow and ice blue patternwork and Ora paired the outfit with a wide brimmed hat and knee-high black boots. 

The outfit was styled by Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn. 

Rita Ora is no stranger to the Middle East and has performed in the Gulf a few times. (Getty Images)

Young Lebanese designer Kadi has become known for his cutting-edge style and often uses unexpected materials in his work — his latest collection features plexi glass in neon shades. The talent is becoming more and more popular with international celebrities and has already dressed the likes of pop legend Jennifer Lopez and Portuguese model Sara Sampaio, with Ora becoming the latest in a long list of leading ladies to turn to Kadi for sartorial advice. 

Besides her fashion choices, Ora has shown love for the Middle East in other ways — including filming her latest music video in Dubai. 

The singer unveiled the video for her single “New Look” in July and Dubai residents were quick to spot their stomping grounds in the clip. 

One of the neighborhoods to feature in the music video was Meydan — home to Dubai’s premiere racecourse, as well as a clutch of popular party spots.

Ora also performed at The Assembly - the Global Teacher Prize Concert in Dubai in March and at Base, the open-air club in the artsy Dubai Design District, last year.

In 2018, the award-winning singer found time for a quick Instagram-friendly workout in the gym of her Bahrain hotel before going on to wow crowds at the island’s annual Spring of Culture Festival.

The 27-year-old rose to fame in 2012 when she featured on DJ Fresh’s UK Number One “Hot Right Now.” Her self-titled debut album, released in August that year, also went to Number One and featured hits including “How We Do (Party),” “R.I.P.” and “Shine Ya Light.”