Jawaher AlMheiri has a message for young Arabs: Be courageous, pursue your dreams, grab every opportunity

Jawaher Al-Mehairi speaks six languages, has a bachelor’s degree in aviation management, a post-graduate diploma in diplomacy and is adept at statistical optimization. (Supplied)
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Jawaher Al-Mehairi speaks six languages, has a bachelor’s degree in aviation management, a post-graduate diploma in diplomacy and is adept at statistical optimization. (Supplied)
Saudi women take part in a cycling race to mark World Obesity Day celebration in Riyadh’s Princess Nura University. (AFP/File Photo)
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Saudi women take part in a cycling race to mark World Obesity Day celebration in Riyadh’s Princess Nura University. (AFP/File Photo)
Kuwaiti Rawah Al-Saeid competes in the high jump during Kuwait's first women's athletics tournament in 2020. (AFP/File Photo)
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Kuwaiti Rawah Al-Saeid competes in the high jump during Kuwait's first women's athletics tournament in 2020. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 17 September 2021

Jawaher AlMheiri has a message for young Arabs: Be courageous, pursue your dreams, grab every opportunity

Jawaher AlMheiri has a message for young Arabs: Be courageous, pursue your dreams, grab every opportunity
  • Jawaher AlMheiri embodies the spirit of a Middle East generation that seems ready to shape its own destiny
  • She has earned a place in the “impact” category of this year’s 30 Under 30 list of Forbes Middle East

DUBAI: The example set by young Emirati woman Jawaher AlMheiri is an inspirational one, if perhaps a little intimidating. She speaks six languages, has a bachelor’s degree in aviation management, a post-graduate diploma in diplomacy and is adept at statistical optimization — all by the age of 28.

This month she saw off competition from 300 other candidates to earn a place in the “impact” category of this year’s 30 Under 30 list published by Forbes Middle East, which recognizes the achievements of young people from the region and their great potential to help shape the future.

Her inclusion highlights the fact that she is an outstanding example of the talented young Arabs, many of them women, who are changing the face of their region and breaking new ground as they increasingly take control of their own destinies.

She is following in the footsteps of other pioneering Arab women such as 42-year-old Razan Khalifa Al-Mubarak, the managing director of both Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency and the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.

Earlier this month, Al-Mubarak was elected president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one of the largest and best-known conservation bodies in the world. She is only the second woman to lead the institution in its 73-year history, and the first Arab woman.




AlMheiri’s advice to Arab young bloods is that they believe in themselves and their abilities, have the courage to pursue their dreams and grab the opportunities that come their way. (AFP/File Photo)

AlMheiri has similar ambitions to make a difference in the world, and a message for all young women in the region: Have the courage to pursue your dreams and grab the opportunities that come your way.

Her journey began at the age of 18 when she started dedicating her days to studying for a bachelor’s degree in aviation management at Emirates Aviation University in Dubai, and her evenings to a part-time job in finance at Al Ansari Exchange.

“My job was different to my major because it was the only available option,” AlMheiri told Arab News. “But it was a good field and I wanted to keep up with being independent given that my studies were not very cheap.

“I knew my parents would do their best and cover my expenses but I felt very responsible to not become an additional burden on them — I have eight siblings and they had to take care of their education.”

She was making just Dh4,000 ($1,100) a month but was pleased to be earning a wage by the age of 18. Her ambition and drive set her apart from many of her peers, shaping her personality, her thoughts and her behavior.

“I became more mature,” said AlMheiri. “I wanted to keep learning and I knew that if I started my career at an early age it would definitely pay off later.”




Salwa's Shorouq Basha (R) competes for the ball with al-Qadeseyya's Shorouq Salem, during the 3rd women futsal league, at the Kuwait Sports Club in Kuwait City. (AFP/File Photo)

After graduating at the age of 21 she joined the engineering center of Emirates Airline as a business-development specialist, where she gained valuable experience. Her daily tasks included the development and interpretation of scenarios to support maintenance facilities, providing support to management and helping to shape strategic policies.

“I was very much into using applied statistical methods, which was very different to the theory I learned at university,” she said. “I worked with optimization methods to interpret scenarios and I truly enjoyed it.”

AlMheiri continued to gain experience and learn and, three years later, her professional interest shifted toward international affairs and diplomacy. A year earlier, while still working full time for Emirates, she had been appointed to Dubai Youth Council, and as part of her duties she represented local young people in front of the nation’s leaders, and at international events.

“I felt this was something I enjoyed and I would want to have a career out of it,” she said.

In the months that followed she represented the UAE at events overseas on several occasions, most notably at the UN Youth Assembly in New York, and at the Asian Youth Assembly of the Malaysia Urban Forum. The experience she gained at such gatherings gave her the confidence to pursue a career in diplomacy.

In 2017 AlMheiri successfully applied for a job as a junior diplomat at the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and began studying for a post-graduate diploma at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy in Abu Dhabi.

FASTFACTS

* The men and women on Forbes Middle East’s 30 Under 30 list have demonstrated considerable achievements and great potential for the future.

* They are inspiring younger and older generations, bringing their ideas to life, and proving that decades of experience are not needed to make a difference.

* The 2021 list features 38 individuals from 20 nationalities, who are based across 11 countries in the Middle East.

She quickly began to climb the career ladder at the ministry and became a senior economic specialist in charge of the UAE-US economic file. In September last year she was promoted again and became head of the Asian economic affairs section.

“My role is about promoting and facilitating economic interests, organizing economic platforms, and researching key issues impacting the UAE’s economic and trade relations,” AlMheiri said. “And because it’s a senior position, I also have to supervise and support my fellow diplomats.”

Her dreams and ambitions, and determination to further her personal development, do not end there. This month, she began a paid sabbatical during which she will undertake two years of study for a master’s degree in international affairs at Columbia University in New York, with a focus on international finance and economic policy.

“I took this bold step because I never expected to be associated with one of the Ivy League universities,” she said. “It was something in my mind because, in our nation, nothing is impossible — but I was under the impression that I would have to be a graduate of an Ivy League university (to be accepted for postgraduate studies).

“But what I am living at the moment proves that this point of view is wrong; I am here and I am motivating people to pursue their education and to try to join these universities.”




Saudi women walk past a mural painting showing King Salman on Tahliya street in the capital Riyadh. (AFP/File Photo)

AlMheiri said she was not intimidated by the notion that only certain types of people can enroll in such elite universities. She trusted herself and her abilities when she took the step to apply for a place at one of them and accept the challenge of improving herself, intellectually.

“I want to make the best out of this experience,” she said. “What pushed me is the support I received from work.”

Columbia awarded AlMheiri a fellowship that covers 70 percent of her tuition fees. The UAE Ministry of Education covered the remaining 30 percent, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation continues to pay her salary while she studies.

The announcement last week that Forbes has recognized her professional achievements by awarding her a place on its 30 Under 30 list, is testament to her success at building a successful career at a young age and her growing responsibilities.

“Now, I am not just responsible for representing myself or my family, it’s the region itself,” she said. “So, I have to make sure people in the region are inspired and I am representing them.”

AlMheiri spoke of the overwhelming support for female empowerment she has felt from leaders in the UAE, and across the Gulf, which is enabling growing numbers of young people to pursue their dreams in ways that can make themselves — and their countries and region — proud.




UAE astronaut Nora Al-Matrooshi looks on during a press conference in Dubai on July 7, 2021, she is the first Arab woman to start training to be an astronaut. (AFP/File Photo)

“I see all of this as a token of us giving back to our nations,” AlMheiri said. “They made sure we received the right education, support and recognition, so whenever these kinds of opportunities are presented, I personally make sure I try my luck and I am grateful things are working out in a very beautiful way. I feel I am working toward the right thing.”

AlMheiri’s advice to Arab young bloods is that they believe in themselves and their abilities, have the courage to pursue their dreams and grab the opportunities that come their way.

“I was one of those people who had to learn to trust myself in pursuing my dreams and achieving what I wished to achieve,” she said. “Don’t undermine yourself. Even if it’s a small thing, you should go for it. The region has a lot of talent under the age of 30.

“We’re all young, we have the energy, and if we come together with the same mindset and the same energy, we can really make the changes that we would like to see in the world.”


Families of Beirut blast victims back judge amid pressure

Families of Beirut blast victims back judge amid pressure
Updated 5 sec ago

Families of Beirut blast victims back judge amid pressure

Families of Beirut blast victims back judge amid pressure
BEIRUT: The families of the victims of Beirut’s massive port blast last year reaffirmed Saturday their support for the judge leading the investigation into the explosion, despite increasing calls for his ouster by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies.
The families’ statement was apparently meant to counter a video released by their spokesman on social media late Friday in which he calls on Judge Tarek Bitar to step down.
The spokesman, Ibrahim Hoteit, could not be reached for comment. It was unclear if he had made the video under pressure. The families said he had not coordinated with them, which he always does before making public announcement, and that the video took them by surprise.
Since the August 2020 explosion at Beirut’s port that killed at least 215 people, the families of the victims have taken on an increasingly prominent role in Lebanon with their demands for accountability. After the blast, it emerged from documents that several senior politicians and security chiefs knew of the hundreds of tons of highly combustible ammonium nitrate stored haphazardly in a port warehouse and did nothing about it.
On Thursday, gunbattles erupted on Beirut streets between two camps opposing and supporting the judge in the probe, killed seven and wounded dozens.
The violence broke out at a protest organized by Hezbollah and Amal groups, which have called for Bitar’s removal. The two groups have suggested the investigation is heading toward holding them responsible for the blast.
“We, the families of more than 200 martyrs and thousands of injured and hundreds of thousands of people who suffered damages, have put our faith in investigative judge Tarek Bitar,” the families said.
In the video, the spokesman demands the judge step down because “the situation has turned into shedding of the blood of innocent people” — a reference to Thursday’s violence. The spokesman’s younger brother was killed in the port explosion.
Judge Bitar has charged and issued arrests warrant for Lebanon’s former ministers of finance and public works, both close allies of Hezbollah. Bitar has charged the two, along with another former minister and prime minister, with intentional killing and negligence that led to the blast.

Iranian court upholds new 1-year sentence for Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Iranian court upholds new 1-year sentence for Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Updated 16 October 2021

Iranian court upholds new 1-year sentence for Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Iranian court upholds new 1-year sentence for Zaghari-Ratcliffe
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has already served a five-year prison sentence in Iran
  • Her lawyer said the appeals court upheld a verdict issued earlier this year sentencing her to another year

TEHRAN: An Iranian appeals court has upheld a verdict sentencing an Iranian-British woman long held in Tehran to another year in prison, her lawyer said Saturday.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has already served a five-year prison sentence in the Islamic Republic. Her lawyer Hojjat Kermani told The Associated Press that the appeals court upheld a verdict issued earlier this year sentencing her to another year.
The verdict additionally includes a one-year travel ban abroad, meaning she cannot leave Iran to join her family for nearly two years.
In April, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced for allegedly spreading “propaganda against the system” when she participated in a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009.
Kermani said Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “concerned” when he informed her about the appeals court decision. He said his client is in touch with her family.
State media in Iran did not immediately acknowledge the ruling, apparently issued after a closed-door hearing.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny. While employed at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, she was taken into custody at the Tehran airport in April 2016 as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family.
Rights groups accuse Iran of holding dual-nationals as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West, something Tehran denies. Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so detainees like Zaghari-Ratcliffe cannot receive consular assistance.
Authorities furloughed Zaghari-Ratcliffe from prison because of the surging coronavirus pandemic and she has been restricted to her parents’ Tehran home since.


Arab coalition says 160 Houthis killed, 11 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia

Arab coalition says 160 Houthis killed, 11 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia
Updated 16 October 2021

Arab coalition says 160 Houthis killed, 11 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia

Arab coalition says 160 Houthis killed, 11 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia
  • Abedia is a district in Yemen’s Marib which has been under a Houthi siege since Sept. 23
  • The coalition added that it continues to support the Yemeni army in its efforts to protect civilians from Houthi violations

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Saturday that 160 Houthis had been killed and 11 military vehicles destroyed in operations in Abedia.

The coalition said it had carried out 32 operations targeting Houthis in Marib’s Abedia district over the past 24 hours.

Abedia is a district in Yemen’s Marib which has been under a Houthi siege since Sept. 23, hindering the movement of civilians and impeding humanitarian aid flows.

The coalition added that it continues to support the Yemeni army in its efforts to protect civilians from Houthi violations.

The coalition announced on Friday that it had killed over 180 Houthis and destroyed ten military vehicles in similar operations in Abedia.


Turkish soldiers beat Afghan asylum seekers, force returns to Iran, claims HRW

Turkish soldiers beat Afghan asylum seekers, force returns to Iran, claims HRW
Updated 16 October 2021

Turkish soldiers beat Afghan asylum seekers, force returns to Iran, claims HRW

Turkish soldiers beat Afghan asylum seekers, force returns to Iran, claims HRW
  • The practice is in violation of international law and some families have been separated as a result: HRW
  • Some people had their bones broken as a result of the force used by Turkish soldiers

LONDON: Turkish authorities are violently returning Afghan asylum seekers from Iran as soon as they arrive in Turkey, Human Rights Watch has said.

The practice is in violation of international law and some families have been separated as a result, the rights organization said. 

Six Afghans, five of whom were pushed back, told HRW that the Turkish army had severely beat them and their fellow travelers and expelled them in groups of 50 to 300 people as they tried to cross the border into Turkey.

Some people had their bones broken as a result of the force used. 

“Turkish authorities are denying Afghans trying to flee to safety the right to seek asylum,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW. “Turkish soldiers are also brutally mistreating the Afghans while unlawfully pushing them back.”

“EU member states should not consider Turkey a safe third country for Afghan asylum seekers and should suspend all deportations and forced returns of Afghan nationals, including to third countries like Turkey where their rights would not be respected,” Wille said.

“They should also ensure that Afghans entering the EU via Turkey have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures,” he added.

HRW said it had remotely interviewed six Afghans between Sept. 25 and Oct. 11. Five of them were hiding in Turkey to avoid being expelled to Iran, and one had been forcibly returned to Iran for a third time. All had fled Afghanistan shortly before or after Aug. 15, when the Taliban took control of Kabul.

The Afghans said they had traveled through Pakistan and Iran, and that Iranian smugglers took them to the border with Turkey in the middle of the night and told them to run across. Turkish soldiers fired above their heads and two said they were brutally beaten by soldiers.

One of the Afghans said he successfully remained in Turkey on his first attempt while another had been deported back to Iran. The other four said Turkish soldiers forced them back up to three times before they succeeded in remaining in Turkey.

Two said that Turkish forces destroyed their possessions, and those of everyone in the group they were expelled with. 

“Once they arrested us, they confiscated our phones, money, food, and anything else we were carrying and burned all of our things in a big fire,” one woman said. “I assume they did this to send the message that we should not try to cross the border again.” 

One man said they stripped the men in his group down to their underwear, burned their clothes and belongings, and then forcibly returned them.

Another man said that soldiers beat them with the butts of their guns and that several men in his group had broken hands, arms, and legs from the cruel beatings.

Another man said he saw Turkish soldiers beating people he had crossed with and that they were covered in blood and had wounds to their heads.

“They beat me for about 20 minutes with the butts of their guns and sticks, leaving me bleeding,” he said.

One woman said that on her third attempt to cross into Turkey with her two children, her brother, his wife, and their child, Turkish soldiers detained her brother and his wife and expelled them, leaving their child with her.

Turkey hosts the world’s largest number of refugees including 3.7 million from Syria who have been granted temporary protection status, and over 400,000 refugees and migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. 

HRW has previously documented illegal pushbacks and beatings of asylum seekers, including returning refugees to Syria.

The organization said that while most people interviewed said they were forcibly returned close to the border, one man said that he and eight of his relatives were deported after they went to a local immigration office in Turkey after feeling ill.

“When we got there, the authorities arrested us and took our phones and turned them off, so the rest of our family had no idea what happened to us,” he said.

“They held us for two nights and one day, and only fed us twice … after the second night they put us onto buses with about 100 other people and drove us to the border. One soldier at the border told us, ‘here is the border. Don’t come back. If you do, we will beat you.’”


Iran sentences ex-central bank chief to 10 years in prison

Iran sentences ex-central bank chief to 10 years in prison
Updated 16 October 2021

Iran sentences ex-central bank chief to 10 years in prison

Iran sentences ex-central bank chief to 10 years in prison
  • Besides violating the currency system, Valliollah Seif also had a role in smuggling foreign currency

TEHRAN: A court sentenced the former governor of Iran’s central bank to 10 years in prison for violating the country’s currency system, a judiciary spokesperson said Saturday.
Besides violating the currency system, Valliollah Seif also had a role in smuggling foreign currency, judiciary spokesman Zabihollah Khodaeian told state TV.
Ahmad Araghchi, a then-deputy to Seif, was sentenced to eight years on the same charges, Khodaeian said. Eight others were also sentenced to various prison terms, he said. All of the defendants have the right to appeal.
Seif was governor of Iran’s central bank for five years until 2018 under former President Hassan Rouhani. Araghchi was his deputy from 2017 to 2018.
State TV said they were involved in violations of the currency market in 2016, a time when the Iranian rial sustained considerable losses in value against major foreign currencies.
The defendants illegally injected $160 million and 20 million euros into the market, state TV said.
The rial exchange rate was at 39,000 to $1 in 2017 at the beginning of Araghchi’s time in office but it reached more than 110,000 to $1 by the time he was dismissed in 2018. The change partly coincided with severe US sanctions imposed on Tehran.
The rial has tumbled from a rate of around 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers to around 27,000 rials to $1 in recent months. The currency unexpectedly rallied for some time after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the nuclear deal and reimpose crippling trade sanctions on Iran in 2018.
The sanctions have caused Iran’s oil exports, the country’s main source of income, to fall sharply.