Female war correspondents in the spotlight at Arab Women Forum

Female war correspondents in the spotlight at Arab Women Forum
The image many harbour of the intrepid war correspondent is patently masculine . (AN Photo)
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Updated 24 September 2022

Female war correspondents in the spotlight at Arab Women Forum

Female war correspondents in the spotlight at Arab Women Forum
  • Sky News reporter Arizh Mukhammed says conflicts bring journalists “closer to people’s suffering” 
  • Al-Hadath TV anchor Christiane Baissary debunks notion that women are not suited for war reporting

DUBAI: Journalists, whether they are men or women, have a duty to find out the truth and to tell the human story behind major world events, including the harsh realities of war. But, by virtue of their gender, are women better equipped to tell those stories? 

The view of women as the more “emotional” sex can sound dated to modern ears. But when a female journalist enters a war zone, it is often acknowledged that her access to the private lives of her sources, particularly families caught up in conflict, is often markedly different to the reception experienced by a male correspondent. 

Arizh Mukhammed is a Moscow-based war reporter for Sky News Arabia. Over the past few months, she had been deployed to the front lines in Ukraine to report on the Russian invasion, braving armed conflict and the human tragedies of war. 

“It is not easy to cover war, because, like any human being, you feel fear. And I feel fear,” Mukhammed told a panel discussion a session entitled “Storytellers from the war front” at the Arab Women Forum in Dubai on Tuesday. 

Mukhammed, who is half Russian and half Syrian, says wars bring journalists “closer to peoples’ suffering,” making it all the more difficult to remain objective about what they are witnessing. 

But the ability to empathize with the men, women and children a reporter encounters while deployed in a war zone undoubtedly gives their coverage a powerful human dimension that allows viewers to experience the agonies of distant conflicts. 

The question is, are women better equipped than men to document such accounts? 

“Women war journalists give a deeper dimension to human suffering,” Mukhammed told Arab News at the forum. 

“While men might surround themselves with the impression that they are strong and fearless, women have actually shown they are much more patient.” 

Christiane Baissary, a senior news anchor for the Al-Hadath news channel, said there is a common misconception that women are not suited for war coverage. 

“A soldier once told me that women should not be in a war zone. He was trying to convince me that I should not stay to cover the war,” she said. 

“This mentality is not just in the Middle East but everywhere,” Baissary said, adding that things have since changed and women are gaining more opportunities to cover conflict zones. 

The image many harbour of the intrepid war correspondent is patently masculine — a gung-ho adventurer who risks kidnap, injury, or even death to get as close as possible to the blood and gun smoke of war. 

Indeed, the role of a war correspondent can be extremely dangerous. On May 11, Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead in the West Bank city of Jenin while reporting on an Israeli arrest operation, despite wearing protective gear clearly identifying her as a member of the press. 

“The killing of Abu Akleh is another serious attack on media freedom and freedom of expression, amid the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank,” UN experts Morris Tidball-Binz, Reem Alsalem, and Irene Khan said in a statement on May 13. 

They called for a prompt and impartial investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, in full compliance with UN regulations. 

“The role of journalists, especially in a context of heightened tension and marked by continuous abuses, like the occupied Palestinian territory, is critical,” the statement read. 

“Lack of accountability gives carte blanche to continue the litany of extrajudicial executions. The safety of journalists is essential in guaranteeing freedom of expression and media freedom.” 

Of course, Abu Akleh was only the latest reporter to be killed while on duty. According to the press advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders, scores of journalists are killed every year worldwide in connection with their work. Nearly a thousand have died over the past decade alone. 

“I think it was really important for us to highlight female war correspondents and women correspondents because what they are doing is out of the ordinary,” said Noor Nugali, assistant editor-in-chief at Arab News, who presided over Tuesday’s panel. 

“Usually when people think of correspondents, the first thing that comes to their minds (is that) women are too soft, women are incapable of handling such situations. 

“But, in reality, it shows the resilience of women, strength of women, and their capability of getting all angles and facts straight.” 

This evolving image of women, particularly those in the Arab world, was a key feature of the Arab Women Forum, and a special session, entitled “Saudi women pioneers: Change from within,” explored the issue in depth. 

“I think the creation of Vision 2030 is life-changing, honestly, for a lot of women and young people,” Lama Alshethri, editor-in-chief of Sayedati, one of the best-known magazines in the Arab region, told the panel. 

“I think we, our generation, have been able to reap some of the fruits of Saudi Vision 2030. And we were prepared for the change.” 

Vision 2030, the social and economic reform agenda announced in 2016 by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, emphasizes the need to inspire and empower all members of the society to realize the Kingdom’s full potential. 

Subsequently, women’s empowerment in the Kingdom has expanded rapidly. Saudi women are now more active in different spheres of the public and private sector. 

“I have not seen the change. I lived it,” Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, said in a special address opening Tuesday’s forum. 

“I know how important it is to open the workplace for women,” she said. 

“(However,) I realized that opening the doors wasn’t enough. Women had to be prepared to take advantage of those open doors and we have to equip them with skills.”


Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty

Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty
Updated 16 sec ago

Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty

Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty
  • ‘The Iranian authorities have a pattern of distorting the truth to cover up their human rights violations,’ researcher tells Independent
  • More than 1,200 protesters have been arrested since Mahsa Amini’s death, with the nationwide demonstrations being Iran’s largest in almost three years

LONDON: Protester death figures in Iran are being distorted by the country’s regime to cover up the use of excessive force by security services, The Independent has reported.

The country has faced almost two weeks of protests nationwide — with Kurdish regions in the west witnessing the most violent clashes — in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amnesty International researcher Mansoureh Mills told The Independent that the real figure of protesters who have been killed is higher than numbers reported by state TV, “given the horrific level of violence being perpetrated by the security forces.”

Mills added: “The Iranian authorities have a pattern of distorting the truth to cover up their human rights violations. Following the November 2019 protests, during which security forces killed hundreds of men, women and children, the authorities consistently denied any responsibility.

“They continued to cover up the real death toll of people killed during the November 2019 protests, and publicly praised security and intelligence forces for their role in the crackdown.”

Rothna Begum, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch’s women’s rights division, told The Independent: “The true numbers of people killed are likely to be higher than what state media are reporting but even official numbers are far too high for deaths during what are largely peaceful protests.

“The authorities must refrain from excessive use of force and investigate all deaths that have taken place during the protests.”

Mills said: “We have also received reports of women’s rights defenders being arrested while protesting for women’s rights over the past week. This is something that we are investigating.”

The Iranian regime resorts to “arbitrarily arresting journalists, political activists and human rights defenders to silence any form of public dissent or reporting and criticism of the human rights violations they are committing,” Mills added.

The regime must “urgently repeal laws and regulations that impose compulsory veiling on women and girls, perpetuate violence against them and strip them of their right to dignity and bodily autonomy.

“The policing of women’s bodies and lives in Iran is not restricted to their clothing choices. However, it is the most visible and one of the most egregious forms of the wider oppression of women and it stokes violence against them on a daily basis.”

More than 1,200 protesters have been arrested since Amini’s death, with the nationwide demonstrations being Iran’s largest in almost three years.


Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting

Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting
Updated 35 min 39 sec ago

Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting

Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting
  • Third phase of Eastern Arrows offensive has ended with STC forces capturing the Omaran valley in Abyan province
  • STC forces preparing to target Al-Qaeda’s final hiding places around the town of Al-Mahfad

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni forces say they have driven Al-Qaeda out of a key stronghold in the south of the country, after fierce fighting in which 32 soldiers and at least 24 militants were killed.

Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a spokesman for the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, which commands the military operations, told Arab News that the third phase of an offensive named “Eastern Arrows” had ended after their forces captured Omaran valley in Abyan province.

He said 32 soldiers were killed and 42 wounded by Al-Qaeda counterattacks, booby traps and roadside bombs.

The militants suffered 24 dead in combat or in the bombardment of Abyan’s high, rocky highlands.

Al-Naqeeb said STC forces had recovered landmines and improvised explosive devices from captured Al-Qaeda strongholds, and were next preparing to target the group’s final hiding places around the town of Al-Mahfad.

“Al-Qaeda has taken significant hits and lost one of its key strongholds in Omaran,” Al-Naqeeb said. “Our manpower and readiness make us capable of clearing entire southern provinces. It has been eight years since we began fighting terrorism. Our forces have gained expertise in combating Al-Qaeda.”

The Yemeni military and security services launched their offensive earlier this month to drive Al-Qaeda out of Abyan and neighboring Shabwa, from where the militants have trained and planned attacks against Yemeni cities.

Al-Qaeda also kept weapons and hostages in caverns in Omaran and adjacent valleys that connect the provinces with a third, Al-Bayda, according to Yemeni military sources.

The group has already been driven out of Al-Mousinah in Shabwa and Al-Wadhae, the rocky Khaber Al-Marakesha region, Lawder and Moudia.

Al-Naqeeb said some Al-Qaeda fighters escaped to Wadi Hadramout while others found refuge in Al-Bayda, which is controlled by the Houthis, and Markha in Shabwa.

Infighting between various anti-Houthi military factions has allowed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most deadly branch of the group in the world, to spread throughout southern Yemen over the past seven years.

The STC joined forces with several rival groups to combat the threat after agreeing a ceasefire two years ago.


In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines

In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines
Updated 27 September 2022

In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines

In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines
  • Cholera is spread by the ingestion of contaminated food or water and can cause acute diarrhea
  • Public awareness campaigns are underway on the causes, symptoms and prevention of cholera

IDLIB/HASAKA, Syria: A cholera outbreak that has claimed 29 lives in Syria is posing a danger across the frontlines of the country’s 11-year-long war, stirring fears in crowded camps for the displaced who lack running water or sewage systems.
First linked to contaminated water near the Euphrates river, the outbreak has now spread across the fractured nation, with cases reported in government- and rebel-controlled regions. In all, at least 2,000 cases have been reported so far.
“How am I not supposed to catch cholera with the sewage running right next to our tent?” said Sobha Al-Jadoue, 60, who lives in a camp for displaced people in the rebel-held Idlib region. “We can no longer sleep or sit because of the smells. A few days ago the sewage spilled into my tent.”
Cholera is spread by the ingestion of contaminated food or water and can cause acute diarrhea. While most of those affected will have mild or no symptoms, cholera can kill within hours if untreated, the World Health Organization website says.
The devastation wrought by the Syrian conflict has left the country particularly vulnerable, demolishing much of the infrastructure including water pumping and treatment plants.
Climate change has worsened water shortages.
“Because of the war there has been great destruction of the health infrastructure and infrastructure in general, so if it spreads in these areas — especially in the camps — it could have a grave health impact and kill a lot of people,” said Shahem Mekki, who runs a disease monitoring center in the area.
The war has killed some 350,000 people since it spiralled out of an uprising against President Bashar Assad in 2011. The World Health Organization says 55 percent of health care facilities in the country are not functioning because of the war.
The first cholera cases were detected on Sept. 5 in Deir Ezzor province, before spreading to other areas including the cities of Raqqa and Hasaka, said Jawan Mustafa, health director in the Kurdish-run administration of northeastern Syria.
He said there were more than 4,350 suspected cases of cholera in northeastern Syria, and 100 confirmed cases. “The cases are increasing but, fortunately, slowly,” he said.
Amshah Shehade, 45, said she brought her daughter to hospital in Hasaka due to diarrhea and dizziness, and that her grandchild had suffered the same symptoms. “It was caused by contaminated tank water,” she said.
Public awareness campaigns are underway on the causes, symptoms and prevention of cholera.
Eva Hinds, chief of communication at the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, in Syria, said the agency and its partners had scaled up water trucking and chlorination in the cholera hot spots to ensure access to clean water.
“It’s time to act now. We are investing heavily in measures to prevent the further spread,” she said.


Sudan officials warn of disease from unidentified bodies

Sudan officials warn of disease from unidentified bodies
Updated 27 September 2022

Sudan officials warn of disease from unidentified bodies

Sudan officials warn of disease from unidentified bodies
  • Among the deceased are believed to be pro-democracy protesters
  • Reports of the backlog of bodies awaiting autopsy first emerged in May

CAIRO: Sudanese medical officials warned Monday that more than 1,500 unidentified bodies piled up in several of the country’s morgues could lead to an outbreak of disease, amid accusations the government is covering up their causes of death.
Among the deceased are believed to be pro-democracy protesters, who activists say were killed by government forces in their crackdown on demonstrations. They believe the failure to conduct proper autopsies is an attempt to conceal evidence of those killings.
Mahjoub Babaker, a forensic medicine and toxicology consultant for the country’s autopsy body, expressed concerns because of the proximity of one of the morgues to a market, saying the bodies “could spread cholera among local residents.”
At a press conference Monday, he and three other officials argued against the need to carry out independent autopsies, saying instead that there should be a mass burial of the bodies for public safety reasons. They announced a postponement of any autopsies in order to discuss matters with the deceased individuals’ families.
Reports of the backlog of bodies awaiting autopsy first emerged in May, with news videos released earlier this month showing piles of corpses kept in a building that appeared to have no refrigeration. Then, the country’s top public prosecutor authorized the mass burial of the bodies last month without an autopsy.
It came as the country faced an ongoing crackdown on anti-military protests after a military coup last year. In October, Sudan’s short-lived democratic transition was upended when the country’s leading general, Abdel-Fattah Burhan, deposed the government and locked up hundreds of officials and activists.
Pro-democracy groups and families of missing protesters have said the failure to conduct proper autopsies is an attempt to conceal evidence of the killing of hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators by Sudanese armed forces following the 2019 popular uprising that ousted long-time ruler Omar Al-Bashir. In June 2019, the Rapid Support Forces, a powerful armed paramilitary group, opened fire on a group of sit-in protesters in Khartoum, killing more than 100 people.
The prosecutor’s decision in May has sparked several demonstrations outside the morgues from pro-democracy groups.
On Sunday, the Sudanese Doctor’s Committee, which has tracked protester deaths and injuries since the coup, held a protest outside the prosecutors’ headquarters. In a statement, the group, called for all burials to be stopped until “a team of international, independent and reliable forensic medicine is retrieved, protecting the rights of the missing and their relatives, and seeking to reach the truth and achieve justice.”


Arab League, Egypt condemn repeated Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa

Arab League, Egypt condemn repeated Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa
Updated 27 September 2022

Arab League, Egypt condemn repeated Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa

Arab League, Egypt condemn repeated Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa
  • Tension increased at the compound on Monday with incursions into the area by hundreds of Jewish settlers
  • A statement from the Arab League said Israeli forces and settlers stormed Al-Aqsa and arrested several Palestinians stationed inside it

CAIRO: The Arab League and Egypt have condemned the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli forces and several settlers, holding the Israeli government responsible for igniting the situation.

Tension increased at the compound on Monday with incursions into the area by hundreds of Jewish settlers, under the protection of Israeli police, to mark the start of Rosh Hashanah.

Extremist Jewish groups continued calls to be allowed to enter the compound on Monday and Tuesday to celebrate the Jewish New Year.

A statement from the Arab League said Israeli forces and settlers stormed Al-Aqsa and arrested several Palestinians stationed inside it, to impose a temporal and spatial partition on the mosque, “which means changing the existing historical and legal situation.”

This continued policy on the part of the Israeli government, it said, is a “flagrant violation of international law” and a provocation for Palestinians and Muslims in general.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, stressed that what happened was and “unacceptable crime,” and called on the international community to assume its responsibilities and confront the “dangerous Israeli escalation.”

He tweeted: “East Jerusalem is occupied land in accordance with international law and United Nations and Security Council resolutions, and it should not be treated as otherwise.”

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the continuation of provocative practices in the vicinity of the Islamic holy sites in Al-Haram Al-Sharif area would heighten tensions and fuel violence.

It said Egypt condemns the repeated, escalating violations of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, “carried out by Jewish extremist elements in full view of the Israeli occupation forces.”

It stressed that restrictions on the movement of Palestinian worshipers and their performance of religious rites, and the continuous attempts to change the legal and historical status of Jerusalem, remain a violation of international law and a dangerous escalation that undermines the chances of achieving a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian cause and the two-state solution.

Adnan Al-Husayni, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Jerusalem department, blamed the Israeli government for any repercussions caused by the escalation.

Al-Husayni called on the Arab and Islamic worlds to take a serious stand in support of the Palestinian people in confronting the aggression of the Israeli occupation.