It’s not often that you hear from the perspective of Arab and Middle Eastern female journalists on their changing homelands. But that’s the exact premise of this new, first-of-its-kind collection of essays, Our Women on the Ground: Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World.
Edited by Lebanese-British writer Zahra Hankir, 19 female journalists from the region candidly reflect on the realities of reporting in the Middle East and beyond, featuring a foreword by CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Christiane Amanpour; a British-Iranian herself.
“This project is very much an act of celebration,” London-based Zahra tells Bazaar. “For years, I’d been closely following the work of female Arab reporters who were writing or reporting bravely on the transformation of their countries. As an Arab female reporter myself, I understood that these women were up against incredibly steep and unique challenges when doing their jobs.”
Highlights include Bloomberg’s Riyadh bureau chief Donna Abu-Nasr’s An Orange Bra in Riyadh, who, despite covering conflict in the Middle East for more than two decades, recalls becoming choked with emotion after observing women selling underwear in a Saudi mall in 2012 for the first time.
Meanwhile, in the chapter Fight or Flight, Heba Shibani recalls working tirelessly to seek out hidden stories about women that were worthy of national attention, to promote as a presenter of a TV show focusing on women’s issues in Libya.
Zahra hopes the anthology will challenge long-held perceptions of the Middle East. “The Arab world and its people are so often seen as homogenous, when, as the essays in the book reflect, the geographic area is incredibly layered, and each country, conflict and experience carries unique truths,” she says.
Courtesy of Eman Helal
“I was – and remain – in awe of their tenacity, resilience and commitment to the essential art of newsgathering and dissemination,” Zahra explains.
Our role in all of this? Reading their stories and passing them on; doing our own bit for the future of the female experience.
Our Women on the Ground: Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World by Zahra Hankir, published by Harvill Secker
From the November 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia