The painful truth about FGM in the Middle East

Today is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM across 30 countries, and that an additional 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing the practice every year. Many people believe that FGM … Continue reading The painful truth about FGM in the Middle East

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Leena Al Ayoobi – The Bahraini artist recreating the image of women in the Gulf

Contrary to common stereotypes, there was a time when bright colours reigned in the Arabian Peninsula, before the black abaya became fashionable. Self-taught Bahraini artist Leena Al Ayoobi takes us back to these roots in her paintings, portraying beautifully the vibrancy of Arabic culture and highlighting the diversity and individuality of Arab women that is … Continue reading Leena Al Ayoobi – The Bahraini artist recreating the image of women in the Gulf

Art as a means of recovery for the Yezidi women who escaped ISIL

Last month, the Yezidis of northern Iraq marked the third anniversary of the attempted genocide of their people by the so-called Islamic State (ISIL). In August 2014, ISIL rampaged through their villages in Iraqi Kurdistan, killing the men en masse and taking the women and girls as slaves. These women and girls bore unimaginable suffering, … Continue reading Art as a means of recovery for the Yezidi women who escaped ISIL

“Driving while female”: Manal Al Sharif and the fight for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia

“Rain begins with a single drop.” If you’re looking for some inspiration this week, look no further than Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif’s recent book, Daring to Drive. It tells the story of a fearless Saudi woman who went from living in a poverty, to being radicalised by her extremist education, to risking her life … Continue reading “Driving while female”: Manal Al Sharif and the fight for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia

Shift – 3 female Saudi artists reflect on their changing culture in a London exhibition

Since the discovery of oil in the 1930s, life in Saudi Arabia has changed beyond recognition. What was once a traditional subsistence economy has become the linchpin of the global energy industry. Oil revenues have translated over the years into massive government spending, with gleaming new cities shooting up in place of previously modest, sleepy … Continue reading Shift – 3 female Saudi artists reflect on their changing culture in a London exhibition

Amal Al Raisi – The fashion designer taking Khaleeji style to the runways of Paris and Torino

Omani business graduate Amal Al Raisi found a career in fashion totally by accident while working for a government ministry in Muscat. After searching for a wedding dress and becoming frustrated at the lack of choice, she decided to design her own. The dress was so popular that she began designing for her family and … Continue reading Amal Al Raisi – The fashion designer taking Khaleeji style to the runways of Paris and Torino

Cairo’s Ballerinas are redefining Egyptian society

In 2015, Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Taher had an idea. Inspired by New York City’s Ballerina Project, Taher wanted to show a different side to the Egyptian capital, which has in recent years played host to headline grabbing protests, instances of sexual abuse and terrorist attacks. He discussed his idea with photographer Ahmed Fathy and dancer … Continue reading Cairo’s Ballerinas are redefining Egyptian society

Letters from Baghdad: The female Lawrence of Arabia that the history books ignored

Any student or observer of the Middle East has likely heard of a young man named T.E. Lawrence, whose integration into the tribes of Arabia in the early 20th century helped shape the current reality of this turbulent region. His famous work, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, has become essential reading for anyone interested in the Middle … Continue reading Letters from Baghdad: The female Lawrence of Arabia that the history books ignored