Our Women on the Ground: Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World (ed. Zahra Hankir)

Our Women on the Ground - on the ground

a nutshell: an extraordinary, ground-breaking, and pulsingly intimate collection of essays by 19 Arab women journalists – rather than meeting my high expectations, it soared above & beyond them

a line“We don’t publish the picture. It’s too graphic, and people are too sensitive. Those of us who count as people, with sensibilities” – Natacha Yazbeck

an image: born in Iraq and raised in Hull, Hind Hassan recalls many beautiful scenes of hospitality in the unlikeliest circumstances during assignments in her homeland, as well as a memory from the Iraqi community in which she grew up: a friend secretly slipping in & out of an ajar window to clean and cook for the whole family while Hind’s mother was having birth complications

a thought: I was fascinated by Egyptian journalist Lina Attalah’s reflections on her journey towards activating a “belated lens on gender” in her work, particularly her thoughts on the duality of selves (in the family home and the “street home”) and on power both inside & outside the newsroom – its complexity and, at times, invisibility

a fact: many of the women’s stories include the trauma of losing family, friends and colleagues to conflict zones or political repression, and it’d be remiss not to mention the very real risks they face just for doing their job – I hope their voices resound worldwide

N.B. Amira Al-Sharif’s chapter Yemeni Women with Fighting Spirits is my recommendation for writing by a woman from Yemen; as its title suggests, it’s a unique insight into resilience and empowerment in even the most trying conditions

want to read Our Women on the Ground? visit here

The Beekeeper of Sinjar by Dunya Mikhail (tr. Max Weiss & Dunya Mikhail)

The Beekeeper of Sinjar

TW: distressing content, including sexual violence


a nutshell: this devastatingly vital book records the experiences of Yazidi women who managed to flee abduction and enslavement as sabaya (sex slaves) by Daesh across Iraq and beyond, many of whom escaped with the help of beekeeper Abdullah Sharem & his network

a line: “Friendship was our only hope … ‘Like we promised,’ I reminded her, ‘either we die or we get out of here together.'” – Nadia, a young Yazidi woman whom Daesh stole, auctioned, and repeatedly raped in front of her children, grew close to another female captive and held off the rescue until they could both flee along with their children

an image: for the first time in this project I’ve found it impossible to isolate just one image – there are too many examples of individuals quietly risking everything to save loved ones or strangers alike, casting a glimmer of light against Daesh’s abject cruelty

a thought: Mikhail also documents the broader picture of Daesh’s genocidal persecution of the Yazidi people – the expulsion from their ancestral lands in Northern Iraq, the systematic mass shootings of men, the live burial of elderly, the exploitation of children to build weapons, the brainwashing of boys to make them “martyrs”, the horrifying list goes on…

a fact: an award-winning poet & journalist, Mikhail was born in Baghdad in 1965 and relocated to the US thirty years later after facing censorship & interrogation; in the course of writing this book, she returned to Iraq for a visit to meet Abdullah


want to read The Beekeeper of Sinjar? visit here