Our Ladies on the Ground requires readers to areas couple of dare to go, like the eastern Aleppo property of Zaina Erhaim. The Syrian journalist’s prized possession is her video camera, and she urges a buddy to bring it to her at the hospital should really her developing be bombed and decreased to rubble.
She writes: “My camera, my passport, and I reside or die with each other.”
Erhaim is a single of the essayists in the ground-breaking anthology that should really fascinate any fan of the stories behind the stories that come out of war zones. I am certainly a single of these people today and obtain refreshing (and extended overdue) a book packed with insights from females journalists linked by language and heritage to the complicated Arab globe.
One particular cause is that I, as well, am a former Middle East correspondent and polyglot with family members and cultural ties to nations I’ve covered for NPR, Knight Ridder Newspapers and the Los Angeles Occasions. But I am hardly alone in appreciating the worth of story telling by journalists who do not want interpreters to clarify what is becoming stated and why it is relevant or how it fits into the larger image. In no way thoughts that a lady journalist in a area prone to segregating females from males has access to half the population that her male counterparts do not.
We females who are “ethnic journalists” are nevertheless a reasonably modest group, specifically at the upper echelons of our profession. So it is essential for me to disclose that I am good friends with two of the essayists who are fellow NPR correspondents: Hannah Allam and Jane Arraf. (I am also close to a single of the blurb writers, author Azadeh Moaveni. We have been the initial two American journalists to set foot into the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran following the Islamic Republic transformed it into the “Den of Spies” propaganda museum).
But connections notwithstanding, I think Our Ladies on the Ground will appeal to readers of all genders and backgrounds who want to broaden their understanding of the Arab globe. The anthology incorporates essays by 19 sahafiyat — Arabic for female journalists — most of them recounting their experiences, which includes sexual assault, and evaluation of their and other women’s life and operate in harmful or oppressive nations in the Middle East and North Africa.
The collection’s editor, Zahra Hankir, also provides voice to a 20th Arab lady who was not a standard journalist — Ruqia Hasan. Her vivid Facebook posts about ISIS atrocities in Raqqa exactly where she lived eventually expense the young Syrian Kurdish lady her life.
The book is divided into 5 sections: Remembrances Crossfire Resilience Exile and Transition. I chose not to study them in order and do not really feel I lost something by skipping about so I could study essays by writers I was familiar with initial.
Some of the essays have been gut-wrenching, like the a single by Nada Bakri, the widow of New York Occasions correspondent Anthony Shadid. (I had met him in the course of a single of his Cairo reporting trips, but not her). Her painful prose specifics the struggle to accept her husband’s death in the course of a clandestine reporting trip to Syria in 2012, as effectively as the anxiousness of becoming a dual-reporter couple attempting to excel at operate and raise a youngster in a area exactly where there is tiny sympathy for females stepping out of society’s prescribed roles.
Yemeni freelance photographer Amira Al-Sharif, who documents the lives of females and girls in her war-ravaged nation, gives a lighter point of view on the sacrifices she has had to make to practice her unconventional profession. The daughter of an imam, or Muslim preacher, she observes: “Currently at thirty-5, I do not have a husband, but I do have a camera.”
In “An Orange Bra in Riyadh” Donna Abu-Nasr exposes the indignities of the gender divide by way of a single of its most absurd manifestations: the troubles females face obtaining undergarments in Saudi Arabia, exactly where they are forced to cover up absolutely — even in the lingerie division. But Abu-Nasr, who is Bloomberg’s Saudi Arabia bureau chief, is no lightweight and, in spite of the obstacles faced by females reporting in the kingdom, she ended up with a big 9/11 scoop — official confirmation by Riyadh that 15 of the 19 hijackers aboard the planes that struck the Twin Towers have been Saudi citizens.
Hankir says her purpose in making this collection was to amplify the voices of females attempting to shape and document Arab history, “with out projecting themes of women’s challenges and patriarchy onto them.” She succeeds at the former, but I do not see how a single avoids the latter.
There is a deep fascination in the West with how females function in ultra-conservative societies exactly where repression can be violent and even deadly. This anthology pulls back the curtain on these areas, whilst connecting readers to brave and incisive female journalists who support us far better recognize the Arab globe.
Their normally harrowing experiences and insights make for a compelling study. I, for a single, hope to study additional anthologies from female journalists in other components of the globe, which includes the United States.