Our Women On The Ground
Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World
The book opens with the story of Ruqia Hassan, a Syrian woman who was living in Raqqa when it was controlled by ISIS. Ruqia was a citizen journalist who secretly reported on the crimes of the terror group from the inside. She was no ordinary reporter by mainstream standards - not employed by any news outlet or mainstream media and un-trained in wartime reporting. Her medium was online. Under the pen name of ‘Nissan Ibrahim’ she wrote about the atrocities ISIS was waging on the people of Raqqa. She posted on Facebook, sometimes, several times in a day and gathered a huge following. Her posts were defiant, harrowing, authentic and heartbreaking. When ISIS closed the internet around the country side she wrote
‘without the internet we will lose our only way of communicating. Dear God: Emigration is a loss of dignity and a form of humiliation, while staying here is hell. Dear God: where should we go?’
What Ruqia gave the world were authentic accounts of on ground reality at a time where few people from the western or eastern world could report from within Syria. One of Ruqia’s final post on Facebook was about receiving death threats ‘ When ISIS soldiers arrest and kill me it will be okay, because ill still have dignity which is better than living in humiliation’
She was abducted shortly after and never heard from again. The terror group informed her brother a few months later that she had been killed. Her body was not returned.
Our women on ground is a collection of intimate and rarely heard accounts of what its like for a woman to report on a region she hails from. These stories from nineteen Arab women journalists not only give the reader an understanding of what’s happening on ground in some of the most dangerous and war torn regions of the world but also crush stereotypes about what it means to be an Arab or a middle eastern woman today.
Arab women are misunderstood, victimized and pitied by outsiders who think them as submissive, oppressed or subjugated. They are frequently boxed into one identity (for example Arab identity is incorrectly conflated with a Muslim one). This book disrupts such stereotypes. The journalists contributing come from different generations, faiths and nationalities. These women have been sexually assaulted, threatened, propositioned, detained and even shot at while at job, but they’ve contributed to dispelling many myths that saturate a monolithic description of their regions and identities.
These are stories of women caught in the cross-fire. These are a stories of resilience, hope and defiance. These are stories worth reading
"There is a special kind of resilience and beauty in those tucked-away spots of life. I want you all to see the true beauty of my suffering country. With my camera, I strive to empower, not victimize, the people in my images." ~ Amira Al-Sharif