10 top Muslim women who made headlines in 2014

AS the final chapter of 2014 comes to a close, some Muslim women have risen to the forefront in their shredding of stereotypes by showing the world a courageous, unyielding side.

10 top Muslim women who made headlines in 2014


Dina Al-Shibeeb



AS the final chapter of 2014 comes to a close, some Muslim women have risen to the forefront in their shredding of stereotypes by showing the world a courageous, unyielding side. Below are Al Arabiya’s top Muslim women of this year, in no particular order:

Somayya Jabarti

In Saudi Arabia, one woman made international headlines when Saudi Gazette newspaper appointed in February the country’s first female editor-in-chief, Jabarti, in what has been called a “historic” move in the Kingdom.

“The appointment of Somayya Jabarti as Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female newspaper editor-in-chief was positively received as a step in the right direction.

However, before I talk about what it means in terms of women’s rights, it is important to stress that she is a very capable journalist and has years of hands-on experience,” said Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of Al Arabiya News.

“She started off her career at a time far more challenging to women,” said Abbas, adding that “as far as women influencers in 2014 go, I think Somayya rightly deserved a position on the list.”

Maryam Al-Mansouri

Mansouri, an Emirati female fighter pilot, became widely known for flying her F-16 to lead the UAE’s air strikes against the so-called Islamic State militants in Syria in September.

“For sure, she changed the stereotypical image of how Muslim women are seen on a big scale.


Even though Muslim and Arab women have created many achievements, media play a big role in fermenting such stereotypes,” Mohammed Ayesh, head of the communications department at Sharjah University, told Al Arabiya News.

He added: “She put forth a progressive sample of what Emirati women can do in different fields including defense and military. She is an honorable Arab woman.”

Female Peshmerga fighters

With IS continually dominating headlines this year, the international media zoomed its lens closer and closer to see feminine faces of Kurdish women who proudly used their weapons against the radical group.

They are the fearless Peshmerga women fighters in Iraq and their counterparts who joined the Syrian Kurdish women’s self-defense force, known by its Kurdish acronym (YPJ).

“In 2014, for the first time, Kurds were praised in the media for resisting IS’s occupation of their land as well as their extremism,” said Ava Homa, a Kurdish-Iranian Lecturer at Toronto’s George Brown College.

“Kurdish female fighters are not a new phenomenon in Kurdish history but media highlighted it for the time being to praise a moderate version of Islam that empowers women and rejects fundamentalism,” she added.

Oumaya Naji Al-Jabara

While the Peshmerga ladies took their share in leading the fight against IS, in Iraq, a woman and mother-of-four, was honored as “sheikha” — a title given to a tribal leader after she lost her life fighting the militants in the western province of Salah Al-Din.

Jabara, who was an adviser to the governor of Salahuddin province, had pictures taken of her holding a Kalashnikov rifle that ended up circulating around the globe in September.

“What the Kobane and Peshmerga women were doing, Oumaya Jabara did on her own in Iraq. She was not accompanied by hundreds of other women. She was married with children, and from a prominent tribe.

She was the one offering support to men and not the opposite. She was an educated woman,” Soha Oda, an Iraqi journalist told Al Arabiya News.

Maryam Mirzakhani

In August, Mirzakhani, a Iranian-born Harvard-educated mathematician and professor at Stanford University in California, became the first woman to win a prestigious global prize known as the Fields Medal, also widely described as the “Nobel Prize for math.”

While Mirzakhani breaks a sexist stereotype also found in the West that women are not good in math, Homa considers Mirzakhani as validating some perceptions of Iranian women.

“There are two contradictory images of Iranian women floating around in the international media: the common stereotype is that of the oppressed woman, stoned and silenced — like Sakineh Ashtiani — and at the other end of the spectrum is the less common image of the empowered women, educated and strong, like Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner or  Mirzakhani, the Nobel Mathematics Prize winner.”

Sayeeda Warsi

Warsi, who was the first Muslim minister to sit in the British cabinet, made headlines when she resigned over London’s unconvincing stance on the Gaza conflict in August.

But when she made headlines “it did not change anything,” Mudassar Ahmed, a political media analyst and chief executive of London-based PR agency Unitas, told Al Arabiya news.

“It is a sign that you have no chance in having any real influence on the situation,” he added.

Hind Al-Fayez

In early December, Al-Fayez, a Jordanian lawmaker, erupted in anger as she defended herself against claims that her seat was allocated through non-democratic means.

This prompted a fellow parliamentarian to yell “sit down Hind!” several times, leading to the proliferation of sarcastic memes on social media.

“She is a woman acting with full liberalism in a country that is still conservative,” Raed Omari, a Jordanian columnist, told Al Arabiya News.

“The fact that she belongs to a major conservative and pro-regime tribe in Jordan [Al-Fayez] yet adapting to the left-wing ideology is something alluring in itself.”

Samereh Alinejad

Alinejad made headlines around the world when she spared the life of her son’s convicted murderer with an emotional slap in the face as he awaited execution with the noose around his neck.

“Many supported her in Iran. It inspired some Iranians, who forgave other killers,” Masoud Alfak, a Swedish-Iranian journalist, said.

Malala Yousafzai

Yousafzai who is known the world over for her fight for girl’s education in Pakistan, almost gave her life for her cause after the Taliban shot her in 2012 when she was only 14 years old.

In March, she published her book: “I am Malala” and in October was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, the award’s youngest ever recipient.

Mona Al-Beheiri

With her rudimentary English, Beheiri, who is known for her “Shut up your mouse Obama” protest line that was filmed and went viral online, became a sensation in the Arab world for her apparent endorsement of a commonly-held view.

“The media used her because she was a simple woman muttering broken English words,” Mahmoud Hasouna, managing editor of the English-language daily Khaleej Times, said. — Al Arabiya News


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