STARRED REVIEW
August 2019

Our Women on the Ground

By Zahra Hankir

Although there has been coverage of Arab and Middle Eastern countries in Western media for decades, how often do we hear from women in these countries? In this groundbreaking collection of essays, Our Women on the Ground, Lebanese—British journalist Zahra Hankir assembles the writing of 19 different sahafiyat (female journalists) from across the Middle East, including Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Palestine. In these powerful essays, journalists recount their harrowing, dangerous and sometimes painful experiences, both as women reporting on Middle Eastern conflicts and as people trying to survive along with everyone else, with their lives and spirits intact.

Share this Article:

Although there has been coverage of Arab and Middle Eastern countries in Western media for decades, how often do we hear from women in these countries? In this groundbreaking collection of essays, Our Women on the Ground, Lebanese—British journalist Zahra Hankir assembles the writing of 19 different sahafiyat (female journalists) from across the Middle East, including Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Palestine. In these powerful essays, journalists recount their harrowing, dangerous and sometimes painful experiences, both as women reporting on Middle Eastern conflicts and as people trying to survive along with everyone else, with their lives and spirits intact.

In one essay, Hannah Allam recounts the need to keep her sense of humor through the violence in Iraq. To her, Iraqis can be funnier than anyone, even when death is looming. She shares a local joke: “As the years stretched on without the restoration of power, a popular joke was that a distraught boy runs up to his mom and sobs that his father had touched a wire and been electrocuted. The mother replies: ‘Thank God! There’s electricity!’”

Although it may seem macabre, these very human moments signify the resilience and perseverance of a society attempting to keep itself together. In another essay, “Love and Loss in a Time of Revolution” by Nada Bakri, we read about the author’s emotional experience of living through the loss of her husband, Anthony Shadid, also a journalist, who died from something as routine as an asthma attack while reporting on the front lines in Syria.

Zaina Erhaim, a journalist from Syria, examines life as a feminist in a conservative country as she tries to exercise her independence and not wear a head covering. As time goes on, she relents for her own safety and begins to wear a hijab. Although she finds this practice constricting, it also gives her access to spaces with women, like hospitals, where men aren’t allowed. Through this, she recognizes the advantages of being able to move through locations other journalists cannot.

At times difficult to read, this essential essay collection will bring a more nuanced view of the Middle East from voices you probably haven’t heard, and the depths of experiences will force you to find the courage to understand and not look away.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

Our Women on the Ground

Our Women on the Ground

By Zahra Hankir
Penguin
ISBN 9780143133414

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!