Authoring Success Stories

Noora Al Sharabi, from Syria, states the fact that she is the founder of an e-forum and a mother of three with equal importance in her resume.



By Anu Prabhakar

Published: Fri 8 May 2009, 9:21 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:18 AM

Forty-five year old Noora created the International Muslimah Artists Network (IMAN), www.imanworld.org, as a platform for Muslim women artists. When she came across many talented women artists, she “began to think of a database of all these wonderful sisters.” IMAN was formed in 1997 and had its first exhibition in the same year at the Oak Park Public library in Michigan, United States. The exhibition showcased 165 diverse artworks of 25 Muslim women. “We saw people from all walks of life attending the exhibition,” says Noora. The overwhelming feedback was definitely a boost and IMAN now plans to organise their second exhibition this year in California. “I wanted to facilitate communication between these artists. The whole purpose was to disprove the false images of Muslim women as drawn by the media,” she says. Noora is a writer, journalist and an e-forum founder all rolled into one. She is a freelance writer for several Arabic magazines like Mawada and Al Mujtama’a and has also penned numerous books like Mothers’ Guide to Breast-feeding in 2002. Hence, it is no wonder that her definition of ‘success’ sounds different from the Oxford English Dictionary. “It means being distinguished in many fields,” Noora asserts.

Ruqaya Hassan Alzubaidi is a well-known face in this part of the world — being a television anchor at Al Sharqiya, in Dubai. An Iraqi, Ruqaya’s first taste of success was when she joined the popular radio station FM Station, now known as Voice of Youth FM, as a radio jockey in Iraq. “This was the only station in Baghdad that broadcast foreign music,” says Ruqaya. She later worked for media giants like BBC and CNBC. Her programme llrifdain Salam (Salute to Iraq) for BBC, which gained a lot of attention in 2004, cemented her status as a household name in Iraq. With the US occupation of Iraq, things turned ugly and in 2005, Ruqaya decided to leave her country. “The situation in Baghdad was terrible. Three of my colleagues got killed,” says a pained Ruqaya. Years later, Ruqaya continues to be appreciated for her work. In 2007, she was awarded the Golden Prize for best presenter in the Arab Media Festival, in Cairo, for Radio and Television.

Forty seven-year old Reem Sayem el Dahr-Hammad grew up in the midst of a raging civil war. Born in Syria, she was raised and educated in Beirut, Lebanon. “I grew up witnessing the early part of the 1975-1991 civil war in Lebanon, which sent many of us fleeing the country more than three times,” says Reem, who now lives in California.

A qualified graphic designer, Reem also dabbles in ceramic arts. For the past three years, she has been co-organising the God Loves Beauty Interfaith Arts Festival — the brainchild of two US based community activists Ani Zonneveld and Christopher Stephan. “The idea is to form a meeting point for artists from different faiths. In 2008, the festival was held in a Jewish synagogue, the year before that at a mosque.” She helmed the visual arts exhibition, held as a part of the interfaith festival, for the past two years as the visual organiser. “I built the website and helped promote the Festival,” says an excited Reem. Her memoir in the anthology Sisters Singing: Blessings, Prayers, Art, Songs, Poetry & Sacred Stories by Women, by women authors in the US, was received well. The book is not faith-based but is more spiritual, asserts Reem.

A Tale of Two Women

Time stood still for 75-year-old Mubejel Baban when she received the shocking news two years ago. Her closest friend, who was the symbol of bravery for an entire generation of Iraqi women, had passed away. Her deceased friend was known to the world as Dr Naziha al-Dulaimi, the first woman minister in Iraq’s modern history. But to Mubejel and other close ones, she was their Aldoctora.

“I met Dr Naziha for the first time when I was 15 years old. My brother, who was also a doctor, took me to her newly-opened clinic for a medical checkup,” says Mubejel. This marked the beginning of a strong friendship that was to last through political upheaval.

“Later, I met her during the demonstrations that were held in 1948, against the proposed Portsmouth treaty with Britain. She was extremely brave and soon, she became my idol.” The 1948 demonstrations sparked Mubejel’s interest in politics.

In the year 1951, Naziha was determined to form an organisation to defend Iraqi women’s rights. “We prepared an application for a license to be sent to the Ministry of Interior. When this was declined, we worked undercover,” says Mubejel.

The efforts of these fearless women soon bore fruit. The first women’s democratic society, Iraqi Women’s League for the Defence of Women’s Rights, was formed on March 10, 1952, which was later renamed Iraqi Women’s League.

“Our families were worried about the danger we might face from the government, but that did not stop us from working and believing in our ideals,” says Mubejel.

Mubejel’s friendship with Dr Naziha strengthened during the period 1958 to 1963. After the downfall of the Iraqi monarchy, Naziha was elected as the Minister of Municipalities in 1959 by the then President Abd al-Karim Qasim.

Mubejel still remembers the fateful day the Ba’ath party came to power — February 8, 1963. “We had to part as I had gone into hiding and Dr Naziha, luckily, was out of the country by then.” Mubejel came to Britain in 1978 as “living under Saddam’s regime became impossible”. Dr Naziha settled in East Germany. Yet, the two friends stayed in touch.

Mubejel is still pained by the death of her dear friend. “We lost a remarkable woman. She was a great woman.”

anu@khaleejtimes.com


More news from