2020 hasn’t gotten off to the best start. There was the group harassment incident, Salmonella, WWIII threats, and when that was over the Corona virus hit and the world has been terrified to its core ever since. That was all in the first two weeks of Jan, which, if I may add, seemed like it was going to be with us forever. But we are now in February, a new month, with a promising new beginning. A new semester for us to ace, new challenges to conquer and new mountains to climb. And what is a better way to give yourself a little push than to set for new idols. We have compiled a list for you of 7 kick-ass Arab women to follow on Instagram who will give you the energy you need to get back to accomplishing all the goals you had set in December, right before everything that went wrong in January.
1. Salma El-Wardany (@salmaelwardany)
Salma is a half-Egyptian, half-Irish radio host, poet, business owner, and activist. She was born in a village in Egypt and later moved to North England where she spent a few years with her parents. After earning a bachelor degree and two extra degrees, she moved back to Egypt just in time for the Arab Spring. Salma stayed in Egypt for two years after the revolution then went back to England to become one of the most influential poets/storytellers the UK has to offer. Her stories live in her poems, magazine articles, TEDx speeches and even books.
The phrase “school’s in session” is forever ingrained in everyone’s minds as Salma El Wardany’s pre-rant phrase. She’s constantly using her instagram as a way through which she raises awareness about the shitty patriarchy and all that entails – from sexual harassment to dating, and the longest rants are often about consent. Honestly? She is everything. No one is more empowering via social media than Salma El Wardany.
2. Mona El Tahawy (@monaeltahawy)
Mona Eltahawy is an award-winning columnist, author, and international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues and global feminism. She is a contributor to the New York Times opinion pages. During the 18-day revolution that toppled Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, she appeared on most major media outlets, leading the feminist website Jezebel to describe her as “The Woman Explaining Egypt to the West”.
In 2009, in 2009, the European Union awarded her its Samir Kassir Prize for Freedom of the Press for her opinion writing. In November 2011, Egyptian riot police beat her, breaking her left arm and right hand, and sexually assaulted her and she was detained for 12 hours by the Interior Ministry and Military Intelligence. She was named one of Newsweek magazine’s “150 Fearless Women of 2012”, and featured by Time Magazine along with other activists from around the world as its People of the Year and named by Arabian Business magazine as one of the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women.
3. Mona Haydar (@themostmona)
Mona grew up in Flint, Michigan, graduated from the University of Michigan and has since lived in Damascus where she studied Arabic and Islamic spirituality. She completed her Masters in Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 2018. Mona transitioned from writing and performing her poetry to rap in 2015. Her single “Hijabi” was a ground breaking debut with millions of views which featured Mona, 8 months pregnant with her second son, surrounded by an intersectional group of dynamic women calling out racism and colorism. Mona’s second single, “Dog” takes on violence against women with lyrics which call out men in positions of religious authority who use their power to prey on young (and old) people.
4. Dena Takruri (@denatakruri)
Dena is of Palestinian descent. She completed her graduate studies at Georgetown University in Arab Studies. She began her broadcast career in 2007 as co-host and producer on a weekly hour-long satellite television program called “What’s Happening” that aired on Arab Radio and Television Network (ART). She also worked as a research assistant with Dr. Rochelle Davis of Georgetown University between January 2007 and April 2008. One of her duties included interviewing U.S. military personnel who served in Iraq for a project on their perceptions of Iraqi culture and U.S. military cultural training. The findings of this research were ultimately published in a chapter of a book titled “Anthropology and Global Counter Insurgency”.
She is a renown journalist and is a producer with AJ+, Al Jazeera’s video based media network. She’s amazing. period.
5. Noor Tagouri (@noor)
Noor Tagouri is a Libyan American journalist, activist, motivational speaker, and producer of both a documentary series on the mistreatment of people with mental disabilities and a podcast-series on sex trafficking in the U.S. – both of which are intensely popular.
After attending Prince George’s Community College in Maryland at the age of 16 and graduating with a 4.0 GPA and highest honors, Tagouri was offered a full merit scholarship to the University of Maryland. From there she worked at CBS Radio, had tenure at CTV News, and then became a reporter for Newsy. Her work also appeared in the Washington Post, Forbes, Refinery 29, and People Magazine.
In 2016, she became the first hijab-wearing woman to appear in Playboy as part of the legendary magazine’s “Renegades of 2016” feature. Tagouri appeared on the pages of the newly revamped Playboy—fully clothed—and also wearing her hijab. Nothing screams “revolutionary” quite like that move.
She took to her personal website to address the controversy caused by the Playboy feature, standing by her decision telling her social media followers, “A fully clothed 22-year-old Muslim American Libyan Woman took an iconic magazine and used it to spread a positive and much-needed message.”
Noor can be found on many panels spreading awareness on a myriad of social injustices, going to fashion shows with her husband Adam Khafif, doing charity with I See You or casually tumbling with Queer Eye’s JVN.
6. Sarrah Abdelrahman (@sarrahsworld)
Sarrah Abdelrahman is a young Egyptian actress who started off as a vlogger on YouTube after the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Abdelrahman had faith in the power youth possessed over political developments; she has since been hopeful about achieving the change the country needed.
Abdelrahman showed up to El-Gouna Film Festival in 2018 wearing a top made of recycled plastic. The actress explained that she chose to take part in a global movement against plastic pollution, saying that Egypt manufactures 12 billion plastic bags annually however only 5% are recycled.
She stands against almost every form of injustice known, it’s such a breath of fresh air, to see someone young and powerful be transparent, accountable, and incredibly empowering.