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On International Women’s Day, five Arab women making the headlines

A version of this article originally appeared on Now Lebanon.

In honor of International Women’s Day, we are highlighting five Arab women who have made headlines, pushed boundaries, and inspired us over the past year.

1. Amal Clooney, International Human Rights Lawyer

Clooney is a London-based international human rights lawyer. Born in Beirut and educated at Oxford and New York University, her clients include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the state of Cambodia.

She previously worked in the Office of the Prosecutor at the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She has served on a number of UN commissions, including as advisor to Special Envoy Kofi Annan on Syria, and as Counsel to the 2013 UN human rights inquiry into the use of drones in counter-terrorism operations. She has also advised on the protection of children from sexual violence in conflict zones, and was selected for the UN’s three-member commission to investigate possible war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

She is currently working on the case for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and is representing jailed Al Jazeera journalist Mohammed Fahmy.

Clooney’s public profile has also shed light on the treatment of women by the media. When asked what label she was wearing while making her way to court, she famously answered “Ede and Ravenscroft” – referring, of course, to the English legal robe makers.

She also happens to be married to actor George Clooney.

2. Iqbal Al-Assad, Doctor

Aged 22, al-Assad is the youngest doctor in the Arab world, having graduated from the Weill Cornell Medical College when she was only 20 years old.

A Palestinian raised in Lebanon, she completed high school at the age of 12 and received a scholarship to study medicine in Qatar.

Now a fully licensed doctor, she says she hopes to return to Lebanon to open a clinic for Palestinian refugees – however Lebanese law currently prevents Palestinians from working as doctors.

3-4. Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi, Activists

Women’s rights campaigners al-Hathloul and al-Amoudi made international headlines in December 2014 when they openly defied the Saudi ban on female driving, and attempted to cross into the country by car.

The pair were apprehended at the UAE border and jailed for two months before being released in February. Their act of open defiance sparked conversations around the world about the oppression of Saudi women.

5. Major Mariam al-Mansouri, F-16 pilot

Al-Mansouri first made history as the United Arab Emirates’ first female fighter pilot. In September 2014 she grabbed headlines around the world when she led airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

She holds a degree in English literature, and was among the first women to attend Khalifa bin Zayed Air College, graduating in 2007.

While she received widespread support over social media, she also faced some backlash. Most notably, Fox News host Eric Bolling was forced to issue an apology after joking about whether she could park her plane.

Major al-Mansouri flies an F-16 Fighting Falcon.


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