Our Women on the Ground (Arab Women Reporting from the Arab world) Edited by Zahra Hankir (Foreword by Christiane Amanpour)

‘The tragedy of war, of course, is that no one emerges unscathed.’

So much of the coverage of events in the Arab world is provided through Western eyes. This view is restricted by their (and our) understanding of what are often complex situations. Could we understand the issues better if we were seeing them through several different eyes? Would we respond differently?

In this book, edited by Zahra Hankir, nineteen Arab women contribute essays about their experiences as journalists, reporters and photographers.

‘My intention in creating this anthology was to help ensure that the voices of the women who are striving to shape and document Arab history now are amplified, and to give them space to speak for themselves, without projecting themes of women’s issues and patriarchy onto them.’

Nineteen extraordinary women. Courageous women, who understand the cultures within which they work and live, who report firsthand the human impacts of war. Consider the impact of car bombings, when most of the victims were men. One immediate consequence is that most of those men left behind widows, who then had to provide for their families. Consider how they might do this.

Most reportage of war focusses on numbers (of people killed, buildings destroyed, of the amount of territory changing hands, types and numbers of weapons used). This reportage focusses on the impact of war on people. And yes, it is uncomfortable reading. How do you comfort a woman who has lost a child? How can you report about the refugees fleeing violence in Syria, carrying possessions and children? People, not numbers.

Some of the women reporting are aware that it is luck that separates them from the fate of those they are reporting about. The good fortune of living in London, rather than in ISIS country.

‘I felt like a vulture – a journalist who swooped in, got my story, and flew out.’

This is an unsettling read, far from the mostly depersonalised summaries of events we’ve received through Western media. I am in awe of the courage of these women, of the work they have done to report their experiences.
Jennifer Cameron-Smith