Category Archives: Public Sphere

Girls On Film: Saudi Arabia’s First Female Filmmaker

Wadjda Official Trailer from Razor Film on Vimeo.

My interview with the very lovely Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour is now out – see the full article at Aquila. I was lucky enough to meet Haifaa when she was in London promoting her debut film Wadjda about a young Saudi girl’s battle to cycle. See the trailer above. We got talking about the rise of female Middle Eastern filmmakers, the importance of personal victories, filming in Saudi and also cycling (of course!).

Here’s a snippet:GS Wdjaja

Make/Shift Magazine: Leila Khaled’s Revolutionary Life

Got my copy of Make/Shift magazine through the post recently with my little article in it. My piece is a Q&A with Sarah Irving who talks about the rise and fall of the Palestinian political left and Leila Khaled’s life after the (in)famous hijackings.

makeshiftmag issue 13

I genuinely love flicking through this mag as I always find something which blows my mind. Love.Love.Love. There’s a snippet of my article below but before that, the article (well, edit of lots of articles) that I really loved in this issue was about activism, burnout and caring for ourselves.

“I feel no different when I read posts like these than I did when I was working as a consultant in corporate america and the boss would send me emails on my “sick days” asking if I’d gotten a chance to review those documents, because, you know, above all, we gotta make sure we think of the company…. Last I checked, activists in the non-profit industry were accusing corporations of being greed, exploitative, blood-sucking a**holes who didn’t care about “people”, just “money.” I’m ashamed to say that after years of working with people in the non-profit industry, there’s not that much difference; just replace money with “self-righteous political agendas.”

To be completely honest, when I think about the times when I’ve been at my lowest and most strained, it’s been due to other activist guilt-tripping me into over-extending myself for some agenda I don’t even remember signing up for.

I’m lucky that I’ve been able to find others like myself, who believe just as much in caring for their communities as they do taking care of themselves, not necessarily as interdependent ideologies, but because — dare I say it — it’s possible to want to improve the world and have other interests that are not necessarily connected, including your own dreams, ambitions, peace of mind. God forbid the word “self” ever finds its way into the mouth of an activist. God forbid we actually practice the “self-love” slogans we slap on so many protest signs.”

Spectra Speaks


“i often struggle with copious amounts of shame, frustration and confusion over the fact that right now in my life all i have to give is going towards helping raise 2 children. It can feel deeply unradical, ordinary and anonymous. it is adding exponentially to my already intense isolation. While not my intention, my world has become this house, this home. As someone who is disabled and chronically ill, i am tapped…and this is capitalism at work yeah? its a set up. there is not enough. not enough time/money/energy.

and revolution. well…it’s THE thing.
but heres the thing, the front lines aren’t linear. they aren’t always dramatic. they
aren’t -out-there-. they are everywhere, including the kitchen. including the bedtime story and the hands on love of being present for need.

i’m learning to think less in terms of productivity, esp. since framing life that way will certainly end me, and think more in terms of sustaining… sustenance… support. this flies in the face of my lower class life that screams produce, keep the cards close or die. it challenges the ableism in my working class roots, the internalized high stakes drive to succeed. to avoid being trash. or criminal.”

Ambrose @ The Root Cellar 

Erin Aubry Kaplan also has a great piece about communicating (or not) with her mother via email over the years. Great read.

Leila Khaled's Revolutionary Life make:shift magazine

You can buy the mag here.

Aquila Style Magazine: What glides along swiftly and silently while creating commotion and confusion?

bike_sya (1)‘I am trying to give my friends the courage to join me, so we can prove to all those who think bad of us that we’re well educated Muslimahs,’ explains Rola Mohammed. ‘That we wear the hijab and what we do isn’t wrong.’

This young pharmacy student living in the Egyptian city of Mansoura clearly has a battle on her hands. Rola wants to change engrained beliefs and cultural taboos that dictate how a woman is seen, the freedom she is granted and the physical activities she is permitted to do. She wants women in Egypt and all across the region to rise up and try something they’ve probably never done before: She wants them to cycle. 

Aquila style empower issue arwa aburawaTo read the full feature, go to Aquila Style Magazine – The Empower Issue and download it for a couple of dollars. Go on. You know you want to.

Aquila: The Pink Revolution – Overthrowing Sexual Violence

the pink revolution aquila sexual violence harassment imprint must boi holly kearl

‘Perhaps this is a Rosa Parks moment,’ says street harassment expert Holly Kearl, pondering the global outcry following the rape and subsequent death of the young student in India. ‘If it is, I am sorry it took a woman being tortured to death to cause it, but if wide-scale change is a result, then at least her death will create something positive. Perhaps it will prevent many other women from experiencing what she did.’

That’s a tiny snippet from the article I recently wrote for Aquila Magazine on sexual violence and harassment. As well as talking to activists in India who are reeling from this incident, I spoke to Nihal  Zaghloul, a campaigner who co-founded ‘The Imprint Movement’ to tackle sexual harrassment in Egypt after a horrific experience in Tahrir Squar. Holly Kearl who is author of Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women, also offers her practical advice and tips to end harassment. To read this article and seriously loads more, download the latest Aquila magazine for a measly $4.  That’s like £2 – nothing basically so no pressure or anything, but you may want to click here and download it….

Spiritual Connection With Nature Is Key – Green Muslim Muaz Nasir

“The environment is something everyone should be concerned about as climate change, water scarcity and pollution are issues that do not discriminate based on faith.” That’s Muaz Nasir’s response to what he likes to call constructive criticism that the Muslim Ummah focus its energies on ‘bigger issues’ rather than climate change.

Personally, I can’t imagine a ‘bigger issue’ then the future of our planet but I completely accept that this realisation hasn’t quite reached the wider Muslim community. Ground-breaking policies such as the Muslim Seven Year Action Plan on Climate Change were impressive but as Nasir points out, but they failed to “develop the necessary research or resources that would push the climate agenda into the mainstream Muslim community.”

As such, any progress has been slow and the product of hard working individual campaigners rather than national policies. Read on for more about the Muslim-environmental movement in Canada, Nasir’s green Muslim website and how he is getting mosques to ‘Ban the Bottle’ among other green ideas he is working to implement in the Muslim community – ideas which can spread around the world.

Here’s a snippet of the interview – to read the full thing go to

What do you think are the barriers holding the Muslim community from fully engaging with the climate change agenda?

I think there is a general lack of awareness of the severity of climate change as well as what actions individuals can do to decrease their carbon footprint. The issue is just not on the radar of many Islamic institutions here in North America as it is in Europe. The Muslim community in Canada is fairly young, so there are understandably competing priorities, such as establishing their families and integrating into the broader society; which often takes precedence over the climate change agenda. This is beginning to change as weather patterns shift and the trends in the climate become more visible.

What have been the responses to – have you had to face any negative reactions or had to deal with climate sceptics?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive for the most part. I try to keep my articles as neutral as possible, and encourage contributors to base their arguments on facts and to justify their opinions with reference to the Quran, Hadith and Sunnah…

There has been some negative feedback as well, mainly in the form of constructive criticism but also from individuals who feel that Muslims should be investing their resources to deal with bigger issues facing the Ummah. While I understand the direction they are coming from, my response has been that the environment is something everyone should be concerned about as climate change, water scarcity and pollution are issues that do not discriminate based on faith. We all have a collective obligation to ensure that we leave the planet in better condition for future generations and that we do not waste the resources Allah has blessed upon us.

Mapping Palestine’s Environmental Civil Society – The Good, the Bad and the Uncooperative


A study mapping the environmental actors in Palestine shows a desperate lack of co-operation between organisations and donors keen to play it safe with ‘practical projects’

The lovely people at Heinrich Böll Stiftung had done something that I have been procrastinating about for almost lifetime (well, not quite a lifetime but a good couple of years at least). They have mapped out the important actors and organisations on the environmental scene in Palestine. Exciting, right!? They have painstakingly gone through all those websites, NGOs and institutes with an environmental focus to bring us a clear image of the state of the environmental movement in Palestine. They found that out of 2,245 NGOs registered in the oPt only 104 were environmentally-focused and of these, just 56 were actually still active. More juicy details after the jump.

The Facts on Green Palestine

– 104 registered environmental civil society organisation in the West Bank and Gaza

– 56 civil society organisations are actually still active

– Over 70% of environmental civil society organisations feel that their relationship with other organisations is competitive rather than co-operative

– Limited funding and efforts to raise their grassroots presence are two main reasons for the competitiveness between organisations

– 8 key organisations in Palestine based on their size, the variety of programmes implemented and geographic range:

Most organisations complained that international donors attempted to remain neutral by focusing in practical action and lacked the political will to enforce real changes by addressing Palestinians’ rights to natural resources. As such many organisations felt their projects were simply ‘coping mechanisms’. Even so, the relationship between NGOs and funders was generally described as co-operative if highly dependent.

: For the full article and to find out the top 9 key green organisations in Palestine go to

: Palestine (Photo credit: Squirmelia)

Interview with Masdar’s Director of Sustainability – Nawal Al-Hosany

portrait of UAE national woman

In 2010, after eight days of hiking in freezing temperatures Nawal Al-Hosany reached the Uhuru Peak of Kilimanjaro Mountain. She explains that she underwent the challenging climb to highlight the impact of climate change which is melting the mountain’s snow and to encourage greater action in the Middle East. Al-Hosany who joined Masdar in 2008 as the sustainability associate director is now its director of sustainability. She also director of the influential Zayed Future Energy Prize. I caught up with her to talk about Masdar and how you incentivise renewables in a rich, oil-producing country.

Here’s a snippet of the interview which you can read in full at

GreenProphet: A recent report titled “Prospects for Energy Technology Advancements in the Energy Sector,” written by yourself and IRENA highlights the opportunities available to MENA if they embrace renewables. Why is now such a good time to adopt renewable technologies?

Nawal Al-Hosany: The MENA region, and especially the Gulf States, has an opportunity to leverage its expertise in energy and move into new sectors, including wind and solar power. The future energy mix will include renewables, and we should embrace this transition. In addition, the region also has an abundant solar resource – an energy we should tap into to address energy security and our rising demands. Although the region’s renewable resources have been underexploited, technology advances and increased deployment are now making certain forms of clean energy economically viable across the region.

Who are some of the women working in the environmental sector that inspire you?

The lack of women working in the environmental sector, and the opportunity to do more, is what ultimately inspires and motivates me. We only have a handful of women across the globe that are participating in the discussion on renewable energy, sustainability and addressing climate change. These are global issues that impact us all, irrespective of the roles we play or that have been defined [for us] by society.