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By: Maddie Rule/Arab America Contributing Writer
Most news coming out of the Arab world today tends to be bleak. Conflict, famine, and refugee crises have plagued it in recent years, and it can be easy to lose hope. But not everything in the Arab world right now is grim. Here are 5 reasons why there’s still hope with the Arab world.
1. Arab Filmmakers are Breaking Barriers
Recently, it was announced that Nadine Labaki was the first Arab woman to be shortlisted for the Oscars. This historical breakthrough signals new breaking barriers regarding Arab filmmakers.
Back in January, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 2018 Oscars, which included the first-ever nominations for films from both Lebanon and Syria. Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri’s film “The Insult,” was nominated for best foreign language film, and Syrian Firas Fayyad’s “Last Men in Aleppo,” was nominated for best documentary.
Fayyad said that he hoped that these historic nominations would bring hope to people back home who were struggling. It opens the road for other filmmakers and artists to think that there’s nothing impossible, especially, in a time when your country is destroyed, your resources are less, and the people who could stand with you are less,” he said.
2. Solar Energy Could Solve Major Drought Problems
The World Resources Institute came out with new research earlier this year stating that large amounts of water could be saved by switching to solar energy, reducing the need for fossil fuel electricity generation that uses up water. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Oman are just a few countries that the WRI says could benefit by making the switch.
“These countries have high-average resources for both solar and wind that could be put to very productive uses, and it could potentially assist them in their water-related challenges,” said Jordan Macknick, energy and water analyst at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
3. Women in Saudi Arabia Get the Right to Drive
Women in Saudi Arabia took to the roads this summer as the country’s long-standing and controversial ban on female driving was lifted. Social media was inundated with pictures and videos of women getting behind the wheel on their own for the first time, as the rest of the world applauded Saudi leadership for what was seen as a big step for women’s rights in the country.
One new driver, Hessah al-Ajaji, told the Associated Press, “I’m speechless. I’m so excited it’s actually happening.” She said the male drivers on the road early Sunday morning “were really supportive and cheering and smiling.”
4. Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon Repeal ‘Marry the Rapist’ Laws
Beginning last summer, legislatures in Middle Eastern countries like Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon took action to close legal loopholes that allowed rapists to avoid punishment under the law through marriage. These countries follow in the footsteps of Morocco and Egypt, who repealed similar laws in 2014 and 1999, respectively.
“These reforms are a credit to the intense campaigning by women’s rights non-governmental organizations in these countries,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Rothna Begum.
Campaigners are hopeful that these developments may encourage other Arab states such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, and Syria to follow suit in the years to come.
5. Arab Palestinian Women Inside Israel Join Together for Peace
Amidst the growing frustration with the lack of progress towards peace, many Palestinian Arab women inside of Israel are coming together in a group called Women Wage Peace. Hundreds of Arab Palestinian female citizens inside of Israel have joined the group in recent years to protest anti-normalization, an idea gaining traction in Palestine that maintains that Palestinians should not engage in any kind of personal interactions with Jewish Israelis.
“[We] want, in our own way, to make peace,” said Ghadir Hani, a member of Women Wage Peace. “As a part of Arab society, I have a feeling we can be a bridge between Palestinians and Jews since we are also Palestinians, but also citizens of this country.”
Last year, the organization held a two-week march through the country which drew 10,000 women, including 2,000 Palestinian women from the West Bank.