Today in some Arab countries it is still a tough fight against social stereotypes and long-standing cliche about women in Middle East world. The gloomy picture of a female having a very limited access to political and social activity, business and a list of occupations is often carried by media. These Arab cartoonists challenge both the image of Muslim women and the whole society by raising a straight question in their caricatures.

 

Doaa el-Adl

This most famous Egyptian female cartoonist is well-known for her works with a deep focus on social, political or religious controversial issues, which often was the reason for accusing her of blasphemy. She is also the one, who decided to show the world the face of contemporary Muslim socio-philosophical doctrine and how the woman is treated in terms of it.

She hit the society with taboo-topics of sexual harassment, home violence and other kinds of mistreatment, which she faced herself.

“At the beginning of my career, I was not aware of what my role should be. But by the time I realized that, I knew I had to make a difference as a female cartoonist. That’s why the women’s causes depicted in my cartoons are an integral part of me, as I faced many of these situations myself”.

Doaa el-Adl

Creating for and about women Doaa el-Adl aimed to gain attention and influence both the society and government change the situation for the best and protect women.

 

Nadia Khiari

Another famous female  Arab cartoonist comes from Tunisia and confesses that started to publish her first chronicles anonymously so that no one could guess she was a woman. She is famous for her politically oriented series with Willis the Cat about life in post-revolutionary Tunisia.

A special interest in her cartoons gained a problem of sexual abuse victims being pressed by their relatives to marry their attackers in order to keep the honour of the family. The background for the series was a reaction to a Tunisian TV show host suggestion to a young girl who has been a victim of sexual abuse by three male relatives, marry one of them after she became pregnant.

Nadia Khiari

Nadia Khiari drew the attention to the problem of sexual harassment in Tunisia in order to establish a legal basis preventing such precedents and enshrine gender equality.

“The Tunisian administration doesn’t recognize rape for what it is. It isn’t seen as a serious crime.”

Riham El Hour

The first woman in Morocco, who joined the Union of Moroccan Professional Caricaturists known as woman rights defender and fighter against male guardianship laws. “Born a feminist” like she says herself Riham El Hour as the main topic of her cartoons chose men using the law for their own benefit to abridge the rights of their wives.

Travelling abroad is an example, showing how women rights are under male guardianship. Even after a line of reforms women still need their husband’s formal permission for leaving the country with their children.

Riham El Hour

“I want my drawings to stir women to fight for their rights,” says the cartoonist. “I don’t want them to moan about being the victim. I am a fighter. All women are fighters.”

Omayya Joha

Omayya Joha is the first Palestinian female cartoonist, well known in the Middle East for her caricatures about the everyday life of Palestinians and current political situation. She decided not to concentrate on women rights but express her opinion regarding Israel occupation, home and international politics. Her main characters are oppressed Palestinians, refugees, prisoners and other desperate people, fighting for their rights. Her sarcasm and critics refer to government and law system making people suffer.

Omayya Joha

Behind caricatures of Omayya Joha her personal experience of losing two husbands under Israel’s aggression, which has also destroyed her native Gaza. It made her express deep sorrow and pain like no one before did, so that it brought her the status of best Arab journalist in 2001 by winning the Arab Journalism Award, which usually was handed out to male specialists.

 

Hana Hajjar

This woman is an artist and political cartoonist for Arab news, who began to draw at the age of 12. Her earlier works were the reflection of the war in Palestine and called for a ceasefire. She is the first and still the only one Female cartoonist in Saudi Arabia. Hana also criticises Saudi Arabian international politics, social standards and gender inequality.

The cartoonist means that women in contemporary society are in oppressive position since the government supports existing situation. Hana tells that Saudi Arabia faces a slight progress in winning equality. Deputy Minister of Education has a woman in disposition and one of Hana’s colleague in the department is also female.

Hana Hajjar

However, the progress does not move fast enough, while resistance it meets is strong. The opening of a new university caused a high objection against offered mixed classes and against allowing women to drive on the campus.

Hajjar’s caricatures challenge both home policy of Saudi Arabia and sexist social norms, uncovering unequal relations between genders. Cartoonist admits that she has to be careful with expressing her opinion about long-lasting principles. In order to keep balance and not cause any serious circumstances she always needs to keep it in mind.

“I like to draw thought-provoking and argument-provoking caricatures. I like to see how much I can push people to think, but am mindful never to cross societal red lines.” 

Lena Merhej

Lebanese visual storyteller and Ph.D. student, currently doing research on graphic narratives has a solid academic background behind her works. Lena Merhej has degrees in Visual Studies of the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University and gives workshops on animation, illustration and comics.

Her comic strips about everyday life gained popularity and were highly appreciated by a vast audience. Comic book “Mrabba w Labban” (Yogurt and Jam) took various international awards as well as the animation “Drawing the war”, where the artist does the narration against self-made pictures in motion. The work itself contains cartoonists thoughts and ideas on artists mission and mission of art in general.  Philosophical component is blended with personal memories about the time of the agony of the war and civil life under it.  All in all, the animation represents her personal point of view on creating a piece of art, based on own experience.

Lena Merhej

In the introduction to the cartoon, Lena says: “Many times I walked on a blank page where the lines got either faint or erased. Many people have discouraged me, told me that there was nothing to look for, that the lines never existed and that I only imagined it all”. But she was mensch enough to begin a story and draw a  line.

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