3. Reem Asaad According to her blog, Reem Asaad’s key objective is “to promote and raise financial awareness in Saudi Arabia and promote social and economic wellbeing to its people.” Her remarkable achievements have sent her into third place in our 2012 list, and the highest new entry. Assad’s “Lingerie Campaign” gained international recognition, stirring many underlying issues about the lack of female employment in Saudi Arabia. By last July, he campaign paid off when the Labour Ministry banned men from working in lingerie shops after a directive from King Abdullah – in an instant, creating 44,000 jobs for women. The second stage of the law being implemented could see another 30,000 jobs created for Saudi women - a vital fillip for the kingdom’s economy.
5. Mohammed Nabbous Mohammed Nabbous was just 28 years old when he was killed last year in Benghazi, by a pro-Gaddafi sniper while reporting on the fighting in the city. Since his death, many experts have credited Nabbous for his pivotal role in bringing the world’s attention to the killings in his native country. Without him, it is debatable whether the Western powers would have intervened in the conflict. Nabbous created the first independent broadcast news organisation in Libya since Gaddafi took control of the country. His reports were widely reported by Western media organisations, and seen by leading politicians across the world. “I am not afraid to die, I am afraid to lose the battle. That’s why I want the media to see what’s going on,” he said.
13. Tawakkul Karman Tawakkul Karman is undoubtedly the female face of the Arab Spring. The youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize - aged just 32 - Karman has found herself touring the world, bringing Yemen’s plight before diplomats and fighting for women’s rights. In her own country, of course, she has been working hard to promote freedom of speech for years. In 2005, she set up the campaign group Women Journalists Without Chains, But Karman really hit the international headlines last year, when she led a series of protests calling for the departure of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. One year on – due in part to those same protests - Saleh has quit his post and is now in the US. Although the demonstrations led by Karman and others were peaceful, they resulted in a strong backlash from the Yemeni government. Hundreds were killed, and thousands were injured. In a recent newspaper interview, Karman herself expressed surprise that she was still alive. “I have always believed that resistance against repression and violence is possible without relying on similar repression and violence,” she said in her Nobel prize acceptance speech.
12. Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim Now 60 years old, Tamim has had a remarkable career in public service. In 1970 he graduated from the Royal Police Academy in Jordan, after which he specialised in criminal investigations. After working his way up the chain of command, in 1979 he was appointed Deputy Chief of Police in Dubai, before taking the top job in 1980. Over the past 31 years, he has totally transformed the police force, its role and its reputation internationally and locally. He has published eight major reports on policing, and credited with a number of the police force’s key achievements in the last three decades. These include launching the Dubai Police Academy; establishing the Dubai Forensic Laboratory and the use of DNA in investigations; forming the land, marine and air rescue teams and establishing a special rehabilitation centre for drug addicts. Tamim is also largely credited with driving the force towards using modern technology – it was the first government department to use emails, and later became the first fully operational e-government department. He shot to worldwide fame when he led the investigation into the assassination of Mahmoud Mahbouh, a Hamas operative who was killed by a hit squad in a luxury hotel in Dubai. A major figure on the emirate’s political scene, Tamim’s forthright views are respected by both expatriates and locals. In addition, he is also highly regarded for his social welfare work, which has included the establishment of an orphanage in Dubai, and the launch of the Khalfan School for teaching the Holy Quran.
22. Elie Saab “I am not only a fashion designer, I have the vision of an entrepreneur, a businessman,” Elie Saab told Arabian Business last year. He couldn’t be more right. Today, the 47-year-old runs a truly global empire, with boutiques in Beirut, Paris, London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Mexico City. The collections are sold in 50 countries and 70 points of sale worldwide. The Elie Saab story is as original as many of his designs. Born in Beirut to a wood merchant and housewife, his interest in dress making started when he was just nine years old. In 1982, at the age of 18, he opened his first couture atelier in Beirut with fifteen staff on the payroll. Today, with the expansion and growth of the brand, more than 200 employees are part of ELIE SAAB Group. The brand’s global breakthrough started in 1997 with an invitation to take part in the Camera Nazionale della Moda as the only non Italian designer. Since 1999, Elie Saab has dressed Hollywood cinema, music, theatre and television A-list stars. A philanthropist, he participated in many charity events: Paris tout P’tits, les Sapins des Créateurs, les Frimousses des Créateurs, Sidaction, Red Cross fund-raisers, but also the Mosaic Foundation in Washington, the fight against breast cancer in London, the fight against children’s cancer in Beirut. In 2003, he received the title of “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Cèdre” presented to him by the President of the Lebanese Republic.
39. Leila El Solh The youngest daughter of the late former Lebanese prime minister, Riad El Solh, Leila El Solh was the first woman in her country’s history to hold a cabinet position when she took on the Minister of Industry brief in 2004. Today, she is best known for her work with the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation in Lebanon. Chaired by HRH Prince Alwaleed, the foundation has managed to reach many areas in Lebanon to provide funds for development projects and alleviate poverty. Under El Solh’s stewardship, the foundation has become a pillar of support for education, health and social organisations throughout the country. In 2008, she was awarded the Pontifical Medal by Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of her efforts made to encourage religious tolerance.
40. Mohammed Al Marri A former policeman with 26 years on the force under his belt, Al Marri has been at the forefront at massive change at the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD), where a switch to online services, plus a new training complex, have seen a huge improvement in service. While many might see the DNRD role as a behind-the-scenes position, Al Marri’s role is actually vital in streamlining the vast numbers of visitors to Dubai, and ensuring that the flow of tourist dollars remains high. In a government reshuffle ordered by Deputy Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the start of 2010, Al Marri saw his responsibilities increased. Already head of Dubai’s Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) since 2007, he was appointed head of the commission for social development, one of five new committees that will assist the emirate’s decision-making process.
63. Lama Sulaiman Lama Sulaiman was elected deputy chairwoman of the Jeddah Chamber for Commerce & Industry in December 2009, becoming the first female to hold such a post in Saudi history. Her appointment was even more remarkable given that just a week before standing for election, the businesswoman was told she had beaten breast cancer. The mother of four is well aware of the delicacies of being a Saudi woman in her position, telling Bloomberg: “You have to proceed carefully. You have to respect others,” adding that few clerics have objected to her working with men due to her husband’s authorisation.
71. Muna AbuSulayman
Until recently, Muna AbuSulayman was secretary general for the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, charged with spending upto $100m a year on good causes. She is widely seen as an international expert in development and philanthropy. Due to a diverse cross-functional work experience over the past 16 years, AbuSulayman has become internationally recognised as an expert in the fields of management, sustainable development, and communications, media, the Middle East, women and gender, as well as on Islam. She is best known as the first Saudi woman to break through media and cultural traditions by becoming the first Saudi female to appear on non-government global TV and ushering in changes in the way women are viewed by conservatives.
79. Zaha Hadid Iraqi-born architect, Zaha Hadid is amongst the most celebrated in her field. With a clutch of international awards under her belt, she has designed some of the most recognisable and unique buildings in the world. Educated at the American University of Beirut, where she received a degree in mathematics, Hadid moved to London to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. She was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Some of Hadid’s most prestigious projects include the MAXXI — National Museum of the 21st Century Arts in Rome, the Guangzhou Opera House and the Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza, Spain. In addition, Forbes named Hadid as one of the ‘100 Most Powerful Women in the World’ in 2008.
130. Mona Almoayyed The Bahrain Businesswomen’s Society was established in 2000, and is tasked with the development and promotion of social and economical relations among businesswomen in Bahrain. It has been instrumental in moving the issue of women in the workplace onto the mainstream agenda, and today Bahraini women are found participating across all commercial, economical, investment, and developmental activities. As the society’s president, Mona Almoayyed has proved a vocal advocate of social change, this work even eclipsing her achievements as managing director of Y K Almoayyed & Sons. She was also the first woman to be elected to the board of the Bahraini Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Fighting to improve the rights of Bahraini workers is one of the causes closest to her heart, as evident through her work for the Migrant Workers Protection Society.
150. Maria Maalouf The Lebanese journalist and political analyst is best known for presenting the television programme ‘Without Censorship’, which covered a range of topics including nepotism and fraud in the Arab world. Maalouf made international news when she received death threats following an interview with a German criminal investigator, who accused the Moassad of assassinating the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. She is a member of the Syrian National Society Party.
152. Afnan Rashid Al Zayani Wife, mother, television cooking show star, activist and multi-million-dollar company CEO, Afnan Rashid Al Zayani, president of Al Zayani Commercial Services, transcends categories. A former vice-president of the Bahrain bourse, Al Zayani has established business credentials. Named one of the world’s most powerful Arab women by Forbes magazine, her former roles include president of the Bahrain Businesswomen’s Society, where she crafted a far-reaching agenda that catered to all women in business. Added to this, she is CEO of Al Zayani Commercial, director of Al Ayam Press, Printing & Publishing and chair of the MENA Businesswomen’s Network.
154. Ali Farzat Cartoons can be controversial means of communication in the Arab world, but Ali Farzat has published thousands of politically driven works in various regional and international publications. nNo stranger to controversy, Farzat’s politically charged depictions led to a death threat from Saddam Hussein and bans from Iraq, Jordan and Libya. When his artwork took on the Assad regime in Syria, it led to him being beaten up in central Damascus. The gunmen in the attack targeted his fingers. nAs a result of the attack, Farzat became a symbol for the resistance movement in the country, and Arab cartoonists around the world united in solidarity. The US called the assault ‘targeted and brutal’. Farzat was named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2012. “I was born to be a cartoonist, to oppose, to have differences with regimes that do these bad things. This is what I do,” he says.
161. Azmi Bishara Azmi Bishara has certainly had an interesting life. Born in Nazareth in 1956, Bishara became a member of the Israeli parliament in 1996, representing the Arab party Balad. He was also the first Arab to run for prime minister in 1999. Although he dropped out before the poll actually took place, he succeeded in drawing attention to the Israeli Arab cause. He resigned from the Knesset in 2007 following a police investigation into alleged links with Syria and Hezbollah, and currently lives in Qatar where he appears frequently on Al Jazeera as an eloquent commentator on Arab affairs.
165. Wael Ghonim At the beginning of last year, Wael Ghonim was an ordinary IT executive — albeit working for arguably the decade’s most prominent firm — living in a comfortable villa in the UAE. By mid-February last year, the bespectacled 31-year-old father of two had become the face of the Egyptian revolution, which resulted in the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak. Within a few months, TIME magazine had added him in its “Time 100” list of the 100 most influential people of 2011. Ghonim also received the JFK Profile in Courage Award and was presented the award by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy. nSince the protests in Tahrir Square, however, the one-time revolutionary hero has had a quiet few months. Ghonim has taken a long-term sabbatical from his job at Google, and has signed a book deal. He attended an IMF meeting in late 2011, and has attracted criticism from Egyptians who argue that he is too heavily focused on economic issues, rather than political ones.
180. Dalia Mogahed Egyptian-born Dalia Mogahed was propelled onto the international arena when she became the first Muslim veiled woman to be appointed to a position in the White House. nMogahed was selected as an advisor to US president Barack Obama on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships in April 2011. She joined 25 other religious and secular representatives who report to the president on the role religion can play in resolving social problems. Mogahed also heads up research organisation the Gallup American Centre for Muslim Studies and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Arab World.
187. Nujood Ali In 2008, a ten-year-old made an appearance in a Sana’a court, demanding a divorce from her husband, a man in his 30s. Nujood Ali, whose family lived in a suburb of the Yemeni capital, undertook an arranged marriage two months previously, and was regularly beaten by her in-laws and raped by her husband. Ali escaped from her husband’s, and a local lawyer, Shada Nasser, agreed to take on the case. Ali won her case and she became a figurehead against forced marriage in the impoverished country. nShe also visited the US, where she was named one of Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year”.
265. Alaa Al Aswany Alaa Al Aswany is one of Egypt’s most famous writers and a founding member of the political movement Kefaya. He has contributed many articles to Egyptian newspapers, ranging from literature to politics. One of his most popular novels, The Yacoubian Building, has been translated into some 30 languages. Al Aswany was one of the few prominent faces during the Egyptian revolution last year.
345. Wedad Lootah Wedad Lootah has earned high praise through her efforts to solve sexual problems between couples.
353. Hanan Ashrawi Politician and activist Ashrawi is a leading proponent of Palestinian statehood.
355. Haifa Al Kaylani Haifa Al Kaylani is a top advocator both of womens rights and female employment issues in the region.
366. Nawal Al Saadawi Feminist and author Nawal Al Saadawi was active during last years revolution, despite being aged 80.
435 Manal Omar Activist, author, Iraq
495 Aref Ali Nayed Founder and director, Kalam Research & Media, Jordan (Libya)