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Stop portraying Arab women as victims

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Saudi Arabian independent filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour delivers a speech during a ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2019 meeting, on January 21, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland.

FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP | Getty Images

Saudi Arabian independent filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour delivers a speech during a ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2019 meeting, on January 21, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland.

“In all the scripts I get, Muslim and Arab women are all victims and sad, and things are happening to them — and it’s like no, we’re very sassy. We’re very strong. Don’t take us for granted.”

She opposed the stereotype that “Arab women are not in control of their destiny,” while adding that “sometimes they are not, because of family … but that does not take their soul, and that does not take who they are as people, as fighters, with a strong will to survive and to succeed. So that is a huge misconception, we are way more than who they think we are as women.”

Al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker and the country’s most well-known. Coming from a country known for its highly conservative interpretation of Islam and austere rules surrounding women’s lives, her work, which shines a light on the lives of women in the Gulf, was hailed as groundbreaking. Her feature debut, Wadjda, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, was the first to be fully shot in Saudi Arabia as a feature-length film and the only one filmed in the country by a female Saudi national.

Al-Mansour this week was honored with the WEF’s Crystal Award, along with conductor Marin Alsop and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, as an “exceptional cultural leader” and a force for positive change.

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