Maryam Jamshidi


5 Ways Women Are Rising In The Middle East

June 4, 2014

Women do not share the same rights as men in many Arab world countries; however, this is slowly changing. According to a recent article from Guardian Liberty Voice, some societal indicators demonstrate this improvement in the lives of Arab women in the Middle East and North Africa. Some of these points include:

  • A movement has begun in Saudi Arabia to allow physical education in girls’ schools. And after sending two women to compete in the 2012 Olympics, the Saudi government began providing a limited number of permits for girls to participate in private sports clubs.
  • Women are finally heard in Saudi government and can hold more powerful positions, such as the deputy minister of education, Norah al-Faiz.
  • More Arab women are taking leadership roles in business, with growing regional and international support for their success as entrepreneurs.
  • Although usually out of necessity, many more women are now successfully employed.
  • In Saudi Arabia, more women attend college than men. Some women even travel abroad to learn without a male companion.

To read more about how women are advancing in the Arab world, click here for Guardian Liberty Voice‘s article.

Written by Sonja Trierweiler, social media specialist and blogger on the Middle East.

Cairo-Based Startup Accelerator Expanding to UAE, World

May 30, 2014

The Arab Spring revolutions in January 2011 sparked a spirit of entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa region. Art collectives formed, startups popped up, and innovation flowed. One particular startup accelerator, Cairo’ Flat6Labs, began as a result of the revolutions, and today it is a thriving, well-known brand across the Arab world.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The accelerator has invested and mentored 57 startups, and has expanded to Jeddah. On Tuesday evening in Cairo at an investor demo day for its latest 10 startups, Flat6Labs announced a partnership with Abu Dhabi’s media zone TwoFour54 to create another chapter in the United Arab Emirates.

Though Flat6Labs will accelerate local startups in the UAE, its main goal is international investment from its new location. Click here to read more about its outlook from the Wall Street Journal.

Written by Sonja Trierweiler, social media specialist and blogger on the Middle East.

Unique Egyptian Job Search Site Fights Unemployment

May 28, 2014

Unemployment in the Middle East has risen dramatically with the growing youth population, and regional instability causing company closures and fewer government jobs. But the Arab world has been known to creatively solve some of its sizable setbacks, with one innovative man from Egypt finding a profitable way to combat unemployment.

Karim Al-Halwani founded job search engine Cantalop, writes Wamda. Still in beta, Cantalop uses an algorithm to compile available jobs posted on companies’ websites. This way, Cantalop avoids including multiples of the same job that is posted on several job sites.

While Al-Halwani is currently funding this venture himself, he hopes to make profit by incentivizing companies to feature their open job positions on Cantalop. He said“My next step would be to expand in marketing, get investments, and then expand regionally. I strongly believe in getting one’s affairs in order [before taking the next step].”

Users can sign up through their LinkedIn profiles, and the program targets those with higher education levels and advanced degrees–those who more tend to have a difficult time finding employment that meet their qualifications.

To read Wamda‘s article about Cantalop and Al-Halwani, click here.

Written by Sonja Trierweiler, social media specialist and blogger on the Middle East.

Social Media is Primary News Source in Arab World

May 23, 2014

In the past few years, social media use in the Arab world has skyrocketed; so much so, that people now turn to it as their primary source for news. In the recently released Arab Social Media Outlook 2014 report, 30% of those surveyed with access to Internet use social media as their go-to news source.

Many people see it as the most legitimate source of news because it is unbiased. In an interview with Al Arabiya, a member of Social Media Club UAE explained: “The Arab Spring also contributed to this, where the young generation started searching for an honest source of news and information, away from conventional media.”

Social media may not be a good tool for education given the worldwide lack of online Arabic content. However, many agree that learning about how to use it effectively is important. Programs, like those offered by Social Media Club UAE, teach social media etiquette and literacy.

To read more about this recently released report on Al Arabiya, click here.

Written by Sonja Trierweiler, social media specialist and blogger on the Middle East.

Composer Helps Refugee Children Through Music

May 21, 2014

Malek Jandali has been on tour traveling Europe. But what makes him stand out, aside from him being an award-winning composer, is that his tour centers around fundraising for Syrian children in refugee camps.

He said in a Your Middle East article that visiting some of the refugee camps in 2012 was a “a historic trip for me … to enter my homeland and touch the hands of these innocent children, these victims of a brutal and vicious war, and teach them how to play music.” He then made it his mission to collect donations for the children of these camps through his music and his tours.

But while raising money for the camps, Jandali has faced some difficult opposition, namely, Assad’s regime. While in Washington, he performed a song called “Wantani Ana,” or “I am my Homeland” in English. When Assad’s regime found out about the song and its meaning, they found Jandali’s family in Homs and attacked them.

Jandali draws inspiration for his songs from the culture of his home country of Syria. As a prominent artist, his influence and efforts to help Syrian children are widespread.

To read more about Malek Jandali and what he is doing to help Syrian refugee children, click here.

Written by Sonja Trierweiler, social media specialist and blogger on the Middle East.

Despite Social Stigma, Second-Hand Stores Thrive in Gaza

May 16, 2014

Many people living in Gaza cannot afford name-brand clothing, let alone new clothing. Regardless of the circumstance, this need for inexpensive garments drives the sale of second-hand clothing and sustains business for those selling. 

Both passers-by and regulars frequent these street vendors to purchase used clothing for themselves and their families. Some even find name-brand clothing without even realizing the value of the purchase, writes Al-Monitor.

Still, many people are wary of visiting second-hand clothing stores in Gaza for fear of the social stigma attached to buying used garments. In Al-Monitor‘s interview with a young woman to be married soon, she said:

“We have a flea market in Khan Younis where I live, but I cannot go there or buy from it for fear that my fiancé or one of his relatives will see me there. It would be an unbearable badge of shame for me to be seen spending the dowry that he paid on secondhand clothes.”

Likewise, many mothers do not buy second-hand clothing because they do not want their children embarrassed, even if they cannot afford new clothes.

But one woman who shops there explains, “I am the mother of four boys and five girls, two of whom graduated from college but remain unemployed. As a result, I am compelled to buy them used clothes for lack of money.”

Although the stigma remains pervasive, many take advantage of the affordable price at which they can purchase clothes while sustaining the second-hand clothing market.

To read more accounts from Al-Monitor on the benefits and disadvantages of shopping at second-hand stores in Gaza, click here.

Written by Sonja Trierweiler, social media specialist and blogger on the Middle East.

A Look at the Life of Atheism in Egypt

May 14, 2014

The number of Egypt’s open atheists is on the rise. After the revolutions, many youth chose to do things differently than their parents, including questioning religion. When a society forces religion, its people to push back;and  in this case, it is causing an increasing number of youth to not believe in God. 

One young man who was interviewed by Al-Monitor explains his choice to abandon religion during this time: “I can no longer understand how God, whom everyone calls just, would accept that my innocent friends died during the revolution, that I lost people I loved and that I suffer for their death, without me having committed a sin to be punished for.”

When writing this article, Al-Monitor found that it was difficult to openly interview many atheists living in Egypt–some not providing their actual name, and many plainly refusing–for fear of judgment or even persecution. Egypt’s culture is not particularly welcoming to open non-believers in God; although Egypt’s constitution permits freedom of expression, Egyptian law still permits trial in court on contempt of religion. In society, women tend to receive a harsher punishment from family and elders–people who grew up in a different Egypt from today’s post-Arab Spring country. Not only is society hostile to atheists, but the media also treats those who do not believe in God with negative bias.

To read more from Al-Monitor, click here.

Written by Sonja Trierweiler, social media specialist and blogger on the Middle East.

Venture Capital Investment Gains Momentum in Middle East

May 9, 2014

It has never been a more attractive time for aspiring entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa.

Companies from around the world are putting their money in the region with hopes that the booming startup scene can churn their investment into profit, writes Tehran-based news site Mideast Times. Investors’ interests are piqued by major companies like Wamda, i360, and Oasis 500 who show a promising appeal.

As the venture capital industry gains momentum and works itself out into a more stable practice, investors have become increasingly confident in gambling higher sums of money in the Middle East and North Africa. Only several years ago, a few million dollars was invested in venture capital funds for the region. But today, this number finds itself in the tens of millions.

To read more on these venture capital investments from Mideast Times, click here.

Written by Sonja Trierweiler, social media specialist and blogger on the Middle East.