There are a number of stories of rad women in the Middle East who are completely blowing our western perception of Arab women out of the water, and we love it! Last week we brought to you the story of Paradise Sorouri, the female rapper from Afghanistan who, despite death threats and beatings, continues to rap and speak up about women who are being abused in her country.
And it’s not just music, but women daring to go against the male-dominated society and break all taboos to break through into the film industry and bring amazing stories to life. It definitely signals the birth of a new generation of bold, strong women who are going to do great things in their own countries, and start new chapters in world history!
Another badass woman making headlines in the media is 18 year old Egyptian raper Mayam Mahmoud. She started to name a name for herself after an appearance on Arabs Got Talent in October 2013, sharing her rap skills on a larger stage. Something about her performance has resonated deep with a lot of people in the Arab world, because she is received a lot of messages on her facebook page every day. A lot of them are supportive, but naturally, thanks to some degenerate mindsets that still sadly exist in the world, there are negative comments also, some going as far as calling her an “infidel” giving Islam a bad name.
The fact that she is a girl and wearing a Hijab is like a double negative and double the shock factor for men and women in Egypt. Added to the fact that her lyrics are mainly about shedding light on sexual abuse and harassment toward women, and you’ve got one powerful woman using her big exposure to speak up about important issues.
“If a girl has a dream to work in a field where many girls don’t work, or to do post-graduate study, or to work in a position higher than her husband – all these things often can’t be done.” she told the Guardian.
The economics graduate from Cairo counts her parents as her biggest influencers, not other rappers or hip hop artists. Her mother introduced her to poetry when she was 10 and encouraged her to write her own lyrics. Even though they were sceptical at first of her love of rap, they eventually became supportive once they knew how passionate she was.
She hated that male rappers used women as subjects in their rhymes and always gave them a bad name, objectifying them. Mayam decided she too would rap about women, but from a different perspective and highlight the problems they face.
“My dad convinced me not to talk about any old thing. But to talk about something with value,” she told BBC world news.
Since her first appearance on AGT, she has been performing at Universities in Egypt, and many other women have been inspired by her boldness.
“The other day a woman came up to me and said she’d been watching me on TV with her friends,” Mahmoud recalls. “She said: keep on talking about all the things that we don’t have the courage to talk about. You’ve become the hope. You are pushing people to start doing stuff.”
The fact that she is rapping about sexual harassment is a very taboo subject in Egypt. According to the UN, 99.3% of Egyptian women reported being sexually harassed in a study done in April 2013.
Mayam thinks the problem can only be tackled if women call out harassers in the street, and she hopes her rapping will encourage others to follow her lead.
“A woman will often choose to stay silent in case she’s told it’s her fault,” said Mahmoud. “But every time we don’t say anything, we make the problem bigger. Maybe the reason harassment is worse here than many other places is because we choose to shut up – and then they think they can do it more and more.”
We hope this young girl’s bravery, in a country where she could literally face physical harm or death, will inspire and empower all of you reading this. You don’t need to be rich, older, more beautiful, more successful or more anything. You can be effective, and make a difference even in one person’s life if you aren’t afraid of speaking up.