A Subjective Power List of 100 Arab Women

Everybody loves lists. We all make them, we await them and hold on to them as seemingly validating methods of objective legitimacy. Across the world, everybody puts them out at the dawn of a new year – Forbes, Time, FastCompany and endless publications work tirelessly at year’s end to tell the world who the next game changers are going to be, who we must pay attention to and who we must emulate.

The Arab world is no different in that regard. We have our own lists: the infamous and increasingly colorful Ahlan Hot 100, the moola-heavy Forbes Arabia Rich List, even Wamda compiled it own Twittersphere influencers list.

In January 2012, Arabian Business published a report titled 100 Most Powerful Arab Women. The Arabian Business list provided no rationale or criteria by which the names were selected, many countries were left out, including Iraq, Libya and Comoros Islands to name a few and limited its selection to a set number of industries. This tally of powerful women left a number of questions unanswered: How do we define power? Influence? How do we define ‘Arab’ women? What  constitutes ‘Arab’? What makes a powerful Arab woman – industry? contribution to GDP, budget controlled or someone’s definition of what a ‘powerful’ woman should be? Whose definition is privileged? By what standards do we select?

The list below in no way attempts to claim objectivity – quite the contrary. As the title suggests, the list is entirely subjective – as all lists are. It does not aim to challenge or negate the list provided by Arabian Business, rather, it seeks to add to the already comprehensive and deserving list of names 100 more women who are equally deserving of recognition. It does not privilege a country over another, an industry over the next or an ideology over its nemesis.They come from across the entire Arab world and exert power in a multitude of industries, activities and across various definitions of power. The women below are powerful in that they are influencers, changemakers, teachers, rebels, refuseniks, creators, artists, thinkers, innovators, motivators, leaders  and above all but a slice of their diverse societies and an even more diverse Arab world.

Without further adieu, a subjective list of 100 powerful Arab women – in no particular order:

1. Nawara Negm

2. Dr Madawi Al Rasheed

3. Sakina m’Sa 

4. Salwa Mikdadi 

5. Maysoon Al Suwaidan

6. Dima Khatib

7.  Naha Mint Ould Mouknass

8. Yanar Mohammed

9. Rim Turkmani

10. Badrya Al Beshr

11. Lila Abu Lughod

12. Ahlam Mosteghanemi

13. Zainab Salbi

14. Dr Manal Taryam

15. Dr Ella Habiba Shohat

16. Jackie Reem Salloum

17. Nadine Toukan 

18. Aysha Taryam

19. Mona Kareem

20. Dr Heba Raouf Ezzat

21. Nawal El Moutawakel

22. Huwaida Arraf

23. Fartun Weli

24. Huda Al Attas

25. Noura Erekat 

26. Lubna Hussein

27. Helga Tawil-Souri

28. Afra Al Basti 

29. Thuraya Al Arrayed

30. Shadia Mansour

31.  Dr Mai Al Dabbagh

32. Zeina Khodr

33. Samar Dahmash Jarrah

34. Buthaina Al Ebrahim 

35. Péri Cochin

36. Asmaa Mahfouz

37. Leila Labidi

38. Zleikha Muhtaseb

39. Lamya Gargash

40. Annemarie Jacir

41. Aminetou Mint El Moktar

42. Hind Mezaina

43. Samia Halaby

44. Hessa Hilal aka. Reemiya

45. Dr Rawya Saud Al Busaidi

46. Ethar El Katatney

47. Intisar Al Aqeel 

48. Julia Boutros 

49. Hafsa Al Ulama

50. Maysoon Zayid

51. Jenan Moussa

52. Soultana

53. Laila El Haddad

54. Reem Acra

55. Helen Thomas

56. Ilwad Elman

57. Hebah Ahmed

58. Maryam Khawaja

59. Hayv Kahraman

60. Huda Nunu

61. Khadija Safari

62. Tala Badri

63. Sinan Al Ahmad

64. Lina Matta

65. Sausan Al Shaer

66. Maryam Bin Fahad

67. Rima Maktabi

68. Mayyasa Al Thani

69. Ghida Fakhry

70. Nawal Al Hosany


71. Debbie Al Montaser

72. Munira Buruki

73. Razan Al Mubarak

74. Mona Seif

75. Fajer Al Saeed

76. Fathia Ali Bourrale

77. Hayat Al Fahad

78. Samira Al Saad

79. Joumana Haddad

80. Dr Ebtisam Al Kitbi

81. Amira Yahyaoui

82. Hoor Al Qassimi

83. Souad Massi

84. Sandi Hilal

85. Maha Gargash

86. Wedad Al Badawi

87. Najwa Karam

88. Laila El Houni

89. Khadeeja Al Marzooqi

90. Dr Aysha Belkhair

91. Laila Al Shaikhli

92. Larissa Sansour

93. Maryam Yusuf Jamal

94. Maya Mikdashi

95. Hind Beljaflah

96. Arwa Aburawa

97. Farah Al Attassi

98. Nahla Al Fahad

99. Jamila Al Neyadi

100. Hiam Abbass

11 thoughts on “A Subjective Power List of 100 Arab Women

  1. جميلة النيادي says:

    مرحبا بثينة ممنونة جداً للاختيار، سؤال ممكن أعرف من آنتم وكيف تم الاختيار والترشيح ؟وأشكرك مجدداً وآنتظر الرد بارك الله فيك

    • مرحبا أخت جميلة. أتا باحثة فلبرايت من الإمارات في الولايات المتحدة. الإختيار تم بناءً على رأيي الشخصي كما تم التوضيح. شكراً

  2. Anon. says:

    An interesting attemp to defy what seemingly controls the “top” lists. How to make this post even better? Provide your subjective feedback on each of your choices. As you have mentioned those people are usually in the dark when they shouldn’t be. Please do not stop writing, we all need a refreshing read every once in a while by someone who actually asks why and decides to have a say about it.

  3. Jaxon says:

    Huda Nunu? Seriously? Funny thing is you have her listed a few spots after Maryam A. As acting Ambassador of Bahrain she has blood on her hands. Would you stand for Ambassador Imad Mustafa from Syria to be on a list of most powerful men? Great names overall, great attempt at putting together a list, but some of your selections are laughable at best. Clear disconnect with what the community feels.

    • Power does not always connote positive impact as is explicitly clear. If you do not agree with the selection, then the list has served one of its many purposes. I encourage you to create your own. Best.

  4. Ashanti says:

    I never knew that Shohat identified as an Arab. It seems like,a bunch of celebrities in one way or another- cute attempt.

  5. Butheina, Great idea. very interesting. Surprised to not find mona eltahawy on your list. (even though I get the “subjective” part of the title)

  6. Hind Mezaina says:

    Thanks Butheina for this and even bigger thanks for including me. Some great women I admire are included here, so very honored to be even in the same list. High five to all the sisters who are doing it for themselves!

  7. Sager Alnuaimi says:

    وين الفنانة الكبيره الاماراتية احلام الشامسي؟؟ احلام المفروض تكون من الاوائل! شو هذا التجاهل لمسيرتها الكبيره في الفن! احلام عندها شخصية قوية واثبتت وجودها،، بدات من الصفر ( مدرسة لغه عربية و دين بدبي و بعدين مغنية في الاعراس) وشوفوا وين وصلت! وتراها تعتبر اغنى فنانة عربيه! والحين كثار من بنات الخليج يقلدونها واصبحت ظاهره،،،احلام كافحت ولها مسيره اكثر من ١٨ سنه في الفن وهي فنانة الخليج الاولى

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