Foreign Policy lists two Arab women as ‘leading global thinkers’

Saudi film director and UAE media executive make top 100 list

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Alongside notable global figures such as Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, two Arab women are in the list of 100 people chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as the “Leading Global Thinkers of 2013.”

A Saudi Arabian film director, and a UAE media executive, who has “built an Arabic-language media empire,” are part of the long list, which is created through a voting process by readers.


Saudi director Haifa al-Mansour had her 2012 film “Wadjda” premiered at the Venice Film Festival. The film made her the first person to ever shoot an entire movie in Saudi Arabia.

Mansour was touted by Foreign Policy “for quietly breaking the kingdom’s gender barriers.”

In her film, “Mansour produced a gently moving portrait of one girl’s quest to buy a bicycle in a country where she isn’t allowed to ride one.”

Her ability of depicting a strong message in a non-confrontationist tone has won her government support.

Saudi Arabia recently submitted her film - which was released to American audiences in 2013 - for an Oscar nomination.

According to Foreign Policy, Mansour was able to “accommodate Saudi customs while filming Wadjda by directing from inside a van while dressed in an abaya.”

Narrowing the gap

Another women listed by the magazine is UAE citizen Noura al-Kaabi, who is the CEO of twofour54, an Emirati-funded company that offers education and training to media producers.

While Arabic is one of the world’s 10 most spoken languages, it is only used in a very small percentage of global media content. Kaaba has expressed her wish to narrow that gap.

Since Kaabi took up her position in 2012, “the company has expanded its work in video game development and has introduced a literary award for Emirati novelists.”

Kaabi was also included on Forbes’s 2013 list of the 30 most influential Arab women in government, as well as on the Hollywood Reporter’s list of the 25 most powerful women in global television.

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