2020: 10 uplifting stories from the Middle East
The year 2020 has been a struggle for the world, not least the Middle East following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Iran was one of the hardest hit countries, and earlier this year had the highest rate of covid-19 in the region; elsewhere in Sudan and Yemen, existing issues, including war and famine were compounded by the arrival of the virus.
With several vaccines being now being rolled out across the globe, the coming year is looking decidely less gloomy and although the pandemic has cast a shadow over the world, there have been moments of light.
Here are 10 uplifting stories from The New Arab this year:
1. Sudan ratifies law criminalising female genital mutilation
Sudan's ruling body ratified a law banning the widespread practice of female genital mutilation, handing the movement for women’s rights in the African country a long-sought victory.
The Sovereign Council passed a set of sweeping amendments to the country’s criminal code in July, including one that criminalized the deep-rooted practice.Read the full article here.
2. Turkish imam turns mosque into 'supermarket for poor' amid coronavirus pandemic
Abdulsamet Cakir, 33, imam of the Dedeman mosque in the Sariyer district, came up with the idea to leave food for the poor, and encouraged Mosque-goers in Istanbul to do the same.
The idea came about after Turkey suspended mass prayers in mosques until the risk of outbreak passes.
The young imam, who took the products from the floor and placed them on shelves at the entrance, said he was inspired by a donation culture in the Ottoman period called "charity stone" - a small pillar stone erected at certain locations of the city to connect rich people with the poor.Read the full article here.
3. Syrian documentary film For Sama wins Emmy International Award
Syrian filmmaker Waad al-Kateab has won an Emmy international award for her critically-acclaimed documentary film For Sama in November this year.
The film, released in September 2019, depicted the struggles of Syrians in rebel-held east Aleppo as they lived through a brutal siege and indiscriminate bombardment carried out by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies.
It focused in particular on the turmoil in the last remaining hospital in east Aleppo.
On receiving the award, al-Kateab said, "This award is for Syria. People usually say For Sama is hard to watch, but the reality is harder."Read the full article here.
4. Eleven-year-old Gaza school boy goes viral for rapping skills
An 11-year-old Gazan boy made waves online after he covered a rap about Palestine in August this year.
A clip of Abdul Rahman rapping in English surrounded by his school friends was uploaded on Instagram, where tens of thousands shared and commented on the young student’s rapping skills.
His account, which has over 45,000 followers, reads:
"Hi I’m Abdul I’m a rapper and started at 9 years old. I am from Gaza but rap in English and want to meet producers, spread my message of peace/unity."
The music video begins with him rapping: "First of all this is our country, let me tell you how it goes,
"We want peace and we want love, people pray and teach who don’t."Read the full article here.
5. Here's how a former WhatsApp group evolved into leading the global appeal for Beirut
Diana Abbas, a Lebanese community organiser in London, was one of thousands in the Lebanese Diaspora who watched the Beirut explosion with utter horror far from Beirut.
Abbas co-founded Impact Lebanon, a previously little known organisation that quickly mobilised to lead the overseas appeal for aid to Lebanon in August. Minutes after the blast, Impact Lebanon set up a JustGiving page which raised nearly £5 million in one day.
Starting off as an informal WhatsApp group for Lebanese people visiting London, Impact Lebanon eventually evolved to organising demonstrations in support of anti-government protests that swept Lebanon in October.Read the full article here.
6. Ultra-rare Saharan cheetah spotted in Algeria for first time in years
Algerian conservationists announced in May the sighting of the critically endangered Saharan cheetah following months-long research efforts in the Ahaggar National Park in the country's mountainous south.
Thought to number only 200, the rare big cat was spotted by camera traps laid out in the Atakor volcanic field by researchers working on a project run by the national park.Read the full article here.
7. Harper’s Bazaar appoints first black Arab Editor-in-Chief
US-based American fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar made history after it appointed its first Arab woman of colour as its Editor-in-Chief.
Samira Nasr is a Canadian editor born to a Lebanese father and a Trinidadian mother, and in her first speech as EiC, she emphasised the importance of representation and Black Lives Matter.
Read the full article here.
8. Algerian rapper Soolking raises tens of thousands for coronavirus healthcare workers
French-Algerian rapper 'Soolking' launched a fundraising initiative in time for Ramadan in an effort to support healthcare workers in Algeria working during the coronavirus pandemic.
Soolking, real name Abderraouf Derradji, took to Instagram back in April when he announced his intentions to raise money during the holy month of Ramadan, and encouraged fellow artists and celebrities to donate.
The initiative was called "Solidarité Algérie".Read the full article here.
9. Turkish man hosts seven stranded travellers during coronavirus lockdown
A Turkish man came to the rescue of seven tourist stranded in the country as it went into coronavirus lockdown in April, hosting them in his home for two weeks.
Read more: The Middle East's top films and TV series of 2020
Alper Kaya, a musician living in Mugla province on the Aegean coast, welcomed six French nationals and a Spaniard into his home, where they told Turkish media they enjoyed their period of cohabitation, playing music and practising yoga together.Read the full article here.
10. Egyptian-American comedy star Ramy Youssef wins Golden Globe
Egyptian-American comedian Ramy Youssef picked up a Golden Globe award in Januart, thanking God in his acceptance speech.
The star picked up the award for his lead role in the series Ramy, the story of a second-generation American-Egyptian man and his family growing up in New Jersey.Read the full article here.