The general selection process for this year’s most influential Lebanese women nominees, and the winner of the Most Powerful Lebanese Woman 2009 title is in concurrence with our previous studies, which are based on a weighed average relating public perception (media, blogs, surveys...) and actual merits of each eligible personality (appraised by the LebAwards committee). Their various proficiencies and leadership qualities (fitted with according coefficients) are rated then compared for the final ranking. We would like to remind the readers that the end result is reflective of events and activities that occurred in 2009 and does not constitute an absolute evaluation. Also, positions and titles alone, no matter how prestigious, aren’t enough to insure high rankings if their holders don’t show enough pro-activeness. There should be enough leverage that comes from the ability to initiate (not just carry through) influential decisions or actions. Similarly, it is to note that the Lebanese nationality by itself is not enough to ensure eligibility, for the powers involved needed to directly affect Lebanon and the Lebanese community. If the scope of influence covers the whole world (and by extension Lebanon), it is then valid.
It seems others have caught onto the trend of ranking powerful Lebanese and influential Arab women. Our 4 years of solid experience, our natural understanding of the Lebanese environment, in addition to our intricate and well elaborated process (with its unique combination of factors) should be enough to set us apart.
For further clarification on how our studies are conducted and which factors constitute the element of power for the candidates, please read below.
Constituents for “The Most Powerful Lebanese Woman” title includes:
· Charismatic inspiration
· Courage and determination
· Sense of purpose/ Dedication
· Sense of Justice
· Competence, skills and knowledge
· Clear vision and objectives
· Communication skills
· Effort and sacrifice
· Power to influence and promote change
· Enthusiasm and Passion
· Empathy and understanding
· Awareness of environment
· Proactive -Effectiveness of actions/choices taken
· Credibility and Integrity
· Optimism/Risk taking
· Cooperation/ Team building leadership trait
· Economic impact
It has to be said though that this review was the hardest of all our previous studies. Lately, the ladder of values and moral standards in Lebanon have been completely shambled, and all our references somewhat distorted. The Lebanese are so divided that even the basic given notions are put to question and are subject to personal opinion and mood. Accordingly, honour is not necessarily embodied anymore by integrity, courage, decency, fairness, honesty, incorruptibility, trustworthiness, and truthfulness. Similarly, national pride and identity, patriotism, resistance, treason, self-esteem, self-respect, and dignity have all become too ambiguous, and are also quite relative. This makes the evaluations EXTREMELY delicate!
The unforgiving trend that began in 2006, characterized by the numbness many Lebanese feel towards the distress of their fellow compatriots, and the general disregard for human suffering have also reached unprecedented levels. While some were suffocating under the rubble, selfish others were busy dancing and partying the night away at pubs, solely concerned with trivial material things. At times, it also seems we have more Mossad spies in this country than regular Lebanese citizens. The increase in selfishness and the unnatural sectarian tensions are also an alarming sign that one cannot but condemn. If this schizophrenic behaviour continues, we are afraid we might not even have a country left next year, let alone a title for the Most Powerful Lebanese Woman!
Below, we give you the most reasonable study given the current circumstances. We strived to make sense of things as much as possible, while trying our upmost to accurately reflect the above mentioned situation. You will notice the preponderance of women from the Lebanese political scene, the legal system, and more interestingly, female figures from the communications sector. This is in agreement with the modern definition of power, as the ability to make people think the way you want them to think and to convince those who disagree with you that they can't do anything about it, through the media!
Warmest regards, on behalf of The LebAwards Committee.
Overall Samar is a remarkable woman, and withholds an inspirational perfectionism. We are very much proud of her and the high standards she has imposed upon Lebanese and Arab journalism. It is not an overstatement to say Samar has the power to decide the faith of our future leaders, since she can definitely push them forward or pull them down once on her show. With power comes great responsibility! We urge you to use this gift wisely. We also trust you will have the strength and moral immunity to resist any future temptations you might be faced with, as most of our journalists today have become merchants selling their allegiance to the highest bidder. We hope to see you again next year. Mabrouk once more for the title!
2 In second position this year we have Bahiya Al Hariri, Minister of Education in the outgoing government that has remained in charge. Many perceive her as the real political heiress of the late PM Rafik Hariri. In appearance, she has been overshadowed by the rise of her nephew Saad el Hariri (mostly due to the patriarchal structure in Muslim societies and in Lebanon in general), but the truth is she is still at the head of the Hariri Empire; An empire built through the ambiguous overlapping frontiers between the private and the public sector (Solidere) and the privatisation of public services (Sukleen, Telecommunications, etc...).
Bahia el Hariri is the Director of the Hariri Foundation. She is actually the woman behind the man! As per knowledgeable journalists in contact with CIA officials such as Seymour Hersh, Saad el Hariri has pressured the international community into accomplishing his political goals in Lebanon, by aligning himself with foreign political agendas and joining the loose network of interests present on the ground, the last of which being the issue of naturalizing Palestinian refugees on Lebanese grounds . Bahia el Hariri is always lurking a few steps away. With their immense wealth, their closeness to the Saudi reigning family and, by extension, with the world class neo-cons, the Harries are on their way to establish a permanent western or “moderate-Arabs” sponsored power in Lebanon, with themselves as the representatives. Bahia el Hariri was a very active member of the Lebanese government that synchronized with the international community the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution, imposing on Lebanon an International Tribunal. This was achieved despite a clear hostility to this kind of tribunal from the Lebanese opposition, which had insistently pointed out the associated risks of foreign meddling with the country’s internal affairs and sovereignty. Bahia el Hariri is also not shy about her ties with Sunni extremist factions, and has been known to finance and publicly support groups such as Jund-Al-Sham (dubbed Jundi el Sit), opening wide the doors for more foreign interventions. Some reports indicate her party smuggled fleeing members and their wives out of the country, without prosecution. This actually challenges the core concept of what a “moderate” Arab is supposed to really be. More than 7000 Saudis and other Gulf nationals, who had recently entered the country this past summer, have not yet left Lebanon despite the expiration of their entry visas. Experts believe they were terrorists disguised as tourists and are now mobilized in Palestinian camps and other strategic location, waiting for the signal to complete their missions!
Despite the release of the four generals (see below), her performance in the latest parliamentary elections seemed totally unaffected. This all goes to show how powerful this woman really is! Future Movement, the political party she is part of, is said to have spent on its campaign for the elections much more than that declared for the American presidential elections!
Bahia El Hariri currently heads the Parliamentary Commission for Education and Culture in the Lebanese Parliament, in addition to being member of the Parliamentary Commission for Foreign and Immigration Affairs. A supporter of woman’s rights, she has constantly campaigned for the adoption of laws protecting women and contributing to their emancipation. In 2005, she was one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize. Bahia has held many international posts, such as the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2000, and was member of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNoWB) committee and also Head of the Women’s Committee in the Arab Parliamentarian Union (HWCAPU). She is the founder of the Women’s Committee at the Arab Parliament Union, a body that brings women politicians from across the Arab world together in a Parliamentary forum. Bahia el Hariri has also established the Arab Women’s Summit, supported by the Hariri Foundation, aimed at coordinating policies concerning Arab women. She was also behind the creation of the Arab Women’s Organization (AWO).
3 Justice and Rights alone have no value if they are not sought after and fought for by a determined and insistent demander. For four straight years, Samar El Hajj (wife of Ali El Hajj) questioned the intentions of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that is investigating the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri, and led a fierce campaign to expose them to the public.
Her aggressive efforts to denounce the Tribunal’s inconsistencies and violations were well rewarded when the four generals, Jamil Sayyed, Ali Hajj, Raymond Azar and Mustafa Hamdan (who respectively headed the General Security Department, the Internal Security Forces, Military Intelligence and the Presidential Guards Brigade), held without charge, were finally released. They were imprisoned solely based on a false testimony, and an improper investigation. Samar believed in the cause of the four generals and more specifically in the innocence of her husband, and was completely dedicated to their cause. This could seem just motivated by mere personal reasons, but this issue actually goes far beyond that. Whether innocent or not, their illegal arrest clearly proves the Tribunal is a charade not to be trusted; It is merely a political instrument established for the sole purpose of meddling into Lebanese internal affairs (to affect regional politics), and to expose a weakened national security to foreign intelligence. It is also a poignant case of double standards and selective justice! The tribunal resonates, to some extent, with the travesty called trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The latest findings now suggest Blackwater, an American private military company, could be behind Rafik Hariri’s assassination.
4 Nayla Gebran Tueni came in fourth. Despite her questionable understanding of geostrategic or geopolitical affairs, and lack of clear political vision, Nayla Tueni ,daughter of slain MP Gebran Tueni, has cleverly managed to sweep her way through Parliament, riding the “Blue Wave” (as opposed to the Orange Tsunami). At only 26, she is the youngest Member of Parliament, and also one of the few elected women! Unfortunately, she is yet another example in a long peculiar Lebanese tradition whereby young people (and women in general) only reach power wearing the mourning colour of black.
What one would rather qualify as an unorganized, passionate and butchered speech, surprisingly made Nayla closer and more accessible to the public?! Apparently, this is how nowadays most Lebanese express their thoughts. Her girl next door appearance adds to her overall charm and to that expression of availability she so tries to bear out. However, the humbleness ends here as Nayla is deputy manager of An-Nahar, a prestigious Lebanese Newspaper she has “semi-inherited”. She doesn’t hesitate to fully use this resource(with the help of her grandfather and other staff members) in order to manipulate public opinion to her own benefit and as she sees fit, even if this means putting what’s left of the paper’s reputation at stake. Currently, the paper is downsizing perhaps because the Saudi subsidies during the latest elections have ceased. Others suggest the mass layoffs in its journalist body could be meant to only keep those who support the political views of its main financers. Knowingly or unknowingly, Nayla was part of a larger master plan to disfigure the Resistance’s image and its liberation movement, through igniting fear from those who support it and inciting national apprehension. This only succeeded partially however.
Her efforts as a Member of Parliament are still being monitored and regularly evaluated. Many critical observers like to stress how she is part of a decaying “feudal system” and emphasize how out of touch she is with the real needs of the Lebanese citizens. We prefer to wait and see what her future efforts will give in that regard.
Her most interesting statement to date, we quote: “I’m not with the quota for women. I don’t think it’s respectful to put a quota because it could be limiting”. Although we are not so sure she comprehends the exact concept of quota (it only sets a minimum participation for women), we have to salute her preference against it. If women are to be treated as equals, then there shouldn’t be any quotas. It’s insulting to their capabilities and true worth. Just a quick glimpse at all our previous studies shows the evident abundance of potential female candidates! We cannot tell if Tueni will make it on our list next year, or if this was just the direct fruit of a momentum that took over Lebanon earlier this year, but we wish her all the best and encourage her to work much harder. Mabrouk Nayla.
5 The fifth position this year is a twofold. It is shared by the brilliant duo Boushra Al Khalil / May Al Khansa. Both are energetic activists and very controversial Lebanese lawyers that only seem to take on hot legal cases. We will start with a brief recap of their separate activities, before explaining their joint ranking for this year.
Bushra Khalil was one of a team of lawyers representing former Saddam Hussein in the Iraqi Tribunal. She opposed the interests of the largest power on Earth, when it was still in its peak shape. In her own words “They were trying to make a Sunni versus Shia issue out of Saddam’s trial”. But when Bushra, the daughter of a prominent Lebanese Shiite family is in the way, it makes the whole process very difficult and unlikely. She was forcibly ejected from court on numerous occasions, for being a grand threat to the tribunal’s blueprint plans designed ahead of time, and was banned from entering Iraq. For that, Bushra el Khalil was on our list in 2006. Lately, Bushra has been closely studying the Fath el Islam files and working on other Al Quaida related lawsuits. It is such a loss that Bushra was never elected, despite her repeated campaigns to secure a seat in the Lebanese Parliament.
As for May Khansa, she is President of the Beirut-based International Coalition against Impunity (HOKOK). She accused Israel of intimidating the International Criminal Court (ICC), denouncing the court’s inexplicable delays and the slow pace in handling its Gaza war crimes case. El Khansa had organized an impeccable file that included a 200-page legal study as well as several documents illustrating the terrorism of the Zionist entity and its accomplices, namely Britain and the US.
It showcased strong incriminating evidence, including photos and CDs, which proves that Israeli leaders and soldiers were involved in committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Gaza during their December 2008-January 2009 military onslaught in Gaza. Israel's 22-day brutal human assault on Gaza had left thousands of Palestinians dead and wounded, mainly women and children. May el Khansa has been on our list of Most Powerful Lebanese Women for 3 years in a row now, and keeps surprising us with her inexhaustible aspirations. She had also previously worked on bringing those behind the Sabra and Shatila camp massacre to justice. Her most unusual case to date still remains however her law suit against the US Ambassador Michele Sison . Al Khansa has received numerous death threats, but remains dedicated to her legal pledge and determined to bring Israel to justice. With such resolve, May el Khansa is definitely a new breed of Powerful Lebanese Women!
More recently however, Bushra el Khalil and May el Khansa were back under the spot light with the Beiteddine Festival issue. For those who did not follow the matter, the organizers of the event were planning on inviting the French-Israeli humorist Gad El Maleh (a strong supporter of Israel) to perform at the festival. Many saw this provocative action as a clear insult, and could not tolerate the idea of a Zionist blatantly mocking us on our own ground, while the spilt blood of innocent children slaughtered during the latest Israeli aggression on Lebanon had yet to fully dry up. Being on the Committee for anti-normalization with Israel, they launched a fierce campaign and forced the organizers to back up and yield in, finally canceling the artist’s performance altogether. It was said in the press that Gad El Maleh chose to cancel his scheduled appearances at the Beiteddine Festivals, out of fear for his safety and the safety of his entourage. Actually, the truth is the organizers knew who they were dealing with, and worried they might be legally charged for transgressing the Lebanese laws that clearly forbid normalization with Israel. Who would want to mess with these two very determined women anyway! They called for the enforcement of Lebanese anti-normalization laws with Israel, and for the prosecution of individuals and institutions in Lebanon that violate those laws and conduct collaborations, associations or investments in Israel or with Israelis. Whether Maleh canceled or the organizers yielded, the outcome is the same: These two women are ferociously powerful, and nothing stands in their way!
Under the cover of “Lebanon, a hub for tourism, culture, art and entertainment”, a Lebanon “in love with life”, anything seems permissible these days especially if it helps uproot those opposing normalization with Israel. On the other hand, having the slightest drop of pride and honour, tags you as an “intellectual terrorist, a regressive fascist, an obscurantist that is completely stunting and asphyxiating Lebanon’s cultural accretions”! This is not that shocking, in a country where many suffer from a latent complex of inferiority towards the West, reminiscent of the colonial mentality. Incidentally, wearing modern clothes does not instantly turn one into an enlightened intellect! We still have a very long way to go. Until then, we will have to learn to live with the ignorance that pushes some to adopt foreign views and codes solely based on the above mentioned complex, and the desire to look modern in the eyes of the world, and be hopefully accepted (not without disdain we might add).
6 Shirley El Murr. Shirley has impressed everyone this year with her oratory skills, that only a few charismatic leaders have been known to possess.
During the many gatherings for the Free Patriotic Movement’s electoral campaign, and the following aftermath celebrations, Shirley el Mur proved to be the best female public speaker Lebanon has witnessed in decades. She has the skills to tightly grip the crowd’s attention, to inform, influence, motivate, persuade and simply to entertain the listeners all at once! Shirley has a show that runs on OTV “Fakker Martein”, which deals with political issues, corruption, social affairs, public health and environmental matters. Shirley has a soothing confidence in her speech, matched with the traits of a true leader. Although her efforts as a journalist are quite appreciated and acknowledged, we anticipate her future plans will involve a political career, especially since she has proven her concern with social improvements on her TV show. We would surely like to see her in an official position in politics where her personality, courage, and sense of justice would be better fitting.
7 Still on our list but in the 7th position for this year, Ms. Leila Al Solh Hamadeh. She Heads the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, a charitable and philanthropic organization established by HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Through the foundation, Ms. Leila works with existing centres, and organizations to identify, enable, empower, educate, and encourage women’s leadership in social issues.
Leila Hamadeh also sponsors the development of other charities, and provides needed funds for organizations that seek to eradicate poverty. The Foundation is known to sponsor innovative and progressive ideas that provide more effective, long term solutions to poverty and its devastating consequences in Lebanon and the world.
Ms. Leila is a much respected lady with high social standing and possesses a solid sense or responsibility that comes from her ties with the historic figure Riad El Solh. Whenever the seat of Prime Minister is expected to become vacant, her name always seems to pop up as a possible candidate.
8 The 8th position this year is reserved for a very influential Lebanese woman from Latin America. Yvonne Abdel Baki also known as Ivonne Juez de Abdel Baki is the Trade Minister of Ecuador. Being the President of the Andean Parliament, initiating Diplomatic relations is second nature to her.
She has worked a lot on strengthening relations between Latin American states, and has worked on improving ties between Latin America and the Arab world (Including Lebanon of course). She was an ambassador in Washington from 1999-2002, which permitted her to instigate strong ties with Hillary Clinton. Abdel-Baki is a strong supporter of free trade and globalization. We quote: “You either get on the train, or you get left behind”. She was a Presidential Candidate in 2002 and Minister of External Commerce for 2003-05. Lately, she was pursuing the position of Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), after Japan's Koïchiro Matsuura! Since the Arab nations felt that it was their turn to name a Director General, she rallied the whole of the Arab world and met with prominent Arab political figures for support, but unfortunately had to face Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosni’s candidature, favoured and officially backed by the Arab League and African Union. The elections that began on the 17th of September failed to elect a new director in its first attempts at the UNESCO’s General Assembly, for Farouk Hosny fell well short of receiving the necessary majority. The irony of the situation is that in the end, neither got elected as they were both outrun by former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Irina Bokova. This should give you an idea, once more, about how much respect “moderate” Arabs can expect to get!
9 Vera Yammine. The most visible female politician in talk shows this year and by far the most interesting one.
Very confident and poised, always eloquent and well spoken, she is known for her thorough analysis and strong knowledge in political issues in Lebanon and the region. After Sleiman Frangieh, she is the most promising figure in the Marada party. However, her high potential is still not fully explored .This explains her low ranking. We hope her efforts soon materialize into a more solid tangible power! Her name circulated as a potential ministerial candidate, but nothing substantial has followed yet. We are still waiting for the new cabinet formation. Yammine is a very charismatic woman that does not cease to impress us. It’s to be noted that she was considered the most powerful Lebanese Woman in 2007, and has been on our list ever since. She is gradually losing her position though... Watch out Vera!!!!
Undoubtedly, behind the fillers and the facade of a socio-cultural outlet (supposedly aiming at breaking taboos and providing writers and artists with freedom etc..., which we find a bit far fetched and over ambitious), the magazine clearly wants to shock with its sexual content and as a result increase its sales in the more “conservative” communities of the Arab World. However, most people in the Arab world today have access to the internet, and know how to bypass restrictions (if any) imposed by their governments?! Some aspects of sexuality are being dealt with as if totally innovative and foreign to the Arab World, and as if shocking, when in reality they are far from so. Other magazines (Apostrophe Men magazine, for example) have tried this path before, only to find themselves out of business a few issues later, because their appeal had worn off. We hope Jasad will keep finding interesting topics and fresh ideas to sustain itself much longer. We would also have respected the editor much more, if she had completely embraced the spirit of Jasad, since sexuality and bodily pleasures are part of life and should not be dealt with solely as a means for controversy. Some subjects are featured in the same manner “freaks of nature” were displayed in popular human circuses or carnivals of the early 1800's! Nonetheless, we salute the courage of Joumana and congratulate her on making it to this year’s list of Most Powerful Lebanese Women.
While Israeli helicopters hovered above them and gunboats surrounding them demanded they turn back, two Israeli warships intercepted and fired at the ship. Israeli terrorist pirate naval troops then stormed the ship. More than a dozen soldiers boarded the boat and started beating the passengers, before taking them blindfolded and handcuffed to an Israeli police station for interrogation. Doesn’t this sound like a war scene from a Nazi movie? But this was real. Yet our brave women did not feel the pain from the bruises, for they were on a mission and were ready to pay the price for being civilized and still believing in humanity and compassion. The last thing the Arabic public witnessed was the horrified al-Jazeera reporter on board, crying in panic “they are directing their guns to our heads and beating and kicking us” before the signal broke off. The Israelis destroyed all the communication equipment and confiscated the phones of all those on board. All the equipment used to record the Israeli soldiers assaulting the passengers was of course confiscated also. They were later taken to Israel's port of Ashdod along with the ship. The crew was taken in for questioning by Israeli security personnel.
During the initial arrest and the following interrogations Ugarit kept her cool and pride for being from a country that defeated the IDF. She made it her job to destabilize the soldiers and her interrogators, basically by being arrogant and looking down on them! When the boat was still being raided, she threw her cigarette at one of them to show disrespect, and started continually screaming “murderers” in English in their faces. When asked repeatedly where she was from, she replied “from the country you love so”, then “from the country in which you have rich memories”, and finally admitted “Lebanon”. Being such a pretty girl, it was only a matter of time before an Israeli soldier tried to flirt with Ugarit. When she was offered to go clubbing in Tel Aviv, she replied to the soldier, she preferred to go back to Lebanon and sign a missile that Hassan Nasrallah would send him. She even pointed out the resemblance of his pronunciation of the letter “r” to that of the charismatic leader of Hezbollah, el Sayid Hassan Nasrallah, and added “don’t you love listening to his speeches?” That was enough to back him off.
Khoder was beaten and interrogated twice. She stroke a deal with her interrogator by which she would only answer one question for each one of hers he would answer first. She was asked to divulge her religious sect, but she insisted that her religion was “Lebanese”. (We wish more Lebanese were like that!!!)
Ugarit Dandash and Salam Khoder have definitely demonstrated that they possess great principles of philanthropy, compassion, and decency. We salute their high degree of pride and honour, as well as their sturdy morale during these painful events. These two women are truly inspirational and are definitely role models to many of us.
This Article was prepared by Fanoos.com
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