Female Arab Attorneys that are Making History
By: Pamela Dimitrova/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Female Arab Attorneys’ was a term that was rarely heard in the MENA countries. Today, this is changed – there are hundreds of women, practicing in the area of law, who are fighting for peace and change, while making history as leading female figures in the Arab World. Here is a list of the few most famous women working as a lawyers that are making change not only in their countries, but also on the international legal scene.
Bayan Mahmoud Al Zahran
Al Zahran was the first practicing female attorney in Saudi Arabia, becoming an inspiration to million of women around the world. She has opened up her own all-female law firm which aims to fight for the rights of local Saudi women and assist the courts in understanding legal matters from a female point of view.
Before becoming a fully licensed lawyer in 2013 along with three other women – Jihan Qurban, Sarra Al Omarri and Ameera Ouqani – Al Zahran had been working as a legal consultant for three years. In this time, she represented many clients in family disputes and criminal and civil cases. For the first time, she represented a client before the General Court in Jeddah in November 2013.
Al Zahran was listed as the 7th most powerful woman in the 2015 list of Arabian Business magazine and was also included in Fortune magazine’s 2015 list of ‘The Worlds’ 50 Greatest Leaders’
Reema Shamasneh is one of the most famous and vocal female Arab attorneys – fighting for Palestinian women in the most intimate arena of their lives: marriage and divorce. One case and one client at a time, from a West Bank courtroom, she challenges the gender roles at the foundation of Arab families.
Under Shariah law, a husband can end a marriage by declaring his wife divorced, but a wife must prove abuse or neglect in court. In some countries, she can pay the husband compensation to get out of a marriage, in a so-called “khula” divorce. Legal action can take months or years.
The growing presence of female lawyers like Shamasneh has helped create more empathy for women going through divorce, custody or alimony hearings. When Shamasneh began practicing 15 years ago, female lawyers were rare. Now women occasionally outnumber men in the courthouse.
Amal Clooney, born in Lebanon, has been the advisor to top leaders and officials such as the Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain, and Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General for the United Nations. Clooney’s family fled Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War in the 1980s and moved to England. She received her law degree from New York University School of Law in 2001. While Amal Clooney has become a style icon since then, her extensive representation in notable cases trumps her fashion legacy.
She is well known for representing international journalists and for working toward greater recognition of the Armenian Genocide. She presented an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in regards to the denial of the Armenian Genocide that took place in 1915. Her high profile status as a human rights lawyer has been matched with great publicity, as she married actor George Clooney in 2014.
Ihsane is a Moroccan-born lawyer, who was nominated for the “Woman Lawyer of the Year Category” award – the highest legal award in England and Wales. Born to a family of lawyer, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in law from Cadi Ayyad University in the city in 1996.
Her passion for law has driven her to a various countries, where she had developed herself as a lawyer. In 1996 she moved to Belgium to pursue a master’s degree in law, which she obtained with merit.
She move to the United Kingdom to study English common law and graduated as a lawyer in 2007. After this, she worked in Morocco, Qatar, and the European Court of Human Rights in France. In 2016, she became the first Moroccan lawyer to open her own legal office in England.
Ihsan Zuhdi Barakat
Last on the list, but not of importance, Ihsan is one of the leading female Arab attorneys in the region. Born in 1964, Barakat studied law at the University of Jordan, going on to work as a lawyer for 15 years before joining the judiciary. She set up her own firm in 1988, attracting high profile clients including the Central Bank of Jordan. She was appointed as a judge in 2002 at the Court of First Instance in Amman and transferred to the Appeals Court in 2004. She also served as director of the Directorate of International Relations at the Ministry of Justice for nine months in 2004-2005.
In December 2010, Barakat was appointed as the country’s first female Attorney General, supervising sixty district attorneys, including only one other woman, and representing the government in the court of appeals.
Barakat was appointed to the Supreme Court in September 2017, making her the first woman to reach the highest position in the country’s judiciary. In January 2018, she was appointed as a judge in the Cassation Court, the judicial authority over all Jordanian courts.
Check Out Arab America’s Blog Here!