Naziq al-Abed—”Joan of Arc of the Arabs”
Naziq al-Abid (1898-1959) an early Syrian feminist and revolutionary, was known as the “Joan of Arc of the Arabs.” Born into a wealthy family, she traded in her privilege to live a life fighting for the rights of women and the independence of her country. When she was just 20 years old, she founded Noor al-Fayha (Light of Damascus), the city’s first women’s organization (and publication) which provided free classes in English, poetry and religion for Muslim girls. In the Franco-Syrian war, she was the only woman who fought in the Battle of Maysaloun, for which she was made an honorary general of the Syrian army. She also founded the Syrian Red Crescent, an organization dedicated to caring for those who were wounded in war. She also co-founded the Damascene Women’s Awakening Society in 1925, organizing workshops to train displaced and widowed Syrian women in various crafts and promoting female intelligence. Later on, she also founded the Association for Working Women, which lobbied for the basic rights of women in the workforces, such as equal pay and sick days. Throughout her life, she worked toward emancipation for Syrian women and led the then-largest women’s march in Syrian history in 1945. A rebellious woman, driven by her passion for justice, Naziq’s name has gone down in history as one of the most influential women of the modern Arab world.
Though I have found no direct quotes to share, I have found a few about her by others:
“She was a humble person who loved sports and horseback riding. She used to dress like middle-class Damascenes and avoided accessories and ornaments. She was the only woman at that time who wore trousers and boots and carried a whip.”
“Naziq’s family were very modern and open minded compared to the mentality at that time. Even so, they did not always like her behavior. But she did not listen to them. She did what she wanted to do.”