She wanted Muslim women like her to have the world. So she gave them an entire universe.

Rozan Ahmed’s career path took her from the music industry to the United Nations — and that was just in her 20s.

Though she was born in London, Ahmed was raised with a great appreciation for her parents’ native Sudan, as well as a fascination for how people both create and perceive stories and other content across the world. She was particularly interested in the way that the historical influences of the pharaohs, the Nubians, the Arabs, and so many others had contributed to the rich and multifaceted culture of the northern African nation.

Despite that robust history, she realized the entire African continent had still been lumped into a kind of "single story." Even the people she knew in Sudan bought into that same negative image. "How is this allowed to happen?" she wondered. "Is this purposeful? Surely there are more people than just me who are visiting the continent."


Sudanese women. Photo by David Stanley/Flickr.

She began to question her career path and the ways her identity as a black British Muslim woman fit within a local and global context. Then she met a prince.

Prince Fahad Al Saud, that is, the grandson of the brother of the king of Saudi Arabia.

A graduate of Stanford University, Al Saud was part of the original team behind Facebook in Arabic — and he was largely socialized around forward-thinking, independent women, according to Ahmed, and is a stark contrast to what some people might expect from a wealthy Arab prince. "Fahad is certainly aware that he's a man," she says, "but he leans on women because he believes in them more, and was raised around strong women."

Ahmed and Al Saud at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for IWC.

A mutual friend introduced Ahmed and Al Saud. Like her, he was frustrated by the way his culture was portrayed in media. This inspired him to create a new media company called Na3am, a play on the Arabic word for "yes."

Given Ahmed’s background in stories and culture, they were a perfect creative match.

In 2015, Na3am announced the launch of "Saudi Girls Revolution," a series of interconnected video games and comic books set in a post-apocalyptic world full of awesome Arab heroines.

Early character sketches from "Saudi Girls Revolution," provided courtesy of Na3am.

"It is the story of the girls breaking out and liberating the Arab empire by replacing its leaders," Al Saud said when the series was announced. "We're focusing on trying to represent different stories and demographics of Saudi women in the protagonists we have."

The seven protagonists — all Saudi women — travel the desert wastes with motorcycles and jetpacks, facing off against mutant enemies and an evil regime of oppressive men who control the last remaining resources in the land. In its earliest hype, "Saudi Girls Revolution" was already receiving favorable comparisons to American movies like "Mad Max: Fury Road."

A few of the "Saudi Girls Revolution" comic book covers, courtesy of Na3am.

"'Saudi Girls Revolution' is an attempt to show the rest of the world that there’s a lot more to us as Arab women," adds Ahmed, who serves as editor for the comics. "We’re strong. We’re powerful. We know we overcome. We’re badass. We’re so many other things."

Of course, some detractors have been eager to point out the ironies of the SGR universe, considering the real-life treatment of some Saudi women.

It is still illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, and the country's workforce is still overwhelmingly male. But video games and comics featuring motorcycle-riding badasses aren't restricted by the same expectations.

"It's a fictional universe, and we're showing the world as we want it to be, not things as they are," Ahmed says.

Image from "Latifa #1" by Fahad Al Saud and Stan Berkowitz, illustrated by Sebastian Navas. Used with permission.

While things are far from perfect for women in Saudi Arabia, Arab women in other countries have made great gains in recent years. "The Arab world is so varied when it comes to female achievement. Of course there’s setbacks, but there’s setbacks everywhere you go," Ahmed adds.

"It comes down to choosing which problems you prefer. I prefer to celebrate the beauty that comes forth from the world, particularly Africa and Arabia, and I use that beauty to address the problems as well."

From "Latifa #1" by Fahad Al Saud and Stan Berkowitz, illustrated by Sebastian Navas. Used with permission.

"I believe that we are living in the future right now, and it is inclusive," Ahmed says. "'Saudi Girls Revolution' is a part of that future. So get on the ride and enjoy it with us, because it’s a beautiful ride."

The first chapter of the comic was released in November 2016 and focuses on a character named Latifa, whose name means "compassionate" in Arabic despite the fact that her story is one of vengeance. "For me, it represents the ability to be both. It raises the question of: When is it right to fight?" Ahmed says.

That's exactly why something like "Saudi Girls Revolution" is so exciting and so important for the world right now: It helps us to embrace the duality of our selves while inspiring greater change on a personal and global scale.

True

In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

1 / 12

Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

Who would have thought that giving the world access to all human knowledge via the internet, the ability to follow and hear from experts on any subject via social media, and the ability to see what's happening anywhere in the world via smartphones with cameras would result in a terrifying percentage of the population believing and spouting nothing but falsehoods day in and day out?

Those of us who value facts, reason, and rational thought have found ourselves at some of our fellow citizens and thinking, "Really? THIS is how you choose to use the greatest tool humanity has ever created? To spew unfounded conspiracy theories?"

It's a marvel, truly.

Between Coronavirus/Bill Gates/5G conspiracies and QAnon/Evil Cabal/Pedophile conspiracies, I thought we were pretty much full up on kooky for 2020. But apparently not. The massive fires up and down the West Coast have ignited even more conspiracy theories, some of which local law enforcement and even the FBI have had to debunk.

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True

In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

1 / 12

Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

I worked as a substitute teacher in my early 20s, almost exclusively in middle schools and high schools—my age of specialty. Once, I accepted a two-day subbing assignment in a first grade classroom. Only once. Halfway through the first day, as the kids ate lunch in the cafeteria, I sat at the teacher's desk in an exhausted daze. Teaching little kids was a completely different animal than teaching big kids. While adorable, they had so many needs and so little attention span. It was like herding a bunch of flies that constantly needed to go potty.

Trying to herd those flies virtually during a pandemic is too much to even fathom.

So the real-time story that mom and writer Stephanie Lucianovic shared on Twitter of what happened when her son's second grade teacher dropped from the class Zoom call was not the least bit surprising. Hilariously entertaining, but not surprising.

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Katie Neeves (L) photo by Jayne Walsh, JK Rowling (R) photo by Sjhill, CC BY-SA 3.0

Dear JK Rowling,

I am writing this letter to say a big thank you to you. You may think it strange that a gobby trans woman such as me would wish to thank you after all your recent transphobic outpourings, but let me explain…

I certainly don't thank you for your lengthy essay last month where you describe the abuse you have suffered (for which you have my sympathy) and in which you stated that you do not hate trans people, while at the same time peddling even more anti-trans mis-information. Sadly, your diatribe directly caused some trans children to self-harm and other to attempt suicide.

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