Dr Halla Diyab goes unrecognised in Leicester, but she has celebrity status in the Middle East. An outspoken television personality and writer of popular serial dramas, she speaks up about taboo subjects close to her heart, like the status of women and restrictions placed on young people.
She is known to millions who watch her work on the world’s satellite channels. Born in Libya, she then grew up in Syria and Egypt, and in 2001 came to the UK. Colonel Gaddafi once summoned her to his Bedouin tent near Sirte to ask her to write a movie about Libya. Her company, Liberty Media Productions, has offices in Leicester and London.
Which of your script-writing projects or TV assignments has made you most proud, and why?
Ma Malakat Aymankum (Your Rightful Disposal, 2010), I think because it is the project which liberated me from fear. At the beginning of my writing career I used to be shrouded with fear, so I could not voice many ideas which I believe in, as I was afraid of what other people would think.
But through time I broke free from fear, and that was obvious in Ma Malakat as I could speak about taboos and challenge them. This thirty episode TV soap opera tackles Arab women’s current struggle for equality and freedom in the Middle East.
What gives you the strength to continue tackling culturally divisive subjects, even when faced by the pressure of more conservative voices?
I want to inspire the future generation. I do not want the daughter I might have one day to suffer what I suffered from when I was living in the Middle East. The only way to do so is to change into an inspirational person myself.
How does it feel to have the opportunity, through your dramas and TV appearances, to be a force for change in the Middle East?
In front of the camera I feel so free, I feel I forget and forgive all the pain I went through in my life. I feel I am finally under the light after being entrapped for years in the shadow. I feel liberated and free, and you can not be a force for change unless you are liberated yourself and free.
What are your hopes for the Middle East in the years to come, following the Arab Spring?
I hope people will change from being, for long years, subjects of government into citizens of state who have rights and opportunities. I hope we will be ruled by democratic laws and civil society laws. I hope we as women can gain our rights and contribute to the society.
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