Nawal al-Hawsawi

Nawal al-Hawsawi

Nawal al-Hawsawi is no ordinary woman. Dubbed ‘the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia’, Nawal is helping to challenge social norms and stereotypes by holding on fiercely to her independence and breaking convention.

Not only is she one of the first black, female pilots in Saudi Arabia, she is also an outspoken critic against racism and sexisim in her country. For this she has received no end of racist abuse, name calling and death threats from online trolls.

However, determined not to let the bad guys get her down, Nawal has remained defiant in the face of overwhelming pressure and condemnation. In addition to being a pilot, she also works as a marriage therapist and mental health counselor.

It is these dual roles, plus her marriage to a white, American man that has drawn the most scorn from online haters. She has attended many conferences during her time, including one which was held in celebration of Saudi’s National Day.

During the event, a woman stood up and shouted racial abuse and used offensive slurs against her. In Saudi Arabia, racial abuse is a criminal offence and Nawal took the woman to court.

She later dropped the case once the woman apologised and the two are now said to be friends, according to the BBC.

The story made national headlines in the country, and Nawal appeared on television to talk about what had happened. She then became something of a media icon in the country, and was dubbed ‘the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia’.

However, she still continues to receive abuse online, with commentators sending her pictures of gorillas, photoshopped pictures of African tribes and comments deriding her for her skin colour, job and interracial marriage.

This prompted her to launch an anti-racism campaign via Twitter, which drew further death threats and abuse. These were then passed onto the ministry of the interior who are investigating.

In an interview with the BBC, she said: “They didn’t like my tweets about marriage, equality and unity. I learned a lot from Mandela, MLK and Gandhi.You don’t fight hate with hate. You can light a candle and stay positive. It just makes you stronger.”

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