Five game-changing Arab women sportstars to celebrate this International Women's Month

Five game-changing Arab women sportstars to celebrate this International Women's Month
With countless inspiring women to celebrate during International Women's Month, The New Arab has a look at five inspiring women sports stars.
4 min read
09 March, 2023
Mardini was one of the women to make TNA's list [Getty]

Sportswomen across the Middle East and North Africa have represented their countries with pride, broken world records, or even played a role in huge social changes.

Although there is a long list of successful women in the industry to celebrate, The New Arab has compiled a list - in no particular order - of five stars who have created a storm in sports. 

Ons Jabeur, Tunisian tennis star

Tunisian tennis champion Ons Jabeur is ranked the world's number four woman tennis player and became the first Arab and African woman to reach a slam final last year, a feat she achieved at both Wimbledon and the US Open.

The tennis star was just 26-years-old when she became the first Arab woman to win a WTA title in 2021 at the Viking Classic Birmingham, before soaring through the rankings to the top 10 by the end of 2021.

Despite having her share of fitness scares, with injuries sustained in June and August, the 28-year-old star said last month she aims to become the highest-ranked player in the world in 2023.

Yusra Mardini, Syrian swimmer

Swimmer Yusra Mardini has created a massive impact in the Arab world and Syrian diaspora, after representing a team for stateless athletes at the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The 25-year-old was forced to flee Syria in 2015 as a result of the deadly war which left her and her family in search of a better life. 

On her harrowing journey to Europe across the Aegean Sea in an over-crowded dinghy, Yusra put her professional swimming skills to heroic use, alongside her sister Sarah, as they saved themselves and 18 other refugees from drowning.

The sisters' incredible story has been told in the 2022 film The Swimmers, capturing the harsh realities of life as a refugee and the war that uprooted them.

Yusra, who was appointed the youngest ever Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR at just 19, believes the film provides an accurate representation of the struggles refugees endure, helping change Western perceptions and lift stigmas surrounding it.

Emirati figure-skater, Zahra Lari 

Zahra Lari became the first hijab-wearing figure skater to compete in an international figure skating competition in Italy in 2012, according to Gulf News.

The star, labelled 'The Ice Princess' by her fans, also became the first Emirati figure skater to compete internationally.

Due to Lari's successes, the UAE became the first Arab state to join the International Skating Union (ISU), which oversees the sport.

However, Lari's headscarf posed a problem the first time she competed in Europe when judges at the 2012 European Cup in Italy deducted points from her over an "outfit violation".

She subsequently campaigned for a change to the regulations, and at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, officials were told not to consider the headscarf a violation.

Fencing star, Kholoud al-Mutairi

Kholoud Al-Mutairi [Kuwait Paralympic Committee]
Kholoud Al-Mutairi [Kuwait Paralympic Committee]

Pro-Palestinian Kuwaiti fencer Kholoud Al-Mutairi is considered one of the most prominent disabled Arab athletes and has represented the Gulf state at numerous international forums, according to reports.

The fencer's supporters across the world applauded her "heroic" and "honourable" stance when she withdrew from the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) World Cup 2022 in Thailand due to her planned bout against an Israeli opponent.

The event brought together over 100 fencers from around the world, but her bold move attracted waves of support as she refused to "compete against a contestant from the Zionist entity", the Kuwait Paralympic Committee confirmed on its Twitter page.

Al-Mutairi was praised for making a clear statement in favour of the Palestinian cause at the expense of her career.

Moroccan national women's football team:


Morocco's women's football team reached the Women's Africa Cup of Nations final in Morocco in 2022 for the first time.

The Atlas Lionesses were been praised throughout the tournament for producing spectacular performances, which guaranteed them a place at next year’s World Cup, taking place in Australia and New Zealand. 

Their victories also made them the first nation from the region to qualify for the Women's World Cup.

Despite their loss in the WAFCON final to South Africa, the stadium was united in congratulating the North African team on making history.

Fans also labelled their achievements "befitting... for a nation that has invested immensely in women’s football in recent years".