Sameera Aziz is a Saudi media personality, journalist, film director and novelist. She is a Jeddah-based Saudi national. She is an owner of Sana Solkar Production, the first Saudi production house in Bollywood and India. She is most notable as a radio presenter of her weekly show ‘Marhaba with Sameera Aziz’ in Asian Radio Live, which is based in the United Kingdom. She was also notable for her work with the Saudi Gazette newspaper as a Senior International Editor earlier. Currently, she is the president of Asian Information Agency (AIA), a Worldwide News Service. She has participated as a guest speaker in many national and international forums regarding social, expatriate, animal, and women’s issues. She is recognized as a first Saudi female Bollywood director, producer and writer. She is also recognized as the first Saudi novelist of Urdu language in Saudi Arabia. She is active in humanitarian work.
Early life abroad
Sameera Aziz has the multicultural ancestral background. She was born on 24 June 1979 in Al-Khober, Saudi Arabia, to Aziz-ur-Rehman, a bravery award holder of the Pakistan Navy and Mehar Afroz, a beautician from the United States of America. Her parents first migrated to Pakistan from India, and then to Saudi Arabia, and later still to the United States of America. She was the only daughter of three children; she has two elder brothers, Faisal Aziz and Fahad Aziz. Her early education was completed abroad, in Karachi‘s Gulistan Shah Abdul Latif School, and later at P.E.C.H.S. Girl’s College and the University of Karachi, which ranked among the top three universities of the country and has entered to THE-QS World University Rankings for the top 500 universities in the world. She married at the age of 15 and completed her education after her marriage. Before completing her PhD in Trade Relations, she received Masters degrees in International Relations and Journalism. She studied film making from Hollywood directors.
Sameera is considered as a victim of child marriage by western media. However, she strongly rejected this characterization, stating heedfully in an interview to a UAE-based newspaper that her marriage was not a hurdle on the road to achievement. She married for the protection and for setting her life on a successful course by pursing further education after marriage.
Born to Pakistani expatriate parents in Saudi Arabia, Sameera was orphaned at the age of 2, when her father died of heart failure. In the absence of proper care, her early childhood days and most of her teenage life was filled with hardships. At the age of nine, Sameera dabbled in writing which later in her life turned into a passion. Besides her studies, she supported her mother at a young age by working in her beauty salon at home. As a young girl, she was very athletic and played cricket, enjoyed inline roller-skating and cycling.
The turning point in her life came when at 15, she got married to a Saudi national, who offered her support for continuation of her studies. At this stage of her life, through her bold and candid writings, sting operations, poetry and authoring a novel, she carved a niche in the field of journalism.
Sameera Aziz is the president of Asian Information Agency (AIA), a Worldwide News Service. She was the Saudi Country Head of South Asian Regional Information Agency, voice of SAARC countries (SARIA). She was also the Bureau Chief of the first Saudi independent English news website The Peninsula Times.
Earlier, she was a senior editor of the Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette, one of the two English language newspapers printed in the country. Until it ceased publication in 2009, Sameera Aziz was simultaneously managing editor of Awaz, a youth-oriented weekly Urdu newspaper, published by parent company Okaz. She was also the managing editor of Fresh, a quarterly magazine published under Saudi Gazette by the marketing department of Okaz publications.
She formerly served as a writer for Gulf News and several other Pakistan based newspapers (during 1999). She also served as the supervising editor of the women’s sections in Urdu News and Urdu Magazine, owned by Saudi Research and Marketing Group. Her columns and features are written exclusively in English and Urdu and translated into other languages. She focuses on Saudi domestic, social, cultural, educational and expatriate’s issues as well as Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the international community. She conducted undercover sting operations – the rare genre in Saudi journalism – and became the part of bold experiments in the new progressive Saudi Journalism. She has belief in the professional, humanitarian and nurturing kind of power women exercise in the workplace. Some of her work focused on the challenges of social and labour issues, human rights, women’s rights, violence against children, and other issues of concern to the community. Her reporting experiences include coverage of terrorism, women’s rights and the societal changes now taking place in Saudi Arabia.
Sameera Aziz has worked to make women aware of the evilness of the child marriage’s custom. Besides the awareness campaign in social media where she has strong support of her followers, she also protested against child marriage and raised voice for the protection of the child brides. She had also shattered a wall of silence about domestic violence after a TV presenter Rania Al-Baz was savagely assaulted by her husband in 2004. While she dared to challenge the culture of violence against women, she rubbished the criticism on her for supporting the women gender blindly by writing some candid research work in favor of men on the side.
In 2009, she shocked everyone when she boldly wrote and spoke about an evil incidence of child abuse that she witnessed and protected the child after an encounter. She also campaigned against the gang who brought Afghani origin children to Saudi Arabia with the fake Pakistani passport to make them the beggars, towel and chewing gum sellers in the streets of Jeddah. She was threatened by the criminal group of people during this campaign.
She is the supporter of women driving in Saudi Arabia. However, she does not support any extraordinary display of civil disobedience. Yet she candidly asked mercy and kindness for those women in Saudi Arabia who defied their nation’s de facto ban on women driving by getting behind the steering wheel. She also runs a social media campaign #SupportSmile with her team of Desi Vines, to promote the culture of smiles.
Sameera Aziz also acts as a consultant to various international organisations for social development and human rights like National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), We-The Youth and Society For International Peace, which is a think tank initiated to serve the humanity. She is also the special adviser of ‘International Affairs and Women’s Rights’ in Journalist Foundation, a professional federation of global journalists.
Writer and speaker
Sameera Aziz has written many articles in English and Urdu languages on political, social and women issues. She has written an Urdu novel ‘Rishtey Badal Bhi Jatey Hain’ and many Urdu fictions in literary magazines like Dosheeza, Pakeeza and Sachi Kahaniyan. As a child writer, she wrote in magazines like Hamdard and Taleem o Tarbiyat.
She became a voice while highlighting Saudi employers’ issues. She spoke about the ill-treatment and crimes of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and condemned their propaganda that was being carried out against many guiltless Saudi employers. She has a passion to bridge the gap between the Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world. In her interview, she stated that she aims to clear up the misconceptions about Saudi Arabia.
Sameera Aziz was the most awaited speaker at Pakistan’s first-ever international media conference titled One World One Media, which was organised by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists from May 1 to 3, 2015 in Karachi, Pakistan. This conference was not only the first of its kind in Pakistan but in South Asia.
She was also the only female speaker of an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Jeddah on 10 December 2014, which was the last day of UN women’s 16-days global campaign of Activism against Gender Violence. The event was organized by the The national society of human rights (NSHR). She talked against the international criticism that Saudi Arabia has often faced for lacking laws that protect women and domestic workers against abuse. “But this is not the case anymore. Saudi Arabia has outlawed domestic violence and this problem is already being acknowledged here. There is a legal ban on physical and sexual violence and other forms of abuse against women in Saudi Arabia, which applies both at home or within the work place,’ she said.
Many people disagree with Sameera’s basic feminist standpoint. She was criticised by many anti-feminists. Some of her bold fictions were being strongly rejected by men. The story of her first novel was also being criticised by conservative readers for presenting the triumph of human emotional needs rather than the victory of traditional values. She defended herself against criticism by saying that every writer should be a social researcher. She is known as a moderate Muslim and human rights’ volunteer.
Her poems in Urdu language have published in various magazines and newspapers, and they were also available in her old official website. However, they are not found any more in her new official website. Replying to a question related to her poetry in an Indian press forum, she candidly and humbly uttered that she does not think she is a good poetess. “Sorry, I am not a good poetess. My poetry does not deserve to take your time. I am a constant learner but I did not get the time to focus on Urdu poetry in my life. May be later on….some day,” she was quoted as saying. She has reportedly participated in many poetic symposiums called Mushaira. She was harshly criticized as man-hater when she enraged scores of male audience for boldly presenting her Ghazal against men, masculine mindsets and male-dominated society in 1999 at a jam-packed auditorium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. However, she got the standing ovation from female audience and some male audience as she left the hall.
In July 2006, she wrote a heart-wrenching anthem ‘Lahu Lahu Lebanon’ (Lebanon under blood) for her campaign to support Lebanese victims in 2006 Lebanon War, also called ‘the 2006 Israel–Hezbollah War’. The lyrics were deep and sad. Her anthem was telecasted on many TV channels but then it’s telecast was stopped after criticism because the images of her video made masses tremble with fear. She refused to change the video by saying that “this is reality which is happening unfortunately. Go and stop the violence, don’t stop my video.”
Mass Media (Film and Radio)
Sameera Aziz grabs considerable listener-ship worldwide and lauded for her weekly radio show ‘Marhaba with Sameera Aziz’ in Asian Radio Live, which is United Kingdom’s based Radio Station and caters for the local, national and international scene. She is the first Saudi director, producer and writer in Bollywood, one of the largest centers of film production in the world. She is making a film ‘Reem’ under her own production house ‘Sana Solkar Production’ which is the first Saudi production house in India.
The story of the film is written by Sameera Aziz and the screen play is written by Sameera Aziz and Sanjay Shah. Speaking about her goal and reason to write and direct this film, Sameera Aziz says that film is an animation of person’s imagination. The writer can powerfully convey his ideas to his viewers by directing his film. “For developing the better understanding, we should interact with the world and reach to the people by communicating with them in their language. Therefore, with the mission of peace and love, and to present myself as a bridge between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world, I aimed to enter in the Bollywood industry with a new, decent and powerful story.” The target of Sameera Aziz by making this film is to promote Saudi tourism and to present a modern and educated Saudi youth to show the world that the new generation of Saudis are confident, friendly and educated people, contrary to the idea that ‘Saudis are the camel riders’.
She also stated that Mass Media is a huge field with numerous possibilities of more powerful interaction. She is now exploring production media field because ‘she has got enough experience in print media and now people want to read the news online. Therefore, Production media is more powerful medium to convey the message to people. She wants to convey the message to the people in the best way possible’, she was quoted as saying. She aims to give positive message through her Mass Media activities.
Sameera Aziz got training as a film-maker from experienced British and American mentors like Ovidio Salazar, Omar Faruk Aksoy, Bensalem Bouadallah – who have worked in Hollywood as well. She worked as a production team member of Kauthar Media in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She worked with a renown Saudi producer, actor and director Dr Fahad Ghazoli as his assistant in many Saudi projects like film ‘Lamar’, Comedy stage play ‘Hala Barra’ and a Drama serial of 12 episodes. She was also an assistant and the production team member of director Majed Azzi for film ‘Hayath’ produced by Al-Mpda Media. In the past, she has written, directed and acted in a women-only comedy stage play which was presented by ‘Silsila organisation for women’ in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Sameera Aziz has received a number of awards and accolades from various distinguished bodies. In 1996, she was given the literary Award of ‘the first female Urdu novelist in Saudi Arabia’ by the women writers’ organization Silsila for her debut Urdu novel Rishte Badal Bhi Jatey Hai (Relationships change over time). In 2007, she was awarded title of Youth Ambassador by We The Youth, a talent promotion organization. In 2008, she was given a Humanity Award by a non-political, social & welfare organization for derivation of high performances. In 2009, she was awarded with Pride of the Nation award during a ceremony at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. On May, 2012, she was being paid tribute as ‘a Woman of today’ in Jeddah. In January 29, 2014, she received ‘Best Ind-o-Pak Friendship Icon award’ in a remarkable show in Riyadh under the banner of Pak-O-Hindh Literary Forum. She was also awarded the accolades from various community organizations in their open sessions like An evening with a personality and A morning with Sameera Aziz. She is recently nominated for the Best Saudi Female Journalist & Media Person Award in “Women Leaders in Saudi Arabia & Awards″ taking place soon, first time in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh.
She is married and has two children, Reem Eskander and Ahmed Eskander. She is an animal lover and very fond of cats.