From Layla to Nina, the legacy of Iraq’s first magazine for women reborn today

layla Magazine

Layla Magazine, 1923

Reem Farah, 21 years old, is a recent graduate of International Relations and Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies from the University of Toronto, and hopes to contribute to civil society. She is residing in Jordan.  This is her first feature for Nina.

Editor’s Note:  Layla was first published in 1923 under the banner “On the Way to Revival of the Iraqi Woman”. The editorial focus was economic empowerment, education, women’s rights and culture. With just a few tweaks Nina carries this legacy through to the 21st century. Much has changed of course but a commitment to transparency, development and opportunity development has not.

In order to truly revive the spirit of Iraq (and the role of women within this), we need to look into the past as well as the future. By exploring the nature of Iraq’s first women’s magazine, Layla – first published in 1923 years – I am aiming to connect Iraqi women of this generation to a legacy of women’s leadership and empowerment. No matter where were are physically living in the world, understanding  our history as Iraqi women gives us a sense of continuity, inspiring us for the future.

Layla was the first women’s magazine to be published in Iraq. Launched in October 15th 1923 (issue 1), the magazine dealt with new and useful matters related to science, art, literature, sociology, and in particular to child-rearing and the education of girls, family health, and other matters pertaining to home economics. The establishment of national rule in Iraq was followed by the emergence of several magazines and newspapers dealing with women’s issues.

Layla marked the beginnings of the women’s press in Iraq, and the magazine is credited with being one of the factors in the emergence of the Arab women’s movement. Published under the banner, “On the Way to Revival of the Iraqi Woman,” the magazine disseminated news about culture, education, and family affairs, as well as led a campaign for the liberation of women. Its editorial features included “The Crucible of Right,” “Tax News,” “Housewives Corner,” “Strange News,” “Rings of Magic Strings,” and others. The magazine also was concerned with medical research, literature, and poetry, and published works by the well known Iraqi poets al-Rasafi and al-Zahawi. One of the most important articles to appear in the magazine was the editorial, printed in Issue 6 on May 15, 1924, addressed to the Constituent Iraqi Assembly, asking it to grant women their rights. Layla published only 20 issues. Its last issue, dated August 15, 1925, included a sad article explaining to readers the magazine’s difficult financial situation. Soon thereafter, owner Paulina Hassoun left Iraq and the magazine ceased publication. (to read Layla issues click here) (source: world digital library)

 

Our thanks to Reem Farah, for highlighting this historical artifact. Do you have something you would like to share? Please get in touch!

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