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5 March 2023

Sherine Tadros Q&A: “Since leaving TV I barely watch it”

The human rights activist on Arab socialism, comfort-watching Friends, and the allure of marine biology.

By New Statesman

Sherine Tadros was born in London in 1980. A former Middle East correspondent for Al Jazeera and Sky News, she is now the deputy director of advocacy at Amnesty International.

What’s your earliest memory?

Being chased by a troop of monkeys in Kenya. I was on safari with my family but wandered off on my own and was surrounded by the monkeys, who were a lot less friendly than they looked in my cartoons.

Who are your heroes?

My sister Rania was my childhood hero and remains my inspiration to this day. She balances a successful career and being an exceptional mother of two with also being the family organiser and crisis manager.

What book last changed your thinking?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It’s about the US justice system. Having worked in the Middle East, I had the impression that the US system was a lot fairer than it is.

[See also: Why human rights are not enough]

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Which political figure do you look up to?

The former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. She taught women about being strong leaders while still showing empathy, and has shown those qualities to male leaders.

What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

I want to say Arab socialism of the 1970s, but the truth is it’s the TV sitcom Friends. I watched it with my best friend Yosra growing up, and continue to rewatch old episodes now. It’s like comfort food for me.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I have a poster up in my house of the Nairn Transport Company, which offered an overland route from Beirut, Haifa and Damascus to Baghdad. Imagine being able to drive across those borders with ease. I’d love to go back to 1923 and take that ride.

What TV show could you not live without?

Since leaving TV I barely watch it, but what I cannot do without is radio and Morning Edition on NPR – and not just because my friend Leila Fadel is one of the hosts.

Who would paint your portrait?

My nine-year-old stepdaughter. She loves to paint, I could get her to do it for free and she wouldn’t be able to draw my wrinkles.

What’s your theme tune?

“My Way” by Frank Sinatra. My father sung it all the time when I was growing up. I like to think it was his way of unconsciously telling me it was OK to be a non-conformist.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

That everything, good and bad, passes. Although it sounds bleak, if you truly believe it you’ll be more present in life.

[See also: Are human rights taking over the space once occupied by politics?]

What’s currently bugging you?

People who ask me to speak at an event and unapologetically admit it’s only because they need a woman on the panel.

What single thing would make your life better?

If every leader around the world truly understood and respected the universality and indivisibility of human rights.

When were you happiest?

Every summer when I was growing up my parents rented a house on the beach in Egypt overlooking the Mediterranean. We played games and swam in the sea with my cousins all day. Life was simple.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

Marine biologist: a job where I get to spend more time with animals than humans and am submerged in water.

Are we all doomed?

That really depends on you, the reader. Taking an active part in making the world better or being a bystander while the world implodes is a choice we all make.

“Taking Sides” by Sherine Tadros is published by Scribe

Read more:

Dominic Raab’s Bill of Rights will create more work for woke activist lawyers

Rishi Sunak wouldn’t dare leave the ECHR

In a new age of emergency laws, human rights are more important than ever

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This article appears in the 08 Mar 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Why universities are making us stupid