Popular women’s chat show Needle and Thread is back for a new series with a new presenter providing a fresh perspective to increase the programme’s appeal across the Middle East.
Riham Jarjour lives in Egypt where the now-named Needle and New Thread series is filmed but comes from Syria and will present in the Syrian Arabic dialect.
Riham, who is married to an Egyptian pastor and has two children, has had to overcome public prejudice and personal fears to go in front of the camera.
Having lived in Egypt for 10 years, Riham contrasts the dramatic change in attitudes towards Syrians before and after the war in Syria began. “One day people were friendly, welcoming and positive and the next they were negative,” she said. She has endured insults and her son has even suffered physical violence. “Although a minority of people express empathy for Syrians and show support,” she said, “the majority say that there’s too many of us and ask us to go back to our country”.
Needle and New Thread producer Maggie Morgan first asked Riham to appear in a one-off episode about Syria in 2013. Riham initially refused because she was afraid of taking live calls from viewers in case the discussion became political and caused trouble for her relatives in Syria. She was also worried she might cry at viewers’ stories from her war-torn homeland.
But eventually Riham agreed as she saw it as “a good opportunity to shed light on Syria”. Maggie was impressed with Riham’s natural manner on screen and when she came to freshen up the programme this year, asked the Syrian to join the team as a permanent presenter. With a few episodes now under her belt, Riham is overcoming her fears.
“The thing that I feared the most – live calls – is the thing for which I’ve received the most positive feedback,” she said. Relatives in Syria who Riham has not seen in years have also made contact and complimented her on the show.
Riham’s own concerns and experiences have given her empathy with the viewers. “It is not easy to call live on air and present a problem. It takes a lot of courage to do this,” she said.
A fresh look
Riham says she loves the show’s new name Needle and New Thread “because it still maintains the essence and idea behind the programme but with a fresh new look.” As SAT-7 seeks to answer the cries of Middle Eastern women for worth, Needle and New Thread addresses their real-life issues in an affirming and engaging way with God’s love and hope. The new series will address topics including identity and cultural pressure, mental illness, spiritual abuse and listening to loved ones.
Riham said, “It’s like a room with glass walls, where women can go inside and discuss their issues safely but at the same time they can be seen by others. We cannot promise to offer a solution for every problem but we offer a window to let the breeze in.”
Riham’s perspective as a Syrian, a wife and a working mother will no doubt add a valuable new thread to the show this season.