Sara Akbar

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Sara Akbar
Alma mater
OccupationChemical engineer, chief executive officer Edit this on Wikidata

Sara Hussein Akbar (Arabic: سارة أكبر) is a Kuwaiti chemical petroleum engineer, women's rights advocate, and co-founder and former chief executive officer of Kuwait Energy.[1][2] Akbar is recognized as a "national hero" due to her involvement in the Kuwaiti oil fires which were later depicted in the Academy Award nominated documentary Fires of Kuwait.[1] For her firefighting efforts, she was awarded the Global 500 Roll of Honour from the United Nations Environmental Program.[3] Akbar is one of the first women oil sector company executives from the Arabian Peninsula.[4][1] She served as the director of the Society of Petroleum Engineers in 2007.

Early life and education[edit]

Akbar grew up in a large Kuwaiti family of Iranian descent, including her mother and father, as well as nine brothers and sisters. Her father was an oil driller.[3] She earned her bachelor's degree as part of Kuwait University's first graduating class of Chemical Engineers in 1981.[1][5][6]


Akbar began her career working in departmental offices before attaining a position as a petroleum engineer for Kuwait Oil Company.[1] She subsequently worked there in fire-fighting operations, as superintendent of petroleum engineering, and as R&D specialist.[7] Between 1981 and 1999, Akbar worked in the oil sector at Kuwait Energy, a company she co-founded and served as CEO. She is the first woman to hold a leading position in the Middle East oil and gas industry.[8] During the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, most of the oil wells in the country (80%) were attacked by Saddam Hussein's army. Akbar was the lone woman on a rogue team of petroleum engineers who acted against orders to take on the dangerous task of dousing oil well fires.[1] She believes it was her familiarity with the wells that allowed her team to be successful: "I worked on the oilfields, offshore and onshore, day and night, and the result of this work was that I knew the oilfields very well... There were 800 wells and I knew every single one like the back of my hand."[9] Their efforts were later shown in Fires of Kuwait, a 1992 documentary that was nominated for Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[1]

From 2001 to 2005, she was the business development manager of Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company.[7]

In 2006, Akbar was behind the creation of oil and gas legislation and regulations in Somalia. She also was a "catalyst" humanitarian efforts in the country. Under Akbar's direction, Kuwait Energy sponsored approximately "two hundred women to start up small business markets..."[1]

Akbar served as the director-at-large of the Society of Petroleum Engineers in 2007.[1]

In January 2018, Akbar became the only woman on the Board of Trustees of the Silk City and Boubyan Island development authority for the project Madinat al-Hareer.[10] She resigned as the CEO of Kuwait Energy in 2017.[2][11]


Akbar's awards include:[12][8]

Women's rights[edit]

In interviews, Akbar speaks about the role of women in the workplace, especially in Middle Eastern countries. She notes that there is variation between the countries and should not be viewed as equivalent in their advancements of women's rights. Speaking about Kuwait and the women's rights movement, she argues, "Kuwait is top of the class in women’s rights, access to education, business and work. [At the same time], the country remains way behind in terms of political rights, which we finally got four or five years ago. I strongly believe in the 'power of women,' i.e., their ability to fight for what they are entitled to and to finally win the battle. In Kuwait, this movement is quite strong."[3] Akbar does not believe Islam imposes "social limits" on women, instead, she believes there are larger socio-cultural factors that impact women's rights.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Akbar credits parental support as a key factor in her success, as well as the success of her siblings. She is currently married and living in Kuwait City with her husband and three children.[3] Akbar is Shia Muslim.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ali, Souad T. (2016-09-08). "Sara Akbar: Kuwait's Hero and Female Leader in the Oil Industry". Hawwa. 14 (2): 207–225. doi:10.1163/15692086-12341298. ISSN 1569-2086.
  2. ^ a b Ambrose, Jillian (2018). "Kuwait Energy eyes London listing with Soco merger talks". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  3. ^ a b c d "Sara Akbar Makes a Name for Herself in the Oil Industry - Knowledge@Wharton". Knowledge@Wharton. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  4. ^ Al Madani, Abdullah (2015-03-20). "Iron Lady of Kuwait" (in Arabic). Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  5. ^ "We Have a Plan". The Business Year. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  6. ^ Omran, Mohammed (2014-04-07). "Sara Akbar: The first Kuwaiti engineer working in oil fields". Hayatouki (in Arabic). Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  7. ^ a b "Sara Akbar | AIME". Retrieved 2020-01-09.
  8. ^ a b "Iron lady of the Middle East, Sara Akbar, to speak at ONS - ONS 2018". Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  9. ^ "Kuwait Energy chief Sara Akbar recalls baptism of fire". The National. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  10. ^ "Kuwait cabinet holds weekly meeting". Kuwait News Agency. 2018-01-22. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  11. ^ Gosden, Emily (2018-03-06). "Soco turns lights out on Kuwait Energy merger". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  12. ^ "Sara Akbar | AIME". Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  13. ^ Abucedo, Zainab (2009-11-06). "Sarah's greatest news for beautiful days". Alanba (in Arabic). Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  14. ^ "Distinguished Membership - Society of Petroleum Engineers". Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Sara Akbar - AIME". Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  16. ^ "100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen 2017 - Forbes Middle East". Forbes Middle East. Researched by Ahmed Mabrouk, Ranju Warrier, Jason Lasrado. Retrieved 2018-02-05.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: others (link)

External links[edit]