Egyptian writer and women’s rights icon Nawal El Saadawi dies | Arts and Culture News

The famous writer, feminist and activist has died at the age of 89 in a Cairo hospital after suffering a long illness, her family says.

World-renowned Egyptian author Nawal El Saadawi, a fervent champion of women’s rights in the Arab world, has died aged 89, her family said.

El Saadawi died in a Cairo hospital after suffering a long illness, her daughter, Mona Helmy said on Sunday.

The prolific writer was a leading feminist who revolutionized discussions of gender in deeply conservative societies.

Born in the village of Kafir Tahla in 1931, El Saadawi rose to prominence in 1972 with her taboo-breaking book Women and Sex, but rose to fame with her widely translated novel Women at Point Zero in 1975.

With over 55 pounds to her name, she was briefly imprisoned by the late President Anwar Sadat and also sentenced by Al-Azhar, the highest Sunni Muslim authority in Egypt.

“I write in Arabic. All my books are in Arabic and then they are translated. My role is to change my people, ”said El Saadawi, who has faced many death threats throughout his life.

Translation: Dr Nawal El Saadawi, the most famous advocate for the emancipation of women in modern Arab history, has passed away. The image is taken from his participation in an episode of The Opposite Direction with Sheikh Youssef Al-Badri in 1998.

Regarding his problems with the government, El Saadawi said: “Sadat put me in prison with other men. Under [longtime President Hosni] Mubarak, I was “on the gray list”. Although there is no official ordinance prohibiting me, I cannot appear in national media – this is an unwritten rule. There is no way people like me will be heard by people.

El Saadawi in Tahrir Square in Cairo during the anti-Mubarak protests in February 2011 [File: Amel Pain/EPA]

El Saadawi had an outspoken brand of feminism. She has written on controversial topics, including polygamy and female circumcision – among others – which have earned her as many critics as admirers in the region.

She said, “When you criticize your own culture, there are those in your culture who are against you, who say, ‘Don’t show our dirty laundry out’. I don’t believe in this theory. I speak a language, whether inside or outside the country. I have to be honest with myself.

In 1993, El Saadawi moved to North Carolina in the United States for Duke University, where she was writer in residence in the Department of Asian and African Languages ​​for three years.

She returned to Egypt and in 2005 ran for president, but dropped her candidacy after accusing security forces of not allowing her to organize rallies.

In 2011, she participated in the mass uprising against corruption that ousted Mubarak.

Her critical and groundbreaking books published in dozens of languages ​​were also aimed at Western feminists, including her friend Gloria Steinem, and the policies adopted by heads of state such as the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by the former US President George W. Bush.

“We no longer have feminists. Feminism for me is fighting against patriarchy and class and fighting against male domination and class domination. We do not distinguish between class oppression and patriarchal oppression, ”she said.

In 2005, El Saadawi received the International Inana Prize in Belgium, one year after receiving the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe. In 2020, Time Magazine named her to their list of 100 Women of the Year.

“I can describe my life as a life devoted to writing,” said El Saadawi, who is survived by a daughter and a son.

“Despite all the obstacles, I continued to write.”

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