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Obituary Nawal El Saadawi

Egyptian icon and novelist Nawal El Saadawi has died .Known for her courage and liberal thoughts and ideas , she created a controversy amongst her genre. She died   at the age of 89, after a lifetime spent fighting for women’s rights and equality.

Her fifty five books amongst them novels with brave titles for a Muslim author(God Dies by the Nile and many others) shocked the reader even from the start with comparisons that were and still are taboo. She was forced to  undergo  clitoridectomy at the age of 6 and that has been the spotlight in all her books.

A trained doctor, El Saadawi championed the cause of women in the Arab world foremost. For her it was a matter of ethics and existence. She campaigned against women wearing the veil, polygamy and inequality in Islamic inheritance rights between men and women.

Saadawi was imprisoned in 1981 by Sadat (president of Egypt then)  for not" fitting in" along with other intellectuals and writers . Even in prison ,in an act of rebellion she managed to write her experiences on a roll of toilet paper .She also lost her job in the ministry of health. Hated and abhorred by Islamists and fanatics she never withdrew from the battleground.

“This refusal to criticize religion … This is not liberalism. This is censorship,” she said. And so her name was on the death list along with other writers and intellectuals.

El Saadawi was both a pioneer and a beacon for women in the Arab and Muslim world. Her writings gave hope of a more equal world for women in the future.

She received  daily letters  from people who said that  their lives had been changed by her writing. “A young man came to me in Cairo with his new bride. He said, I want to introduce my wife to you and thank you. Your books have made me a better man. Because of them I wanted to marry not a slave, but a free woman.”

In 2005, El Saadawi was awarded the Inana International Prize in Belgium, a year after she received the North-South prize from the Council of Europe. In 2020, Time Magazine named her on their 100 Women of the Year list. 

She died in a Cairo hospital after a long battle against illness.


Editor- in -chief

Reem Haddad