On Sunday, Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi died at the age of 89. Author of over 55 books, El Saadawi was a prominent feminist campaigner. Her 1980 book The Hidden Face of Eve shone a spotlight on the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). Dima Dabbous, Equality Now’s Regional Representative in the Middle East and North Africa, shared her thoughts on a truly phenomenal woman.
I met Saadawi in person first when she was already 80, at a friend’s place in Beirut. At some point, music started playing and she began singing and dancing, with more stamina and energy than women at least half her age. That’s her. Full of life and tireless throughout.
As a Middle Eastern feminist, she was one of a kind. She was not afraid of speaking her mind and expressing unorthodox views on all fronts, even if this expression was going to cause her problems (she spent time in an Egyptian prison for expressing those views).
I loved what she had to say about religion (very anti-dogmatic views), politics, customs, husbands, children, make-up, and so on. Her views always shocked those around her, because they were completely her own, and not the result of what custom or tradition dictates, especially regarding women. They were the views of a free spirit that wanted other women to be free too.