NAWAL EL SADAAWI – in memory.
The world has sadly lost a feminist pillar, a free spirit and a huge inspiration. The Egyptian writer, activist, physician and psychiatrist, Nawal El Sadaawi has passed away at the age of 89. The loss will not only be felt in the Middle East, where she lived most of her life, but worldwide. Her intellectual and creative capacities, her courage, stamina and energy seemed endless, and indeed have marked generations and will, for generations to come. Her books will be read, her feminist and socialist work against patriarchy and capitalism is historic and she will continue to be a revolutionary role model for the oppressed and for women fighting for their rights, for equality, justice and a more peaceful world.
Nawal El Sadaawi was a prolific writer, both fiction and non-fiction, linking political, economic, sexual, and religious issues. The break-through came with the novel, “Women at Point Zero”. Her works have been translated into more than forty languages, and some of them continue to be taught in universities. She was actively demonstrating at the Tahrir Square in 2011 during the Arab Spring and made her voice heard way beyond ordinary retirement age.
She held many positions in her country: Author for the Supreme Council for Arts and Social Sciences; Director General of the Health Education Department; Secretary General of the Medical Association and Medical Doctor at the University Hospital and Ministry of Health. She was the founder of Health Education Association and the Egyptian Women Writers’ Association; she was Chief Editor of Health Magazine in Cairo, and Editor of the Medical Association Magazine.
I was fortunate to meet Nawal in a UNESCO working context and to visit her in Cairo at the Headquarters of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, which she founded and headed for many years. She was also co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights. She lectured in many universities and participated in numerous international conferences. However, as a result of her literary and scientific writings and her activism, she faced numerous difficulties and dangers. She was taken to court, spent time in jail, some of her books were banned and her association closed down.
Nawal El Saadawi was awarded several prizes, although not in Egypt. In 2004, she won the North-South Prize of the Council of Europe; in 2005, the Inana International Prize in Belgium; in 2011 the Woman of the Year Award, London and in 2020 she was one of the 100 Women of the Year of Time Magazine. She had a series of honorary doctorates in different universities. In 2012 she received the IPB Sean MacBride Peace Prize together with the late Lina Ben Mhenni, from Tunisia.
The International Peace Bureau sincerely thanks Nawal El Saadawi for all her valuable, honest and dedicated work for humanity, and for who she was!
Ingeborg Breines, for IPB