News / Middle East

Egypt Protests Level Playing Field for Women

Egyptian writer Nawal el Saadawi during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, May 2001 (file photo)
Egyptian writer Nawal el Saadawi during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, May 2001 (file photo)

Multimedia

The anti-government protesters who have been occupying Cairo's Tahrir Square for more than two weeks now want to turn Egypt into a modern, progressive nation, including equal rights for men and women. One of their heroes is the renowned secular feminist Nawal el Saadawi.

Since January 25 protests have been calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square. It's called Midan Tahrir - which means Liberation Square. And for this protester, it's also about Women's Liberation: "[Before] we had nothing, now I guess we will take everything."

Many of the women say here on the square they are treated as equals. They may be outnumbered by men. But when el Saadawi shows up, young males shower her with admiration.

El Saadawi comes to Midan Tahrir every day, but in the evening returns home to the relatively poor neighborhood of Shobra. She said the uprising is a lifelong dream come true. "So these days for me are like, I'm breathing! I'm happy! I'm becoming young again!"

Her campaigns against genital mutilation of girls and her dissident political views have infuriated conservatives and Egypt's rulers. She was barred from teaching and lived in exile. Although she has a medical doctor's degree and her writings have been translated into many languages, she voices the same frustrations as many older Egyptian woman who have been held back.

"I never, never really was able to live my dream," said el Saadawi. "Because I have a lot of potential. I have a good brain, strong body, I am 80, but I am strong. I could have done a lot [for] this country!”

But she didn't, she said, because in Egypt women legally have fewer rights than men. "The family code in Egypt is one of the worst family codes in the Arab world," said El Saadawi. "Polygamy. The husband is having absolute power over the family.”

But she never submitted. "I had to divorce three husbands! To write, just to continue to write! Because for a woman, to be a strong wife, this is not accepted. You know my husband should dominate me. I should not be equal to him. I should not be more successful than him. I should not be more famous than him."

El Saadawi not only criticizes the situation in Egypt. She believes women everywhere are at a disadvantage, and her political views are still stridently anti-Western and anti-capitalist.
But she said the men who have ruled Egypt are like the ancient “Pharoahs,” including Hosni Mubarak.

"He will be the last one," said el Saadawi.

NEW: Follow our Middle East stories on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid