March 22, 2021 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 266

The Passing Of An Iconoclast – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi: From The MEMRI Archives

March 22, 2021 | By Alberto M. Fernandez
Egypt | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 266

The prominent Egyptian writer and women's rights activist Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi (1931-2021) has died at the age of 89. Hers was a life full of striving, incident and controversy. I never met her but it is likely that, if she knew, she would not have approved of me or of MEMRI. She was, at times, a bitter critic of the U.S. and its policies in the Middle East, and of Israel. An "anti-imperialist," she spouted many of the fashionable left-wing nostrums we have become used to hear coming from Third World revolutionary intellectuals. And yet we can disagree with many of those views and still respect and admire what was a heroic figure, with this collection of clips and translations of Nawal Al-Sa'dawi from past years.

Source: MEMRI TV Clip No. 139

Al-Sa'dawi was, first and foremost, a fighter for freedom – for the rights of women, for the right to do and say what you want. That alone has real, permanent value in a world full of hypocrites and compromisers. She was the bane of Egypt's Islamists (who themselves have at different times been both oppressed and coddled by Egypt's authoritarian regimes) and an opponent of dictatorships. She was not one for compromising.

The fact that she did not march in lockstep with me or anyone else does not detract from her intrinsic value as a person of deeply held humanistic principles. I never knew Nawal Al-Sa'dawi, but I did know the great Syrian poet Muhammad Al-Maghut. He was also a man of the Left and a secularist, generally anti-U.S., a partisan of the Palestinian armed struggle. It would have been easy for a Westerner who disagreed with any of these positions to write him off. But this was a great man, an Arab giant, with his principles and his passions. He would have been great anywhere and at any time in the world, but to stand up and raise his head in a sea of enforced conformity that often seemed to be the Arab world was an act of deep moral courage.

So it was with Nawal, a force of nature, a woman of fierce conviction, extreme in her passions and causes. She was married and divorced three times, noting that "I am a normal, regular, and reasonable person, but my mind cannot accept being ruled by someone of a lesser mind, an idiot." She should be remembered for her honesty, her rare bravery in confronting the ideological conformity of religious extremists, and her sincere passion for much-needed reform in the Arab and Muslim world.

Below are MEMRI reports and clips on Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi.

MEMRI Translations Of Articles And Statements By Dr. Al-Sa'dawi

Special Dispatch No. 9053 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi Calls To Fight Tradition Of 'Honor Killing' Sanctioned By Egypt's Mainstream Culture – November 24, 2020

Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 896 – Following The Arab Spring, A Facebook Campaign Titled 'The Uprising Of Women In The Arab World' Emerges – November 9, 2012

Special Dispatch No. 3646 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi Calls to Not Exclude Youth and Women from Constitution Committee – March 7, 2011  

Special Dispatch No. 1499 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi Talks About Her Beliefs and Her Decision to Leave Egypt – March 13, 2007

Special Dispatch No. 1164 – Arab Feminists on the Inferior Status of Women in Arab Society – May 16, 2016

Special Dispatch No. 876 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi Announces Her Presidential Candidacy, Explains That Women Can Lead Countries, Calls On 70 Million Egyptians to Fight the U.S. and Israel – March 10, 2005  

Special Dispatch No. 621 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi: Islam Should Be Removed From The Egyptian Constitution As The 'Official Religion' – December 4, 2003

MEMRI TV Clips Of Dr. Al-Sa'dawi

Clip No. 6776 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi: I Saw Hillary Clinton Handing Out U.S. Dollars In Tahrir Square So That People Would Vote for the Muslim Brotherhood – September 30, 2018

Clip No. 6730 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi Calls for Cultural Revolution: Al-Azhar Is a "Dangerous Reactionary Force" Preventing Renewal of Religious Discourse – July 1, 2018

Clip No. 6175 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi: Women Enable Their Husbands' Tyranny – August 11, 2017

Clip No. 4950 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi In Support Of Homosexuals: They Are Very Normal – June 4, 2015

Clip No. 4103 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi: New Egyptian Constitution Infringes On Women's Rights – December 4, 2013

Clip No. 2308 – Dr. Nawal Nawal Al-Sa'dawi: I Oppose the Possibility of Gamal Mubarak Becoming President – November 30, 2009

Clip No. 1396 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi Talks About Her Beliefs, Explains Her Decision To Leave Egypt – March 3, 2007

Clip No. 139 – Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi: The Political and Religious Authorities Collaborate and Terrorize Us – June 29, 2004

* Ambassador Alberto M. Fernandez is Vice President of MEMRI.

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