CAIRO: Trailblazing Egyptian feminist icon, rights activist, and author Nawal el-Saadawi passed away Sunday at the age of 89, the country's daily Al-Ahram newspaper reported.
A champion of women's rights who revolutionised discussions on gender in the Arab world, she assed away after suffering a long illness, according to her family.
A prolific author who shot to fame with the widely translated novel Women at Point Zero (1975), Saadawi was a fierce advocate for women's empowerment in Egypt's deeply conservative and patriarchal society.
They said, 'You are a savage and dangerous woman.' 'I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous.
She was briefly jailed by late president Anwar Sadat and also condemned by Al-Azhar, the highest Muslim authority in Egypt.
With over 55 books to her name, Saadawi's outspoken brand of feminism — including campaigning against women wearing the veil, inequality in Muslim inheritance rights between men and women, polygamy, and female genital mutilation (FGM) — gained her as many critics as admirers in the Middle East.
In 1993, after constant deaths threats from firebrand extremist preachers, Saadawi moved to Duke University in the US state of North Carolina, where she was a writer-in-residence at the Asian and African languages department for three years.
When I was in jail, the jailer said, ‘If I find paper and pen in your cell, it’s more dangerous than if I find a gun.
She returned to Egypt and, in 2005, ran for president but abandoned her bid after accusing security forces of not allowing her to hold rallies.
"When I was in jail, the jailer said, ‘If I find paper and pen in your cell, it’s more dangerous than if I find a gun,’” Saadawi had told Reuters in an interview in London in 2018.
She fell out of favour with many secular progressives later in life for her wholehearted embrace of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's military overthrow of radical president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Her path-breaking, critical books published in dozens of languages also took aim at Western feminists, including her friend Gloria Steinem and policies espoused by heads of state such as former US president George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.
As news of her death spread around the world, a quote from her book made rounds on social media websites, such as Twitter. "They said, 'You are a savage and dangerous woman.' 'I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous,'" she wrote in Woman at Point Zero, published in the Arabic language in 1975.
Saadawi's death coincides with Mother's Day celebrations in Egypt and across the Arab world. She divorced three times and had two children.
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