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Nawal El Saadawi to speak on "Politics, Women, and Democracy" October 18

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October 15, 2004

Nawal El Saadawi to speak on "Politics, Women, and Democracy" October 18

Noted Arab novelist, psychiatrist, feminist writer, and activist Nawal El Saadawi will speak on "Politics, Women, and Democracy" at 7 PM Monday, October 18, in Gamble Auditorium in the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. The event is free, open to the public, and fully accessible.

Nawal El Saadawi is a leading Arab feminist, sociologist, medical doctor, and militant writer on Arab women’s problems. She is one of the most widely translated contemporary Egyptian writers, with her work available in 12 languages.

Since she began to write more than 40 years ago, El Saadawi’s books (27 in all) have concentrated on women, particularly Arab women, their sexuality and legal status. From the start, her writings were considered controversial and dangerous for the society, and were banished in Egypt. As a result, El Saadawi was forced to publish her works in Beirut, Lebanon. In her first work of nonfiction, Women and Sex, she dealt with the highly taboo subject of women and sexuality, and also the sensitive subjects of politics and religion. This publication evoked the anger of highly placed politicians and theological authorities.

In 1977, she published her most famous work, The Hidden Face of Eve, which covered a host of topics relative to Arab women such as aggression against female children and female genital mutilation, prostitution, sexual relationships, marriage and divorce, and Islamic fundamentalism.

In 1980, as a culmination of the long war she had fought for Egyptian women’s social and intellectual freedom, she was imprisoned under the Sadat regime for alleged “crimes against the state.” In spite of her imprisonment, El Saadawi continued to fight against oppression. El Saadawi formed the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association (AWSA) in 1981. AWSA, the first legal, independent feminist organization in Egypt, was banned in 1991 after criticizing U.S. involvement in the Gulf War, which El Saadawi felt should have been solved among the Arabs.

Even after her release from prison El Saadawi’s life was threatened by those who opposed her work, mainly Islamic fundamentalists, and armed guards were stationed outside her house for several years until she left the country to become a visiting professor at North American universities. El Saadawi continues to devote her time to writing, journalism, and speaking worldwide on women’s issues.

More information about this important activist and writer is available at

The event is sponsored by the Florence Purington Lecture Fund; the Dean of the College; the Office of Religious Life; and the departments of Asian studies, politics, history, women's studies, and international relations.


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