Nawal El Saadawi
Arab women have always been champions of feminism with their resilience, their empowerment of others, and their self-expression. Their stories are received in the forms of letters and chapters, and as they derive from their own experience, they are actively penning feminist fiction and non-fiction that inevitably reaches their readers as genuinely and indisputably as possible.
Here are 3 renowned Arab feminists worth reading that have long conveyed ideas about gender roles and identities within the Arab world, and have been relentlessly fighting for equality through their work.
Her first novel, entitled Cinnamon was published in 2007 – a book that highlights challenges and experiences faced by women and more specifically talks about abuse, extramarital affairs, sex and homosexuality, Samar Yazbek is a feminist force to be reckoned with.
The Syrian writer, journalist and activist’s 2011 book, The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria led to her being exiled from her home country. Taking refuge in Paris, Yazbek went on to write an account of her experience as a protester in it.
Award winning Saudi novelist, Badryah El Bishr’s writing focuses mainly on the everyday lives and struggles of the women who reside in Saudi Arabia and their desire for equal rights.
The Saudi writer’s books include, The Seesaw, Hend and the Soldiers, and Love Stories on Al Asha Street, alongside her published articles which have all sparked controversy within the Arab world.
Not allowing any backlash to stand in her way, Badryah El Bishr spoke at a conference in Dubai in 2015 and fearlessly stated, "Traditional societies have one mold, it's alarming if you don't fit into it. It's appalling if you don't resemble your mother or father. In the face of such confrontation, people ask, 'How do you go on?' To be honest I don't see those who don't support me, I don't see their insults. I focus on those who support me.”
Nawal El Saadawi
Proclaimed “Egypt’s Radical Feminist”, there aren’t many people who don’t know of Nawal El Saadawi, who, despite her years, is still an active advocate for women’s rights. She has dedicated her entire life to fighting for gender equality and women’s socio-political rights.
Not backing down from her political views on social injustices and women’s rights, El Saadawi was imprisoned for 3 months, during which she wrote Memoirs From The Women’s Prison on toilet paper.
Her book entitled, Women and Sex was published in 1972 and caused uproar as she wrote about pressing topics which caused women to suffer, including, female genital mutilation, caused her to lose her job at the Egyptian ministry of health at the time.
Nawal’s works have been banned in Arab countries including, Bahrain, Doha, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.