JULY, 2008

Madrid, Spain

Women's Worlds Congress 2008


Plenary by NAWAL EL SAADAWI:  Founder, Association of Solidarity with Arab Women 

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Feminist International Radio Endeavour
by María Suárez & Margaret Thompson

July 4, 2008

Denouncing the attempted “mutilation of the mind” by means of widespread mis-information, the legendary feminist writer and medical doctor from Egypt Nawal El Saadawi spoke today in the Spanish capital of Madrid at one of the plenary session of the World Congress of Women 2008. 

El Saadawi is a doctor and psychiatrist, and is currently the Assistant Secretary General of the Egyptian Medical Association.  The Congress, which has attracted 3,000 mostly women attendees, is meeting July 3-9th at the Complutense University under the theme, “Equality is not a utopia.” 

The mutilation of the mind by means of information deceit is part of the politics of violence in the world; those who write or speak to expose to the public what is happening in the world are dissidents of the mutilation of the mind," declared El Saadawi.    

Her organization opposed the first Persian Gulf War in Iraq launched in 1991 by the first US President Bush, which led to El Saadawi being arrested and her organization banned.  From her prison cell, El Saadawi wrote another book on toilet paper using an eyebrow pencil borrowed from a prostitute who was likewise imprisoned. 

El Saadawi spoke to the Congress about strategies of resistance.  “As a surgeon, to get rid of an abscess, you have to open it up to release the pus.”  A clear allusion to one of the biggest deceits that has affected public opinion in the recent wars of the West, she added that we all live in only one world, contradicting the well known opinion of political scientist Samuel P. Huntington (author of the book, Clash of Civilizations) who argues that the conflicts today represent a clash among religious identities that emerged since the Cold War.  

“There is no ‘Third World,’ but only a single world,” declared El Saadawi.  She defined that single world as the capitalist patriarchal system that is militarized and violent. 

“The free market does not have religion, but its only god is that of profit, earned from massive arms sales and exploitation of the weakest groups…And one of the main profits comes from women’s bodies, to cover it up or uncover it, nakedness and veiling of women increase the profit, cosmetics and make up powders, advertisements, trading in women’s bodies to satisfy sexual needs of patriarchs…Without wars and without women, this world cannot  sustain itself!” said El Saadawi.

At a time in history when the main conflicts and wars are attributed to Islamic culture, or undertaken in the name of protection of the World against that culture, El Saadawi noted that religious fundamentalism and neocolonialism are two faces of the same coin and are universal under all religions, not only Islam.  “The attack against the human rights of women and the poor are universal,” noted El Saadawi “and it is not unique to the Arab region nor Islamic cultures.  And not only does such aggression violate the human rights of women, but women are often blamed for everything that happens in the family.” 

The free market is not free for women, said El Saadawi.  For women who want to be successful authors in the market, she said she has seen so many women who want to be successful, with their books becoming bestsellers in the market when they write about the veil, Islam or the Koran. 

But El Saadawi noted that there are some rules that are very clear:  Write only about the negative aspects of Islam without connecting those to other negatives and other religions, or “[do not] show the similarities [of religions] in relation to women’s oppression or racism or terrorism or double moral standards or others…do not write in your mother tongue, especially if it is Arabic…”  Likewise, “do not support the Palestinian resistance nor the Iraqi resistance to foreign invasions.” 

El Saadawi continued, “You should ignore historical facts, ignore that racism, veiling of women, infidel and honor killing, FGM and MGM, religious wars, struggles over power, land, trade and money all existed long before Islam arrive ed…Do not write about powerful women who resist oppression with all their might, women who can kill or die fighting, lest you will be accused of being violent, aggressive or non-feminine…[I wrote about this] and was acused of being aggressive, violent or event a suicide bomber!”

She also addressed the plenary of 3,000 women from more than 100 countries to suggest how to dissent.  “If you are creative and dissident you should ignore the free market…seek small publishers looking for genuine truthful creative work…Creativity needs courage, not only to face the publishing global or local market but also to face your own society, the power system of your own nationality or religions or class or gender or race or others…”

El Sadawi receives a standing ovation
for her plenary speech

El Saadawi concluded, “From my experience as a writer from Egypt, who started writing more than half a century ago, I say that the pleasure of creativity and truthfulness is much more than what the market can give, much more than money or sex or fame.  The pleasure of creativity can erase all your pains and sufferings, can make you a very happy person in spite of everything, including torture, death, threats, prison, exile or other.”

She called on women to organize in all possible ways as a ways to risk dissent to create and recreate the world.

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