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Abstract

On March 28th 2021, almost a week after my dear friend, colleague, role model, the revolutionary feminist writer Dr Nawal el Saadawi passed away in Cairo, Egypt, I held a Virtual Memorial Tribute to honor her considerable achievements and impact on so many people across our world. In attendance were admirers of her work across the globe, mourning the loss of an icon of Arab feminism who exposed the many hypocrisies and corrupt power relations of our world West to East, top to bottom. In so doing, she alerted us through her uncompromising clarity of vision to the complex imbrication of issues of gender oppression with those of religion, seeing the latter in turn as a tool for the continued hegemony of what she termed the g/local class patriarchal imperialist system. She talked the talk, she walked the walk, and for her commitment to ending oppression and injustice wherever she found it, but especially against women and the poor in her beloved Egypt where she was born and raised—Nawal was both reviled and punished by her detractors but also feted and adored by her global coterie of fans and admirers.

When she passed away in her beloved Cairo, the world lost a true rebel, a “visionary from the future” as one of the speakers at her memorial tribute called her. It was an honor and a duty for me to organize this gathering, that featured moving remembrances from thought leaders representing a variety of academic disciplines and locations who had had the privilege of knowing a fearless feminist and social justice warrior the world has yet to fully appreciate and understand. It was meaningful to also have present at the virtual memorial, her daughter the poet Mona Helmi, and filmmaker Atef Hettata, who tuned in from Cairo. May their mother live forever in our hearts and minds. Ya Nawal—we miss you so; shukran for being such an amazing source of inspiration for countless generations of women and men to come.

Note on the Author

Fawzia Afzal-Khan is Professor of English and a University Distinguished Scholar at Montclair State University in New Jersey. She has recently been a Visiting Professor at NYU Abu Dhabi, as well as serving as Fulbright Scholar teaching Feminist Theory at her alma mater Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore. She works at the intersections of Postcolonial Feminist Literary Criticism and Cultural and Performance Studies and has published 5 books to date with a 6th book forthcoming from Oxford University Press entitled Siren Song: Understanding Pakistan Through its Women Singers. She has made an award-winning short film of the same title with the help of an NEH grant in 2011, and is a published poet, playwright and memoirist. She is also a trained vocalist in the Indo-Pakistani classical tradition, who has performed internationally and is founder of the Neither East Nor West fusion music ensemble in NYC. She is a long-time Contributing Editor to TDR: The Drama Review (MIT Press) as well as an Advisory Board member of the online journal Arab Stages.

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