Doria Shafik, Egyptian Feminist: A Woman Apart by Cynthia Nelson

By Cynthia Nelson

Cynthia Nelson brings to lifestyles a daring and talented Egyptian of the mid-twentieth century who helped outline what it capability to be a latest Arab girl. Doria Shafik (1908-1975), an Egyptian feminist, poet, writer, and political activist, participated in a single of her country's such a lot explosive classes of social and political transformation. through the '40s she burst onto the general public degree in Egypt, brazenly demanding each social, cultural, and felony barrier that she seen as oppressive to the whole equality of ladies. because the founding father of the Daughters of the Nile Union in 1948, she catalyzed a circulate that fought for suffrage and organize courses to wrestle illiteracy, offer fiscal possibilities for lower-class city ladies, and lift the realization of middle-class collage scholars. She additionally based and edited trendy women's journals, wrote books in either French and Arabic, lectured during the international, married, and raised youngsters. For a decade, she ignited the mind's eye of the click, the place she was once variously defined because the "perfumed leader," a "danger to the Muslim nation," a "traitor to the revolution," and the "only guy in Egypt." Then, in 1957, following her starvation strike in protest opposed to the populist regime of Gamal Abdul Nasser, she used to be put less than apartment arrest. inside of months her magazines folded, her identify used to be formally banned from the clicking, and she or he entered a protracted interval of seclusion that ended along with her suicide in 1975. With the cooperation of Shafik's daughters, who made to be had her 3 impressionistic, unpublished, and infrequently contradictory memoirs, Nelson has exposed Shafik's tale and brings the lifestyles and achievements of this impressive lady to a Western viewers.

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Even among her extended family, she believed herself to be an outsider: "One evening after dinner at Tante Aziza's, I inadvertently overheard a conversation between my aunt and one of her friends who alluded to me as an orphan, telling my aunt that it was absolutely necessary to find me a husband. The effect on me was disastrous. Again I felt this terrible impression of being a waif, like the day when my mother died. " About this time, two of her brothers were sent to Europe to pursue their studies in engineering—Gamal to Berlin and Ali to England.

I was deeply moved. " She felt helpless. Even the house was constructed as a labyrinth so that "in order to go from the kitchen to the dining room you had to go through the bedrooms and in order to go from the bedrooms to the bathroom you had to go through the dining room. An uninterrupted stream of busy people scurried up and down the numerous hidden staircases so that you couldn't climb two steps without bumping into a servant or a door. I felt like a boat going adrift. An unvoiced revolt against the negation of my self started to rise within me!

When she arrived at this melting pot of the Delta—the heroic capital of Gharbiya province and the third largest industrial and commercial city in Egypt5—her dream that "Tanta might be even more beautiful than Mansura" was shattered by a first impression that seemed to augur the bleak life that lay ahead of her: "The streets seemed dirty and the 14 Doria Shafik, Egyptian Feminist people had ghost-like faces. Tanta was a town without color, without light and above all without the Nile. Nothing but a miserably shallow and muddy canal.

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