Renowned feminist and human rights activist Nawal El Saadawi was a political prisoner and exiled from Egypt for years. Now she has returned to Cairo, and she joins us to discuss the role of women during the last seven days of unprecedented protests. "Women and girls are beside boys in the streets," El Saadawi says. "We are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system... and to have a real democracy." [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We go back right now to Egypt. Joining us on the phone is one of Egypt’s most renowned human rights activists, Nawal El Saadawi. A well-known feminist, psychologist, writer, former political prisoner in Egypt, she lived in exile for years due to numerous death threats. Nawal El Saadawi joins us on the line from Cairo.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Your feelings today in the midst of this popular rebellion against the Mubarak regime, calling on Mubarak to leave? Do you agree?
NAWAL EL SAADAWI: We are in the streets every day, people, children, old people, including myself. I am now 80 years of age, suffering of this regime for half a century. And you remember, Mubarak is the continuation of Sadat. And both Sadat and Mubarak, you know, their regime worked against the people, men and women. And they created this gap between the poor and rich. They brought the so-called business class to govern us. Egypt became an American colony. And we are dominated by the U.S. and Israel. And 80 million people, men and women, have no say in the country.
And you see today that people in the streets for six days, and they told Mubarak to go. He should have gone, if he respects the will of the people. That’s democracy. Because what’s democracy? It’s to respect the will of the people. The people govern themselves. So, really, we are happy.
But what I would like to tell you, the U.S. government, with Israel and Saudi Arabia and some other powers outside the country and inside the country, they want to abort this revolution. And they are creating rumors that, you know, Egypt is going to be ruined, to be robbed, and they are also preventing — we don’t have bread now, and the shops are using this to raise the price. So they are trying to frighten us. They have two strategies: to frighten the people, so we say, "Oh, we need security, we need Mubarak," because people are living in fear. But when I go to the streets, there are no fear, you know, but when I stay at home and listen to the media, I feel, "What’s going to happen?" But when I go to the streets, to Midan Tahrir, and see the people, the young people, the old people, the men, I feel secure, and I believe that the revolution succeeded. So, they are trying to abort the power outside and inside. But we will win.
AMY GOODMAN: And Nawal El Saadawi, you often hear in the United States, "Is this going to be like the Iranian Revolution?" not talking about throwing out the dictator so much, but a fundamentalist revolution. Your response? Nawal?
NAWAL EL SAADAWI: They are frightening us by the Ikhwan Muslimin, and that if Mubarak —- they tried for years to tell us that "Who protects us from the fundamentalists, like Khomeini and Iraq? It’s Mubarak." You know, and this is not true. This revolution, the young people who started the revolution and who are continuing to protect it, they are not political, ordinary young men and women. They don’t belong to the right or the left, or Muslim. There was not a single Islamic religious slogan in the streets. Not one. They were shouting for justice, equality, freedom, and that Mubarak and his regime should go, and we need to change the system and bring people who are honest. Egypt is living in corruption, false elections, oppression of women, of young people, unemployment. So the revolution came, it was too late. This revolution is too late, but anyway, it came. So -—
AMY GOODMAN: Nawal El Saadawi, you have been arrested how many times under previous regimes?
NAWAL EL SAADAWI: Sadat. Sadat put me in prison only. But I came out from prison with bars to a prison with no bars. I am living in Cairo in exile. I am censored. I cannot write in Al-Ahram or the big media. I write only one article every Tuesday in Al-Masry Al-Youm.
AMY GOODMAN: And we only have 30 seconds, but I wanted to ask you about the role of women in this rebellion, women and girls.
NAWAL EL SAADAWI: Women and girls are beside boys in the streets. They are — and we are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system, to change the people who are governing us, the system and the people, and to have a real democracy. That’s what women are saying and what men are saying.
AMY GOODMAN: Nawal El Saadawi, I want to thank you for being with us, well-known feminist, psychologist. She ran for president in Egypt, speaking to us from Cairo. As we continue tomorrow and with Sharif’s tweets at democracynow.org, here at Democracy Now!