Mötet med den Andre är höstens stora mångfaldskonferens, som arrangeras av Seglora smedja tillsammans med Sofia församling. På onsdagen öppnades konferensen med ett storslaget framförande inför flera hundra besökare i Sofia kyrka.

Nawal el-Saadawi, foto: San Cool

Den egyptiska dansgruppen Nefertari invigde showen med koreograferade danser som gav ett helt nytt och annorlunda liv åt Sofia kyrkas stora ytor. Ewa Lindqvist Hotz from Seglora smedja och Hans Ulfvebrand, kyrkoherde i Sofia, talade och presenterade kvällens stora hedersgäst Nawal el-Saadawi, egyptisk författare och frihetskämpe på Sverigebesök.

Nawal stortrivdes uppenbart i denna miljö fastän det, som hon tillstod, var första gången som hon talade i en kyrka: It is the first time in my life that I sit in a church and speak. Because in my mind, a church or a mosque is a place where people come to pray. It is delightful to come and speak about women and dissidents and revolution, to see these beautiful young women dancing here in the church.

Nawal är känd för många för sitt patos och sin uppriktighet. Hon gav också prov på det när hon i Sofia kyrka höll en utläggning om religionernas försyndelser mot kvinnan. Alla de stora monoteistiska världsreligionerna förbjuder kvinnor att dansa, att skratta, berättade Nawal. Tidigare i historien har kvinnor varit förbjudna att tänka, tala och vara kreativa. Kvinnor skulle vara ”a body without a head”. Tänkandet var mannens uppgift. Tidigare i historien har det inte varit så: I det tidiga Egypten var Isis intellektets gudinna, inte barnafödandets.

It is the basis of the three monotheistic religions, that women were created incomplete, lacking the mind. And therefore, women should hide themselves, cover their heads and veil themselves. The essence of the veiling in history is, that women are created without a brain. They should be ashamed of their being incomplete.

When I was young, I asked myself with the common sense of a child, how come that woman was created by god with no head, and therefore is forced to cover it? How can she cover something which he doesn’t have?

If God created her without a head, how come she should feel sinful? She is innocent of this, for she is just as she was made.

Nawal reflekterade över denna tradition att döda kvinnans intellekt, och spårade den tillbaka till de tidigaste berättelserna, om Adam och Eva. Evas synd var hennes kunskap, att hon åt från kunskapens träd. Och hon straffades för detta.

Också idag fortsätter detta förtryck av kvinnan. Nawal pekade ut inte bara religionen, utan vetenskaperna, litteraturen, konsten. Men det finns en förhoppning om något bättre. Genom att fortsätta låta kvinnor dansa och skratta i kyrkorummet, kan man förvandla kyrkan till en plats av kärlek, jämställdhet och frihet.

Att Nawal är en radikal människorättskämpe blev också uppenbart under kvällen. Hon har personligen upplevt västmakternas kolonialistiska inblandning i Egypten innan Mubarak, och var en av de äldsta närvarande under den fredliga revolutionen på Tahrirtorget. Dessa dubbla erfarenheter ger henne ett unikt perspektiv på makt och mänskliga rättigheter idag.

Patriarchy and the oppression of class, of gender and of colour are always linked in history. Wherever there is one oppresision, another will also be present. We live in one world, dominated by an upper class and a patriarchal, capitalist, military system, oppressing women, the poor, the ones without power.

You think I am oppressed because I am an egyptian woman? This is a big lie. The veiling of women, the hostility towards the head of the woman, is present in all religions. The hostility against the poor is present in all religions and political systems, because we live in one world with just one system: patriarchy, capitalism and military power.

We live in a political system that is built on deception. There is no ”justice” in the world politics. When a super power invades a small country, for oil and natural resources, where is the justice?

Alla har ärvt sin religion, resonerar Nawal. Varför ska vi döda varandra bara för att vi är olika, för att vi föddes till familjer med olika traditioner? Denna söndring mellan människorna är en maktmekanim som gör folket till främlingar för varandra och förpassar makten till dem som formulerar denna splittring.

In fact, Egypt is very tolerant. My father was a muslim, I have a muslim background, but I was brought up in a school with jewish and christian girls. We loved eachother, and we never asked ”are you muslim or jewish?” That is how children respond to eachother.

Who divided us? It was the british missionary school, saying: ”you are muslim, you should go to class with the other muslims”, ”don’t eat with the muslims”, or ”don’t eat with the christians”. Who created the conflict between muslims and christians in Egypt today? The british colonizers. In this way Britain could control Egypt: By dividing us. Religion is a very good weapon to divide people. We must be aware of that, and understand the big picture.


I’ll tell you my experience of Tahrir Square. In Tahrir square there were millions of people from all over Egypt, men and women, young and old, muslims and christians. Millions came together, united, living in tents.

I felt as if I was a child, because I had been dreaming of this community since I was ten years old, dreaming of a community where everybody were truly equal. And in Tahrir square this dream was realized.

Suddenly I found myself in a tent in january, it was cold. I was 80 years old so the young men and women gave me of their clothes and helped me. This was real equality. I saw girls living under the same tent with boys, and not a single harassment took place. I saw christians and muslims praying together, in peace.

This frightened the world. And this was what removed Mubarak. He was supported by everybody, by the US, Israel – so how could we remove him? It was this power, this unity between the people, that removed Mubarak.

I was in the middle of writing a novel at the time of the revolution. I left it and went to Tahrir, and when I went back home, I simply threw it away. I became another person at Tahrir, a better person. So now I am writing a new novel inspired by Tahrir square.

We have had an effect, globally. I have seen signs at the occupation of Wall street, saying: ”Walk like an Egyptian”. So now we have a universal revolution.

I believe in global and local struggle. It is not enough to have Tahrir square in Egypt, it must be everywhere. Unemployment, poverty, the debt, all this proves that capitalism simply doesn’t work. Why? Because it is against equality and justice. It creates a big gap between the rich and the poor. It cannot work. People are revolting against it. I think we need a global and local revolution.


Pierre: Thank you Nawal for this fantastic speech. You are not a churchgoer but indeed a convincing preacher. If we had five or ten of you, I believe that the revolution would be here in Sweden.

On my way here I happened to pass a ceremony being held at the monument of the young swedes who went and fought at the civil war in Spain and never returned. Some people are keeping that fire of solidarity alive. So I was a little warmed up when I came here. And I am so happy to share this occasion with you.

In these times of crisis and xenophobia, the Swedish church is a pillar for the society. I treasure that we have these meeting places. I would like to ask about how people are now trying to sabotage your revolution. Will Egypt be able to keep the spirit from Tahrir square? What could we do from Sweden to support you?

Nawal: Very good question. I mean that hope is power. When you start any struggle with hope, you win half the struggle without doing anything. We are full of hope in Egypt. What happened last sunday gave people a lot of anger, a lot of decision. They decided that they should continue.

In Egypt we were invaded by Britain and put under their protection. The word protection is dangerous in relation to the state and to women. I refuse that my husband protect me. We women should protect ourselves. Usually I connect women’s oppression to the global and local oppression within the state. What happens to women are happening to every group in society.

The revolution will go on, even more firm and even more angry. They will expose what has happened. I assure you that we are going to win.

Pierre: Going into elections quickly can be dangerous. Do you think that quick elections is a good thing in Egypt?

Nawal: The word ”quick election”, I was wondering all the time why the US was hurrying the election in Iraq. Iraq is full of blood, so why should you hold elections during such troubled times?

The army in Egypt also wanted ”quick elections”. But it would be a false election, because they want to continue the status quo. That would mean that we would hold an election under the same mentality, the same legislation. It would only bring forth the same people again. That is why we should stop the election.

We should not be in a hurry, until the young people have time to organize their parties. They are not organized now, because the old law still doesn’t even allow them to organize. We should ask for not only free, but fair elections.