CAIRO – Jehan Sadate, widow of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, whom she pushed to adopt a series of measures to improve women’s rights, died in Cairo on Friday. She was 87 years old.
Her death was reported by Egyptian media, which said she had been ill for some time but the cause was unclear.
Mrs. Sadat was only 14 years old in 1948 when she met Mr. Sadat, an Egyptian army officer who had just been released from prison; he had been held intermittently since 1942 for conspiring against the British occupation of Egypt. They married the following year, when she was 15 and he was 30, although his parents said they were against the marriage.
Three years later, as one of the free officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, Mr. Sadat participated in the armed coup that overthrew the Egyptian monarchy and established the army-backed regime that rules the Egypt almost always. Mr. Nasser was president until his death in 1970, elevating Mr. Sadat to the presidency later that year.
In Egypt, the soft-spoken Mr. Sadat was never seen as the dominant figure that Mr. Nasser had been, lacking both his charisma and a forceful program, like the quasi-socialist program that Mr. Nasser had passed as president. But it was Mr. Sadat who became the first Arab leader to make peace with Israel.
He made the bold decision to enter into peace talks with a country that the Arab states were then united to treat as their greatest enemy: a treaty between an Arab nation and Israel, with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Jimmy Carter in 1979.
Ms Sadat, who had become a much more visible first lady than Mr Nasser’s wife, later insisted that she supported her husband even though peace with Israel was highly controversial in Egypt and beyond. from the country. the region. To this day, Egypt and Israel have never known much more than a freezing lack of hostilities, Israel and all that Israel continues to view with suspicion among the Egyptians.
“Over 30 years ago my husband made a difficult but simple choice to make peace his political and personal priority,” Sadat wrote in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Camp David accords. “In response, I made the choice to support him 100% even though I knew I would lose him.”
She lost it. His popularity plunged amid opposition to the treaty, economic turmoil, and his government’s crackdown on dissent. He was assassinated by members of a radical Islamist group on October 6, 1981, during a military parade commemorating the Arab-Israeli war of October 1973.
The Year of the Peace Accords was also the year Mr. Sadat issued and promulgated a historic emergency decree enshrining broader financial rights for women in the event of disputes with their husbands and expanding the grounds for which women could file for divorce. Ms. Sadat was the driving force behind these improvements in women’s rights, and the decree became known as âJehan’s Lawâ.
Many viewed the law as a dangerous development rather than progress, criticizing Ms Sadat for attempting to westernize Egyptian society and implying that she had used her husband’s power to make herself known.
Her husband, she said in a 2018 TV interview, “was proud of me.”
“He would say he was proud of what his wife did, that she served,” she added. âIt wasn’t like what people said, that I got involved in politics. Anwar Sadat did not need Jehan Sadat to help him in politics.
When Mr. Sadat was assassinated, Ms. Sadat was sitting in a box nearby with her grandchildren. She then told reporters that she watched the attack unfold and tried to reach her husband, but a security guard pushed her to the ground. She was taken by helicopter with Mr. Sadat to a hospital, where surgeons attempted to save her life.
âI expected him to be killed,â she said in a TV interview. âHe was too frank. But my husband, he wasn’t expecting it. She added, âMy husband knew what was going on. His last word was ‘No’. She said he refused to wear a bulletproof vest, seeing it as unmanly.
Jehan Safwat Raouf was born in Cairo on August 29, 1933, to an Egyptian father and a British mother. She and her husband had three daughters, Lola, Noha and Jehan, and a son, Gamal.
She is survived by her children and 11 grandchildren.
After her husband became president, Ms. Sadat obtained a BA in Arabic Literature from Cairo University, followed by an MA in 1980 and a PhD in Comparative Literature in 1986.
As First Lady, Ms. Sadat has been involved in promoting women’s education and women’s empowerment, leading numerous charities and attending international conferences on women’s rights. She taught at the University of Cairo and later served as an Associate Researcher at the University of Maryland.
She has written two books, “A Woman of Egypt” (1987) and “My Hope for Peace” (2009).
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s office awarded Sadat a posthumous national award on Friday. She had a military funeral, which would be the first for an Egyptian woman.