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Inside the Muslim Brotherhood: "living the other side of existence"

Afaf El Sayyad tells Jane Gabriel about living within a strict section of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, what drove her to leave, and how it felt to take off her veil after eleven years

Please note this interview is conducted in Arabic and English.

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Novelist and short story writer Afaf El Sayyed was recruited to join a strict Muslim group while she was at university in Egypt. She spoke to Jane Gabriel about the eleven years she spent inside the movement "living the other side of existence" before finding a way to leave.

Afaf El Sayyed says that it was studying philosophy that liberated her mind and through Sufism she liberated her soul, and that over years of reading and thinking she gathered the strength to leave the group. The day she took off her veil she says was "like jumping into an unknown dark void".

Today Afaf runs the Heya Foundation in Cairo which works to end all religious discrimination against women. She is also a successful writer having published seven books including three collections of short stories. "A Gate of Love", " Door of Loss" and "Conditions of Love" and a novel called "Thin Legs for Lying".

She is a member of the Karama movement working to end violence against women across the Arab region.

For more podcasts, articles and blogs on related issues, visit the 50.50 homepage here.

About the author

Jane Gabriel founded and edited the website openDemocracy 50.50 in 2006, publishing critical perspectives on social justice, gender and pluralism. The site was run as a feminist editorial collective until 2016 when Jane retired as editor.

Prior to joining openDemocracy, Jane produced and directed more than 30 documentaries for Channel 4 Television and the BBC international current affairs series Correspondent, winning the Royal Television Society and One World Media awards for documentaries filmed in Greece and India. In 1980’s she was a member of the UK's first all-women television production company, Broadside. In the 1970's she worked at Granada TV in the UK, and at Pacifica radio KPFA in the US. She is a qualified advocate for children in care, and a Trustee of the IF Project.


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