Egypt’s next first lady? Meet Mrs. Sisi and Mrs. Sabbahi
Will she be former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s wife Entissar Amer or leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi’s wife Siham Najem?
Who will be Egypt’s next first lady? Will she be former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s wife Entissar Amer or leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi’s wife Siham Najem? They have not been in the public spotlight much, so here is a look into the lives of the two women married to the country’s most talked-about men.
Amer is Sisi’s maternal cousin. During a recent TV interview, he said he had loved her since high school, and married her after graduating in 1977. Amer has dedicated her life to raising their children Mustafa, Mahmoud, Hassan and Aya.
Analysts say her nature suggests she will not intervene in political life if Sisi is elected president, much like Gamal Abdel Nasser’s wife Tahia Kathem, who also focused on raising her children.
Analysts say Amer does not like media appearances unless they are necessary, and believes that women’s natural role is behind her husband and children. Although she had the chance to assume several posts or respectable jobs, she always refused, preferring to look after her family.
Refusing the 'first lady' title
Najem, however, has a history of political and legal activism. She attained a degree in commerce from Cairo University in 1977. She is secretary general of the Arab Network for Literacy and Adult Education, and is the only representative of the Arab world in the international committee of UNESCO’s Education for All initiative.
Najem, who is a prominent member of civil society organizations, met Sabahi at a protest in 1972, married him in 1979, and has two children with him.
She says she refuses the title of first lady because “every woman in Egypt deserves such a title, and a woman is only preferred over another (thanks to) patriotic work, which must serve the country and not one’s interests. This doesn’t mean that a husband’s authority should alter the wife’s life. The woman must continue to work in the same field she worked in before her husband became president.”
If Sabahi is elected, she added, “it’ll be my role to continue my work and keep away from the media as much as possible. I’ll refuse that any new aura be established around me.”
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