The women behind the Egyptian candidates

Mohamad Mursi's wife and daughter

Wives of the Egyptian candidates ‘To appear or not to appear’

By Iqbal Tamimi

In the midst of the Egyptian presidential
race, all candidates pledged to voters that there will be no ‘first lady’ that
will influence the decision making in Egypt as was the case during the reigns
of former presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. It seems the influence of
women on their husbands is worrying the Egyptians, but who blames them after
the Arab revolutions exposure of the influence of women such as Layla
Trabulsi and Suzan Mubarak on their leading husbands.

{jcomments on} Dr. Alia Khalil wife of Dr. Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, the Islamic candidate

Dr. Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, was
the first Islamic candidate to allow his wife, Dr. Alia Khalil, to appear on a
talk show and talk to the people through the media. She appeared on television with
three of their children and their granddaughter. Dr Alia talked about her
family and how much they suffered when her husband was detained several times during
Mubarak’s reign. As expected of candidate’s wives, she talked about family
values and that she allows her children (three sons and three daughters) to go
to the movies and to watch films that she personally choose for them to watch,
as well as allowing them to accompany their friends to public places, while her
condition is maintaining traditions. It seems she was sending signals of being
in control in the family, showing the role model of the Islamic moderate family
where women take good care of the upbringing of their children and watch over
them, while their husbands are left to focus on their aspirations and bigger
issues.Siham Najm

On the other hand, the Islamic
candidate, Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-Awa, became extremely angry when a female
anchor mentioned the name of his wife, Mrs. Amani Ashmawi, asking him about his
wife’s possible role should he won the elections. I believe his reaction has
mirror imaged the reaction of Hilary Clinton when she was asked about her
husband’s role during a town hall meeting in Kinshasa, in the Democratic
Republic of Congo. Hillary Clinton reacted angrily when a translator misunderstood
a question asked by a Congolese student and translated his question to mean
“What does Mr. Clinton think about the Chinese loan?” US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, responded angrily saying, “You want me to tell you
what my husband thinks? My husband is not the Secretary of State. I am.

The candidate of the ‘Islamic Brotherhood’
spoke briefly about his wife without mentioning her name, he only said that she
is his cousin, and that he got married to the woman he wanted, without
referring to any other details. It seems he was attempting to adhere to the
traditions of the Brotherhood group which considers the wives a ‘red line’, and
does not allow women to have full membership, despite the demise of the claimed
‘security threat’, which they used to claim to justify the male domination of
the group before of the fall of the Mubarak regime. Amani Ashmawi

According to the Egyptian newspaper ‘Albadeel’ , al-Awa and Mursi, both
refused a request by ‘Radio Egypt’ to interview their wives, although press
reports quoted them confirming their rejection of the ‘First Lady’ title.

Olfat elSahli and her husbandUnlike other candidate’s wives, Olfat elSahli, the wife of candidate
Hisham Bastawisi was the first wife of a candidate to talk to the media and not
shy from the lights. She even talked about her husband’s democratic attitude at
home, and that he did not intervene in their children’s educational or career
choices. She expressed how proud of his dignity and integrity she is,
especially when those tributes nearly cost him his life when he suffered a
severe heart attack in 2006, after hearing the decision to try him before a court
as a punishment for him for daring to talk openly about corruption and the fraud that took place during the parliamentary elections of 2005.

As for Mrs. Leila Badawi, Amr Moussa’s wife, she seemed qualified to play
the social and cultural role that fit the aristocrats, since she took over the
management of the cooperative for housing the diplomats. She might have helped
her husband by earning more votes if she considered caring about more than
three hundred thousand marginalized communities and slums scattered around
Cairo and other major cities in Egypt. Those slums are sheltering almost
seventeen million people, living in inhumane conditions.

Siham Najm, the accountant and
the wife of candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who is also interested in the social and
civil activities, believes that her husband is capable of winning the

Regardless whether the
candidate’s wives were called first ladies or not, or talked to the media or
kept a low profile, upon instructions by their husbands or by choice, we all know that the wives
of the politicians in the Arab region are the ones who are in control, they
drive and lead even when they seem to be setting in the back seat.

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