Egyptian presidential candidates' wives in the spotlight

Sisi's 'home-and-family' Amer vs. Sabbahi's activist wife Najem

13 May, 20:00

    (ANSAmed) - CAIRO, MAY 13 - A comparison of the two 'candidates' for the role of Egypt's next first lady was published by Al-Arabiya on Tuesday.

    Either Entissar Amer, former military chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's wife, or Siham Najem, spouse of El-Sisi's sole contender and leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, will be filling the position following the May 26-27 presidential elections.

    Major Middle Eastern analysts stressed that both are forcefully defending their privacy and keeping a distance from their husbands' political lives and Egyptian media gossip. Amer, who wears a Muslim headscarf, is Sisi's maternal cousin. The few photos of her show her dressed soberly, with a serious expression and wearing minimal makeup. In a recent television interview, the former field marshal said that he had loved her since he first met her in secondary school and that he had married her in 1977. Amer projects a calm, silent temperament and has dedicated her life to her family and the upbringing of her children: Mustafa, Mahmoud, Hassan, and Aya.

    Many analysts say that - if her husband is elected, as is highly likely - the nature and personality of Sisi's wife will not have any bearing on the country's political life, and that the future first lady will continue to look after her family. Amer does not seem fond of public appearances or presiding over press conferences, unless absolutely necessary, the analysts say, and ''believes women's natural role is behind her husband and children''. Although she has had the chance to hold several posts and jobs, she has always refused.

    Najem, wife of leftist leader Sabbahi, is also a Muslim but does not cover her hair and has a history of political and legal activism. She attained a degree in commerce from Cairo University in 1977, 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.

    She is a prominent member of civil society organizations.

    She first met Sabbahi at a protest in 1972 and then married him in 1979. They have two children together.

    Najem 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.'' Najem is very Western in dress and appearance, wears her hair down on her shoulders and has said she will stay as far away from the media spotlight as possible. Al Arabiya quotes her as saying that she will not allow ''any new aura be established around me'' .(ANSAmed).

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