Cairo – Jihan Sadat, the widow of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat who was assassinated for making peace with Israel, died on Friday at the age of 87 and was given a military funeral.
“The presidency… weeps with immense sadness for Jihan Sadat, the wife of president Anwar Sadat, a hero of war and peace,” the presidency said in a statement.
She was “a model for Egyptian women”, it added.
Sadat was an advocate for women’s rights who set up several non-governmental organisations dedicated to creating awareness over the role of women in Egypt’s conservative society.
🇪🇬Presidency of Arab Republic of Egypt
mourns with great sorrow, Mrs. Jihan Sadat,
Former First Lady of Egypt, President Anwar Sadat Spouse, Hero of War and Peace, who presented a model for Egyptian women to support her husband under most difficult and precise circumstances
— AL (@AL86344373) July 9, 2021
It is rare in Egypt for a woman to be given a military funeral, but the presidency announced that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had posthumously awarded Sadat the Order of Virtues, presented to women for merit.
Sadat had been in hospital for several weeks after returning from treatment in the United States, her son Mohamed said.
She was buried alongside her husband at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Cairo’s Nasr City district, with Sisi leading the military ceremony, television coverage showed.
Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamists on October 6, 1981, while attending a military parade at the same memorial, for making peace with Israel two years earlier.
The historic 1979 peace treaty between the two neighbours was the first between Israel and an Arab country.
‘Peace is a dream’
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog paid tribute to Jihan Sadat in a message of condolences he posted on Twitter.
“I was saddened to hear of the passing of Jihan Sadat… Jihan joined her husband during his historic visit in Jerusalem & courageously stood by Presidents Sadat’s side during his relentless work for peace with the State of Israel,” Herzog wrote.
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Jihan Sadat, widow of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Jihan joined her husband during his historic visit in Jerusalem & courageously stood by Presidents Sadat’s side during his relentless work for peace with the State of Israel.
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) July 9, 2021
“She continued to promote the cause of peace for many more years. On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the President of Egypt and the Egyptian people.”
In an interview broadcast on Israeli television in 1997, Jihan Sadat said her husband knew that making peace with Israel would cost him his life.
“But this did not make him hesitate or change his mind in his endeavour to make peace” with the Jewish state, said Sadat, who stood by her husband despite criticism of his policy.
“Peace is not only a dream, it is something that I also hoped for, even while predicting that my husband would die” because of it, she said.
Her interview took place to mark the 20th anniversary of Anwar Sadat’s landmark 1977 visit to Israel during which he addressed the Israeli Knesset, or parliament.
Fifteen months later Egypt signed the peace treaty with Israel and four years after his historic trip Sadat “died for peace”, his widow said in the interview.
Jihan Sadat was born in Cairo to an English mother and Egyptian father in 1933 and married Sadat in 1949 when she was just 15 after he divorced his first wife.
She held a PhD in comparative literature and taught at the University of Maryland in the United States.
But at home in Egypt she was known for her charity work and her public battle for the rights of army veterans, orphans and those in need.
Picture: Getty Images