Basma Abdel Aziz
Basma Abdel Aziz, born in 1976 in Cairo, is an award-winning writer, sculptor and psychiatrist who specializes in treating victims of torture. A much-celebrated novelist and a long-standing vocal critic of government oppression in Egypt, she is a human rights defender who earned the nickname »the rebel« early on. She is the author of several works of non-fiction. In 2016, she was named one of »Foreign Policy«’s Global Thinkers for her debut novel »Al-Tabuur« (2013; Eng. »The Queue«, 2016), which was also long-listed for the 2017 BTBA and shortlisted for the 2018 TA First Translation Prize. She was also named by The Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute as one of the top influencers of Arabic public opinion in 2018.
Abdel Aziz’s short stories won the Sawiris Cultural Award competition in 2008 and the General Organization for Cultural Palaces Award. In her début novel, she creates a portrait of authoritarianism. Even if the location of the events is not explicitly mentioned, it is, without a doubt, Egypt. The story is narrated from the perspective of average citizens who, after a failed uprising, are forced to stand in line at a gate, behind which the central power hides, in order to receive the basic necessities. The people who gather there represent every social class. Among them is Yahya, who has been wounded by a bullet and denied treatment at a private hospital because the doctors are not allowed to remove bullets without special permission. Thus, Yahya’s protest is his own survival in the public queue. The authoritarian system is not only supported by the state, but also by religious powers that are personified in the novel by the »High Sheikh«, who tries to persuade Yahya that the deadly bullets must be accepted as if they were a gift from God. A mobile service provider is of course also integrated into the repressive system so that the state can wiretap its users. »The Queue« has been compared to Kafka’s work and Orwell’s »1984«, even though the story is not about a dystopia, but rather a sharp portrait of post-Arab Spring society. Abdel Aziz is also the author of the sociological and historical study »Temptation of Absolute Power« (2009), in which she documents and analyzes the violence directed toward Egyptian citizens by the police and security agencies; this study earned her the Ahmed Bahaa-Eddin Award.
Her work as a visual artist has been exhibited in, among others, the Mahmoud Mokhtar Museum. She has also exhibited her works in private showrooms. She lives in Cairo.