Renowned Egyptian author Nawal el-Saadawi, a women's rights champion who revolutionised gender equality in the Arab world, died on Sunday at the age of 89. Saadawi died in a Cairo hospital after suffering a long-term illness, her family confirmed, AFP reported quoting the Al-Ahram newspaper. 

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Saadawi shot to prominence with the release of her widely translated novel 'Women at Point Zero' in the year 1975. The prolific author led a women's empowerment revolution in the conservative and patriarchal Egyptian society. 

Saadawi, who has authored over 55 books, including the taboo-breaking 'Women and Sex', was jailed by former president Anwar Sadat as well as condemned by Al-Azhar, Egypt's highest Sunni Muslim authority. 

Her outspoken brand of feminism -- including campaigning against women wearing the veil, inequality in Muslim inheritance rights between men and women, polygamy and female circumcision -- gained her as many critics as admirers in the Middle East.

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In 1993, after constant deaths threats from firebrand Islamist preachers, Saadawi moved to Duke University in the US state of North Carolina, where she was a writer-in-residence at the Asian and African languages department for three years.

She returned to Egypt and in 2005 ran for president but abandoned her bid after accusing security forces of not allowing her to hold rallies.

She fell out of favour with many secular progressives later in life for her wholehearted embrace of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

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Her path-breaking, critical books published in dozens of languages also took aim at Western feminists, including her friend Gloria Steinem, and policies espoused by heads of state such as former US president George W Bush's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Saadawi's death coincides with Mother's Day celebrations in Egypt and across the Arab world. She divorced three times and had two children.