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Posts Tagged ‘anwar sadat’

It was 60 Years Ago Today … What is the Legacy of July 23, 1952?

July 23rd, 2012 Comments off
Nasser, Naguib and Salah Salem

Anwar Sadat went to the movies, not knowing that his co-conspirators had moved up the schedule, and almost missed the revolution. But once he caught up, as the senior Signals Corps officer among the plotters, he read communique number one:

To the People of Egypt:

Egypt has passed through a critical period in her recent history characterized by bribery, mischief, and the absence of governmental stability. All of these were factors that had a large influence on the army. Those who accepted bribes and were thus influenced caused our defeat in the Palestine War. As for the period following the war, the mischief-making elements have been assisting one another, and traitors have been commanding the army. They appointed a commander who is either ignorant or corrupt. Egypt has reached the point, therefore, of having no army to defend it. Accordingly, we have undertaken to clean ourselves up and have appointed to command us men from within the army whom we trust in their ability, their character, and their patriotism. It is certain that all Egypt will meet this news with enthusiasm and will welcome it.

For 59 years, anyone speaking of “the Egyptian Revolution” meant the coup of July 23, 1952. It was the thawra, though there were always a few who said that it was merely a coup (inqilab). If the events of January 25-February 11, 2011 had not occurred, today’s 60th anniversary of 1952 would no doubt be a huge celebration. But another, more popular revolution has occurred. (Whether it has been reversed or cancelled out by SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood is, of course, a subject for debate.)

This is the fourth July 23 since I started this blog and the second since the fall of Husni Mubarak, but because it is the 60th anniversary it has itself become something of a political football.

This year, the Ahmad Maher Faction of the 6 April Youth Movement (whatever you think of the current bunch of revolutionaries, though know how to name their factions like real revolutionaries) has called on Egyptians to boycott celebrating July 23.  This has already provoked counterstrikes from supporters of the 1952 revolution: SCAF on its Facebook page called such comments “delusional,” defended the military’s role in 1952 and today, and and “asserted the 1952 revolution wasn’t only for Egypt but for the whole African, Arab and Asian world.”  Meanwhile, a group of “Nasserists” in Qena governorate also defended 1952 and “asserted that military rule didn’t begin with Gamal Abdel Nasser but had always been a feature of Egyptian political life since the time of Ramses II.”

Ramses II? But then, remember: the two pillars of Pharaoh’s power were his Army and the high priesthood. Is that so different from SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood? Well, yes, probably.

But no one can argue that the 1952 revolution has had a major impact across the Arab world, though that was not evident immediately. When the Free Officers first took over they forced the King to abdicate but didn’t even proclaim a republic until the following year, so that infant King Ahmad Fuad II, though in exile with his father, was nominally reigning through a regency council. The coup was not the first military coup in the modern Arab world (Bakr Sidqi in Iraq and Husni Zaim in Syria had gotten there previously), and at first it named a civilian Prime Minister. It as later, after Nasser supplanted Naguib and began social and economic reforms and nationalizations, that it began to look a bit more like a revolution. Nasser had enormous flaws, but no other Arab leader has enjoyed the prestige he did across the rest of the Arab world. We’ve talked a lot about Nasser and Naguib in this blog, and I refer you to the archives rather than repeat myself.

For two generations July 23 has been Egypt’s national day.Already January 25 is a contender for the title. Like so much else in this turbulent era, it will take some time for this generation of revolutionaries (Islamist as well as secular) to come to terms with that earlier “revolution” six decades ago today.

Two videos (both in Arabic), one with clips of the first revolutionary era, and the second Muhammad Naguib’s own initial broadcast:


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40 Years On: Sadat Expels the Russian Advisers

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

I’m two days late with this, but July 18 marked the 40th anniversary of Anwar Sadat’s expulsion of Soviet advisers from Egypt in July of 1972.  In my musings last month on my own 40th anniversary of arriving in the Middle East for the first time, I noted that Soviet and East Bloc advisers were still very much on evidence when I got there. They remained so up to the 1973 war, but the expulsion of the military “advisers” (many of were actually flying aircraft, Manning SAM sites, etc., though that was not acknowledged) in the summer of 1972, was memorable, however. I was living in an apartment along the Nile, and as we looked out from our balcony one day after we’d been there a month or so, we watched waves of bit Antonov transports flying eastward over the city. In retrospect they were probably fling our of Cairo West and other bases to the west of the city, heading back to the USSR. At the time we feared it was a major buildup moving troops to the Suez Canal. Either later that day or the next day, all was explained when it was announced that the Soviet advisers (some 20,000 of them) had been kicked out.

A documentary on that era:


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Anis Mansour, 1925-2011

October 22nd, 2011 Comments off
Ahram Online

Anis Mansour, Egyptian writer, journalist, editor and columnist, has died at age 87. Obit here. Novelist, memoirist, journalist (he wrote for most of Egypt’s major publications, most recently as a columnist in Al-Ahram), Editor (he served as Editor-in-Chief of the weeklies Akher Sa‘a and October, the latter in its influential early years under Anwar Sadat). A pillar of the old journalistic establishment gone.

If you’re doing the math and wondering how 1925-2011 can make him 87, I  assume Ahram Online computed his age in Hijri years.


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Thirty years ago today

October 6th, 2011 Comments off

Friend of the site Maria Golia — the author of Cairo: City of Sand and Photography and Egypt — sent in the piece below, an extract from Nile Eyes, her unpublished novel about Cairo in the 1980s. It is about how she spent 6 October 1981 — the day that 30 years ago Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated, ushering in the Hosni Mubarak era.

On October 6, 1981 while President Anwar Sadat was being assassinated at his Victory Day parade, I was close by, shooting a TV ad for Egyptian laundry soap. As a fair-skinned, dark-haired foreigner I’d been cast as the ideal Egyptian housewife, never mind the other four million girls who’d been born for the role. The borrowed child I held in my arms was indeed unconvinced. His howls nearly drowned out the ominous noise of helicopters, sirens and sonic booms. I didn’t realize it then, but my presence before the camera was symptomatic of the policies that had provoked Sadat’s demise, and would paradoxically gain greater momentum after his death. I was a tiny ripple in the gathering wave of commercialism, the vanguard of Egypt’s ‘open market’ era.



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The Egyptian Army’s Hamlet Moment

February 3rd, 2011 Comments off

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action . . .

Hamlet, of course.

It goes wholly against my grain to wish for a military coup, anywhere, anytime, for any reason. But I do now believe the future of Egypt and the honor of the Egyptian Army may require them to recall these words:

Egypt has passed through a critical period in her recent history characterized by bribery, mischief, and the absence of governmental stability. All of these were factors that had a large influence on the army. Those who accepted bribes and were thus influenced caused our defeat in the Palestine War. As for the period following the war, the mischief-making elements have been assisting one another, and traitors have been commanding the army. They appointed a commander who is either ignorant or corrupt. Egypt has reached the point, therefore, of having no army to defend it. Accordingly, we have undertaken to clean ourselves up and have appointed to command us men from within the army whom we trust in their ability, their character, and their patriotism. It is certain that all Egypt will meet this news with enthusiasm and will welcome it.

July 23, 1952. The Free Officers’ first communique, read by Lieutenant Colonel Anwar Sadat. Many years later, he would name an Air Force hero named Husni Mubarak as his Vice President.

As they say, or at least used to say, in British pubs, “Hurry up, please. It’s time.”


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Your beloved Anwar Sadat

August 14th, 2010 Comments off

“Even the deep anti-Semitism common in today’s Islamist groups like Hamas and Hizbullah was not, he argues, as marked in the early days of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928. By contrast, Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president who broke the Arab taboo on peace with Israel and paid for it with his life in 1981, was “a notorious Jew-hater”.”” (thanks Khelil)

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The Coptic Clash With the State Over Divorce

June 15th, 2010 Comments off

Although this blog has, given some of my own personal interests and past research, paid pretty close attention to Coptic issues in Egypt, one the biggest rifts between church and state since Anwar Sadat’s day has been playing out without any comment from me, since it more or less coincided with my broken hip and subsequent surgery.

Like most Middle Eastern countries, Egypt’s laws of personal status follow the religious law of the individual community. Egypt is actually better than many of its neighbors in that both civil marriage and divorce do exist (they do not, for example, in Israel), but they may not be accepted by one’s religious community when it comes to the right to remarry.

Like most Eastern Churches, the Copts are rather restrictive on grounds for divorce. Divorce (with right to remarry) is only granted if one spouse is guilty of adultery or bigamy; the innocent spouse may be allowed to remarry, but only with approval of the bishops. But in recent years there has been pressure from the laity for change, since Copts granted a civil divorce cannot remarry in the eyes of the church, and are often confronted with the option of converting to Islam if they wish to remarry.

On May 29, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court ruled in a case that was already on appeal, in which two Coptic men who had been granted civil divorces sued for the right to remarry in the Church. A lower court had ruled against the Church. The Court this time ruled that since the Egyptian Constitution granted citizens the right to remarriage and a family, the Church must comply. So a classic Church-state conflict was inevitable.

The Church and its bishops opposed the ruling and Pope Shenouda carefully rejected it, noting that the Church respects the Constitution and laws of Egypt but that marriage is a sacrament instituted by the gospels and the Church could not compromise.

An emergency meeting of the Holy Synod (which normally meets only once a year) was called;

Pope Shenouda was soon, reportedly, promised a Presidential decree to rectify the situation. Then it was announced that a draft law would be prepared to fix the issue within 30 days, though the commission to do so is already under fire for not inviting the Catholics and Anglicans.

The government is very sensitive about international criticism of the rights of Christians in Egypt; it got lots of negative press during the Nag Hammadi killings in January. So the court has created an issue the government wishes very much would go away, as the promises first of a Presidential decree and then of a draft law demonstrate.

More as appropriate as this makes its way through legislation.


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Egypt’s Two October 6 Anniversaries

October 6th, 2009 Comments off

October 6 is Egyptian Military Day, the day Egypt commemorates “the crossing” (al-‘ubur) — the surprise attack across the Suez Canal on October 6, 1973 that began the 1973 war and was seen by Egyptians and other Arabs as the redemption for the humiliating losses of 1967.

But it is also another anniversary, for it was at the Military Parade on October 6, 1981 that President Anwar Sadat was assassinated. So on the one hand, October 6 marks what most Egyptians consider a victory (though outsiders may disagree), and on the other, the assassination of a President, though attitudes towards Sadat have long been somewhat mixed in Egypt. So it’s a double anniversary. (I also met my wife at an Egyptian Military Day reception in Washington, but that’s a whole other story.)

It is true of course that in the 1973 war, Israel was able to recover from the initial blow and strike westward across the canal, creating the Deversoir Salient, cutting off one of Egypt’s two Field Armies from Cairo. (There’s an Egyptian saying: Bonjour, al-‘ubur; bonsoir, Deversoir). But the psychological impact of the surprise of October 6 remains one of the great moments for many Egyptians of a certain age; and in fact it brought Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy into play, leading ultimately to the reopening of the Suez Canal and the first Israeli withdrawals. It also made Sadat’s 1977 opening to Israel possible.

For a while in the 1980s the coincidence of the two anniversaries was a bit awkward, since Egyptian embassies abroad were throwing parties for Military Day on the anniversary of Sadat’s then-still-recent assassination. But as fewer people remember what parade it was Sadat was attending when he was killed, the awkwardness has faded.


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"A free Alawite state might even be a natural ally of Israel for the same reasons the Middle East’s Christians and Kurds tend to be"

August 31st, 2009 Comments off

From the ‘never-failing-to-be-idiotic’ Michael Totten in Commentary, here

” … I don’t know for sure whether Syria’s Sunni Arabs — who make up around 70 percent of the population — would actually accuse Assad of treason and seriously threaten to remove him from power if he signed a peace treaty. But that’s how many Alawites see it. As “infidels” they don’t feel they have the legitimacy to force Sunni Arabs to make peace with Israel. That is a risky business even for Sunni Arab leaders, as the assassination of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat shows.

Most of Syria’s Alawites live along the Mediterranean coast, away from the Sunni heartland. They could, at least theoretically, be separated from Syria into their own Alawite nation. The Middle East would probably be a safer place if they were. They did have their own semiautonomous government under the French Mandate between 1930 and 1937, and again from 1939 to 1944, but their Latakia region has been a part of Syria ever since.

Such a nation almost certainly would make peace with Israel, at least eventually, if it wasn’t ruled by Assad and his thuggish clan. Arab nationalism would lose its appeal among a people that would no longer need to demonstrate belonging to an ethnic majority to make up for its status as a religious minority. The strident anti-Zionism of the Sunni “street” could likewise ease. A free Alawite state might even be a natural ally of Israel for the same reasons the Middle East’s Christians and Kurds tend to be.”

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