Gamal Abdel Nasser
|Famous as||Political Leader of Egypt|
|Born on||15 January 1918|
|Born in||Asyout, Egypt|
|Died on||28 September 1970|
Gamal Abdel Nasser was born on January 15, 1918 in the Egyptian city of Banny Mur, southern Egypt. His father was a clerk in the local post office. When he was eight years old Nasser's mother, Fahima Hamad, passed away. His early education took place at Banny Mur's Quranic School and then at Ras el Tin school in Alexandria. Nasser also spent 10 years in Cairo, the capital of Egypt until he received his high school diploma from “Nahda” school in 1937.
Nasser had started participating in political demonstrations while he was a young boy. At his first demonstration, he was reportedly struck in the face by a police baton and detained for two days. In March 1937, Nasser was sent to the Military Academy of Egypt where he concentrated more on the studies to become an army officer. During his training at the Military College, Nasser met Abdel Hakim Amer and Anwar Sadat and developed friendship. After the completion of his training, Nasser was posted in Mankabad town.
Formation of “Free Officers”
In 1939, days before the outbreak of Second World War, Nasser was posted in Sudan. Since Egypt did not participate in the Second World War, the military had no role to play in that. During the war, Nasser with the help of Italians plotted to stage a coup. The plan was never executed, but it gave Nasser the confidence to continue plotting a revolution. Few days later, Nasser and one of his close associates, Anwar Sadat began forming an organization of young military officers with strong Egyptian nationalist feelings.
It was during the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, when Nasser received his first opportunity to participate in the battle. Nasser, showing an extra-ordinary skill of organizing troops and tackling with the strategies of opponents, acquired the area of Al- Faluja. Al-Faluja was an Arab village in the British Mandate Palestine, located 30 kilometers northeast of Gaza City. For his valiant efforts in the war, Nasser was promoted to the post of an instructor in the Royal Military Academy. This was the period; he intensified the search for brave military officers, desperately waiting to participate in reformation movement. In 1949, he finally succeeded to form such reformation group. The organization came to be known as “Free Officers”.
On 23 July 1952, the personnel of “Free Officers” seized control of all government buildings, media organizations and the army headquarters. The revolution was aimed at overthrowing King Farouk-I and establishment of a republic government. The coup, succeeded virtually without bloodshed. Nasser installed General Muhammad Naguib, who played a crucial role in the coup, as President. The organization appointed Ali Maher, a long-time political leader, as Prime Minister. His task would be to carry out the day-to-day administration of the country. But, Maher could not continue as Prime Minister for long. On September 7, 1952, he was forced to step-down after he refused to support agrarian reform laws. Within few days, Naguib was appointed as the new Prime Minister with full leadership.
Nasser as Prime Minister
In June 1953, Naguib proclaimed the official abolition of the Egyptian monarchy and establishment of the Republic of Egypt. He soon got hold of the office of the President. Naguib’s activities as an autocrat developed resentment in the Council. The situation deteriorated, so the relationship between Naguib and Nasser. The differences culminated and Naguib was forced to resign from his posts as both President and Prime Minister. The Revolutionary Command Council (earlier, Free Officers) declared Nasser as Prime Minister. Fearing the chances of Naguib’s return to politics, the Council placed him under house arrest
The proceeding of Revolutionary Command Council to overthrow Naguib was viewed by common people as illegal and unacceptable. People from around the country began to stage demonstration against the Council. Though initially, the Council did not react at the uprising but feeling the heat outside for the support of Naguib, the Council finally assured to address their concern.
This event created further trouble in the party with a group of leaders refused to accept Naguib’s return. After several sessions of discussions and negotiations the Council agreed to reinstate Naguib. Few days after Naguib’s reinstatement as President, the virtual faction of the Council led by Naguib pulled Nasser down from the chair of Prime Minister.
Return to Power
After he was shown the door of the political fort, Nasser kept himself engaged in organizing the “anti-Naguib elements”. On October 26, 1954, Nasser, while speaking at a rally, fortunately survived an assassination bid. Nasser accused Naguib of establishing contacts with British military and Brotherhood. He also made people believe that the attempt to kill him was, in fact plotted by Naguib. This created a huge uproar among the people against Naguib and his men in the Council. In October 1954, taking advantage of the situation, Nasser formally removed Naguib from power and proclaimed himself as the leader of Egypt.
The new Charter
On January 16, 1955, the government announced a new charter to establish republic and constitutional government. The new charter included provision for more powers to the chair of the President of the country. It also stated that the chief executive would be elected for a period of six years and may be re-elected. The form of “Plebiscite” would be followed in the election of the President. Besides, the President would also enjoy the right to dissolve the Assembly anytime and approve and veto new laws.
The most important amendment was brought by dissolving the old political parties. He also imposed a ban on the formation of a new party. In other words, it would be a single-party democracy. It declares Egypt to be a sovereign Arab state with Islam as its religion and Arabic as the official language of the country.
Later, another shocking change was made in 1956, when the Minister of the Interior was given the power for a 10-year period to arrest anybody charged with counter-revolutionary activity and to order his confinement at administrative discretion. Though the rights of free speech and free press were guaranteed under the new charter most of the Egyptian publications continued to be controlled by the government. On June 24, 1954, a plebiscite was held to ratify the new constitution and was overwhelmingly approved. Nasser also included some of the prominent civilians into his cabinet.
A major breakthrough Egypt received in 1954 was the removal of British Army personnel from the “Suez Canal Zone”. It happened after Nasser signed a treaty with the British government. The agreement not only scripted the end of the prolonged tensions between Egypt and Britain but also brought it closer to Britain and the United States of America. Egypt was offered an economic aid of $40 million from them. The United States also promised fifty-six million dollars, along with two-hundred million dollars through the World Bank, to aid in financing the construction of the Aswan High Dam on the river Nile. The support and assistance from the USA was meant only to prevent Egypt from looking at the Eastern Blocs. But, it failed as Egypt, surprising the US and other western allies, signed the arms-treaty with Czechoslovakia, which was a part of the Soviet led Eastern Bloc. Consequently, all the aids and support, earlier promised by the US were immediately cancelled.
Reacting to the situation, Egypt, On July 26, announced the decision of nationalizing the Suez Canal. The proclamation provoked a strong response from the West, particularly Britain and France, which had major shareholdings of the Suez Canal. The tension continued. Soviet, adding fuel to the fire, announced its support to Egypt. In an attempt to solve the crisis, United Nations Security Council, in October, adopted a resolution by recognizing Egypt’s right to control the canal as long as it continued to allow passage through it for foreign ships.
The United Nation’s resolution annoyed both France and Britain as they lost the situation and subsequently control over Suez Canal. They both secretly drafted a plan to get back the authority over the canal. To execute their plan, France and Britain approached Israel, asking them to invade the Sinai Peninsula, near the Suez. And, on the pretext of protecting the canal, combined forces of France and Britain would capture the region. The reason for Israel to support was to take revenge of the attack on them by Egyptian sponsored terrorist.
The plan was properly executed. No other country except the trio had any idea about such plan and motive. On October 29, Israeli forces moved into the Sinai Peninsula, and on October 31, a joint force from Britain and France entered into the Canal Zone. Now the plan was not secret anymore. Intelligence sources of the US and USSR confirmed about the plan.
The Premiers of both America and Soviet Union urged the three nations to withdraw their troops. On November 5, 1956, the Soviet Union also issued an ultimatum to the involved-countries demanding for an immediate withdrawal of forces from Egypt. The US threatened Britain of curtailing it economic assistance if it did not comply. The three forces, gradually started removing their troops and the United Nations Emergency Force was deployed. The situation became to be known as the Suez Crisis.
The end of Suez Crisis saw the emergence of Gamal Abdel Nasser as the powerful and popular leader of the Arab world. Nasser represented a new, defiant era in Arabic politics. His popularity attracted the other Arab leaders together and started building an Arab state to confront the imperialist-forces of the West. The leadership in almost all the Arabian countries began to see the Western countries as their enemy and pledged to retaliate aggressively.
The first step towards the establishment of Pan Arab state was taken in 1958 when Syrian leaders requested Nasser for a merger of Syria and Egypt. The merger led to formation of the United Arab Republic. However, the dream of Pan Arab state did not last longer. In Syria, Egyptian bureaucrats and officers started acting dictatorially and repressed the opposition parties. The discontent among the Syrian bourgeoisie and officer corps led to secessionists and in 1961, the United Arab Republic was formally dissolved.
Six Day War
In June, 1967, following the plans of Israel to attack Syria broke out, Nasser sought for the equipments for war in the Sinai peninsula. He also asked the United Nations to withdraw its Emergency Force from Sinai. On May 23, Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran, through which Israel had gained access to Israeli shipping. The Israeli port of Eilat at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba was also blocked. It was Israel's only access to the Indian Ocean.
Responding strongly to the closing of the Straits, Israel launched its aerial attack on the Egyptian troops. This was the beginning of the Six Day War. The first phase of aerial attacks by the Israeli air force was so severe that it destroyed most of the Egyptian air forces on the ground. Egypt with no delay issued an order asking the troops to come back.
The decision brought more disaster for the Egyptian troops as the Israeli forces continued their attack even if there was no retaliation from Egypt. The loss in the Six Day War was one of the most disastrous political blows in Egyptian history and a humiliation to the leaders and people of Egypt.
On September 28, 1970 Gamal Abdel Nasser died of a heart attack. It was believed that the humiliation of six day war and death of such a huge number of soldiers in the war made him weak. Nasser was loved by most of his countrymen and his popularity can be realized with the fact that around seven million people gathered at the funeral ceremony of Nasser.
1918: January 15: Birth of Gamal Abdel Nasser
1926: Nasser’s mother, Fahima Hammad passed away
1937: Completed high school diploma from Nahda School
1937: Admitted to Military College, Cairo
1939: Outbreak of Second World War
1948: Conflict between Arab and Israel
1949 Nasser formed reformation group
1952: Military coup in Egypt
1952: Nasser formed the government with Naquib as President
1952: October, 07: Ali Maher resigned form the chair of Prime Minister.
1953: Naguib announces end of constitutional monarchy
1954: Nasser survived assassination bid
1954: Nasser removed Naguib
1954: Nasser signed treaty with Britain over the Suez Canal
1955 January 16: Nasser led government announced new charter
1958: Merger of Syria with Egypt
1967: Six day war leading to Egypt’s defeat
1970 September 28: Death of Nasser