Egyptian Independence Movement (03:12)
Coming to power in 1805, Muhammed Ali Pasha established modern military and economic foundations. With King Farouk's corruption and the 1948 defeat in Palestine, Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free Officers overthrew the British protectorate. However, some argue that the military regime parallels colonial rule.
Cairo Burning (02:50)
In January 1952, the Fedayeen attacked British troops along the Suez Canal. General Erskine attacked the Ismailia police barracks and Egyptian policemen were killed; riots spread across the nation. The Free Officers had garnered Muslim Brotherhood support; Nasser helped train recruits.
Egyptian Revolution (02:50)
Formed in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood saw Islam as key in Egyptian independence. Nasser promised to collaborate on reforms. The Free Officers staged a peaceful coup, legitimized by General Naguib's participation. Nasser removed King Farouk, ending Muhammad Ali's Albanian dynasty.
Conditional Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice (03:41)
The Free Officers promised a new democratic republic. Naguib and Nasser governed in the interim; textile workers went on strike and the army executed ringleaders— alienating communists in the RCC. The regime confiscated elite land in agrarian reforms and established free education.
Democracy Crisis (03:07)
The RCC made President Naguib popular and Nasser kept him under surveillance, discovering his secret meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood. RCC opinion was divided on whether to maintain military rule or establish a democratic republic.
Establishing a Military Regime (04:44)
In February 1954, the confrontation between Naguib and Nasser nearly split the army and threatened to plunge Egypt into civil war. The RCC deposed Naguib; his supporters called a meeting at the artillery and were arrested. Naguib was reinstated but the RCC organized anti-democracy demonstrations.
Internal Muslim Brotherhood Divisions (03:50)
Nasser purged the army and RCC. Muslim Brotherhood leader Hassan el-Hudaybi wanted to lead and planned a coup against the army. However, renegade elements attempted to assassinate Nasser— providing an excuse to officially ban the Brotherhood from the RCC.
Silencing the Opposition (01:22)
Abdel Rahman-Farid describes torture of Ikwhan prisoners. Naguib had been stripped of power, yet was accused of colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood to assassinate Nasser. He was placed under house arrest and expunged from official memory.
Implementing Nasser's Vision (01:35)
A secular Egypt was to lead the African continent and Arab world. Nasser would play the Cold War superpowers against each other to achieve development. He considered getting arms from the Czech Republic to break the West's weapons monopoly in the Middle East.
Asserting Egyptian Independence (02:37)
The U.S. had promised to fund the Aswan High Dam but pulled out due to Egypt's economic situation. Nasser was humiliated and nationalized the Suez Canal—becoming a hero of the developing world. Britain was forced to leave after 74 years of colonial rule.
Developing Egypt (03:24)
Nasser solicited funding from the Soviet Union, on his own terms. During a Moscow visit, he attended a mosque to reassure Egyptian Muslims. He placed military officials in public sector jobs; RCC members became the new elite to ensure loyalty.
State Control (01:59)
Egyptian ministers approved Nasser's decision without question. The regime co-opted Al-Azhar, gaining an Islamic stamp of approval to secularist reforms. Muslim Brotherhood members maintained underground resistance.
Secularization Debate (02:52)
Muslim Brotherhood members were divided between nonviolence and force. Sayed Qotb advocated jihad in his book "Signposts." Traditional leadership was released from prison and had no desire for a confrontation with the regime, but militants pursued an assassination plot.
Radicalizing Islamic Movements (02:43)
Former members describe how Egyptian police discovered a violent arm of the Muslim Brotherhood by accident. Qotb was charged with plotting to assassinate Nasser and sentenced to death— becoming a martyr. "Signposts" later inspired Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.
Six Day War (05:28)
At the height of Nasser's power, tension mounted along Egypt's border with Israel; he decided to provoke a confrontation in June 1967. Defeat and Nasser's subsequent resignation was a shock for Egyptians. However, demonstrators demanded that he stay in office.
Dawn Visitors (03:53)
Nasser blamed air force pilots for losing the Six Day War. Students protested their trial. The secret police began arresting dissidents at night and taking them to undisclosed locations—revealing the true nature of Nasser's regime.
War of Attrition (03:23)
Nasser needed to recover land occupied by Israel. After two years of Suez Canal skirmishes, Israel began bombing Egypt. Nasser appointed Sadat his deputy and asked for Soviet military support. A Russian anti-aircraft commander recalls fighting.
Nasser's Death (02:56)
Israeli attacks ceased, but Nasser's reputation suffered from the war of attrition. Despite regime oppression, many Egyptians felt orphaned when he died. His funeral procession was the largest in recorded history.
Credits: Egypt's Modern Pharaohs: Nasser (01:01)
Credits: Egypt's Modern Pharaohs: Nasser
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