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Remembering the 1952 Egyptian Revolution

Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser waves to crowds in Mansoura from a train car on 7 May 1960 [Bibliotheca Alexandrina/Wikipedia]
Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser waves to crowds in Mansoura from a train car on 7 May 1960 [Bibliotheca Alexandrina/Wikipedia]

What: Egyptian Revolution of 1952

Where: Cairo, Egypt

When: July 22-26, 1952

What happened?

The Egyptian army’s failures became evident after the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 with many of the serving officers accusing King Farouk of abandoning them.

Lieutenant Colonel Gamel Abdel Nasser, who served in the war, formed a clandestine group called the Free Officers which became the Free Officers Movement in 1949. The Free Officers Movement was a group that consisted of army officers who wanted to abolish the monarchy allied to the British Empire and end the Muhammad Ali dynasty of Egypt and Sudan.

On 23 July 1952 the Free Officers Movement led by General Muhammad Naguib and Nasser overthrew King Farouk.

On 26 July King Farouk was forced to abdicate in favour of his infant son, until June 1953 when he sailed into exile on the same yacht his grandfather, Ismail, had left for exile on over 70 years earlier.

Read: Balancing the poverty of the poor in Egypt

After the coup the Free Officers asked former Prime Minister Ali Mahir to lead the civilian government of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) but Mahir would resign a few months later citing differences with the Free Officers.

Egypt was declared a republic on 18 June 1953 after the RCC was dissolved in January and Muhammad Naguib became Egypt’s first president and commander in chief, a popular choice due to the respect he had gained in Egypt for his role in the 1948 war.

The revolutionary government was driven by nationalism influenced by pan-Arabism and anti-imperialist agendas and was vehemently opposed by imperial powers such as the United Kingdom – which had occupied Egypt since 1882 – and France.

The movement’s aims were to abolish the constitutional monarchy and aristocracy of both Egypt and Sudan, establish a republic which would end British colonialism of the country and achieve Sudan’s independence.

What happened next?

The early success of the revolution had a knock-on effect for nationalist movements across the Arab world and Africa, such as in Algeria and Kenya, where anti-colonial struggles against European occupation were taking place. The revolution also inspired people to topple existing pro-Western monarchies and governments in the region.

However, many observers feel that the term coup is more accurate and that Nasser’s revolution was not all encompassing. Within six months all civilian political parties were banned and replaced by the Liberation Rally government party which would operate through “transitional authoritarianism”.

In January 1954 the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed, despite the help they had given Nasser in 1952, and by November President Naguib had been ousted and arrested. He was then replaced by Nasser first as prime minister and then as president, a position he remained in until his death in 1970.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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