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Background in 20th Century Egyptian History since 1952 revolution

Jana Evans Braziel, Assistant Professor
229B Mc Micken Hall
Department of English and Comparative Literature
University of Cincinnati
ML 210069
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0069
Office # (513) 556-0834
Fax # (513) 556-5960

Adapted from Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

•July 23, 1952: The Egyptian Revolution of 1952 overturned the monarchy of King Farouk and led to the temporary installation of a government under Naguib, "the short-lived president of the revolutionary council"

•1952: beginning of educational reforms in Egypt, including the installation of free (and compulsory) public education for children ages 6-12 with co-education at the primary level. The government prioritized the goal of eradicating illiteracy, which proved difficult due to the lack of facilities in rural areas.

•1954: the rise of Nasser to power who was instrumental in getting the British to evacuate the Suez Canal, in suppressing the militarist group the Muslim Brotherhood and in establishing a marxist democracy in Egypt.

•1955: First opening of family planning clinics and state efforts to control population growth.

•1956óembrace of "Arab Socialism" in Egypt which led to sweeping social reforms, including the suffrage of women in 1956 and the right of women to run for political office. This period began a two decade period of migration into urban areas, such as Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Port Said, where economic and educational opportunities were greater.

•1962: drafting of The National Charter, which claimed egalitarianism for men and women; it was formally approved in 1962.

•1960s-70s: period of feminism in Egypt: comparable to second wave feminism in the United States, although the first wave of feminism in Egypt was closely associatedóalthough not completelyówith the pressures of late colonialism and ëmodernization, westernizationí efforts in Egypt, of which many contemporary feminists and postcolonial leaders remain critical. Andrée Chedid and Nawal el Saadawi were two leading feminists in this era, although their influence, especially Saadawiís (who is still alive), continues today.

Leila Ahmed writes that "in exposing hidden physical abuses, whether culturally sanctioned and openly performed, like the practice of clitoridectomy, or culturally invisible, furtively committed, and denied abuses, such as sexual abuse of children, no writers has played a more important and eloquent role than Nawal el Saadawiónor has any feminist been more outspoken and done more to challenge the misogynist and androcentric practices of the culture" (215). However, Ahmed also strongly criticizes Saadawiís totalizing generalizations about patriarchy, Islam and Egyptian culture.

•1967: defeat of Egypt by Israel in the Egyptian-Israeli war (the Yemeni War, 1962-67); increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic fundamentalism. In the final years of Nasserism, Egypt witness the decline of socialist policies and the weakening of the marxist or socialist democratic state.

•1969: death of Nasser; Anwar Sadat becomes the president of Egypt.

•1970s-1980s: decline of the importance and influence of feminism proper in Egypt. Veiling (which had declined during Nasserism and egalitarian, socialist reform) began to increase in the 1980s; however, most scholars note that this "veiling" is a protest to westernization and capitalist imperialism. Also, the issue of the hijab or veil is a contested one among feminists, most postcolonial feminists resisting the western feminist interpretation of the veil as ëmisogynistí.

•1974: "In 1974 the United States and Egypt resumed diplomatic relations, previously severed by Egypt in 1967. By September 1975, through U. S. mediating efforts, Egypt and Israel had reached several agreements on the disengagement of their forces. In March 1976, Sadat abrogated a friendship treaty with the USSR signed in 1971."

Under Sadat's power, Egypt experienced the increase of two conflicting ideologies: increasing westernization and commercialization as American capitalism and a "market economy" gained influence under Sadat; and increasing religious ëIslamizationí under radical fundamentalist groups. On the one hand, Sadat encouraged the visibility of fundamentalist Islamist groups, who were critical of the socialist government of Nasser; on the other hand, this increased visibility eventually led to attacks on Sadat as well.

The "Infitah" (or "open-door" policy) increased western capitalist investment in Egypt, such as tourism, baking and fast food industries among others. This period unfortunately was a set back to Nasserís socialism, creating the affluence of the few and the poverty of many. (In this sense, the late 1970s and early 1980s bears a striking parallel to the same time period in the United States, especially with the beginning of Reaganism).

•1977: food riots protesting the cut of bread subsidies.

• November 1977: Sadat visits Jerusalem and begins the process of peace. In September 1978, the peace summit between Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin took place, but the actual treaty was not signed until March 26, 1979, in Washington, D.C.

The treaty required the gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Sinai over a three-year period.

•January 1980: Egypt and Israel re-established diplomatic relations; however, relations have been strained as most Egyptians are sympathetic to the Palestinians.

•1981: arrest of intellectuals, including Saadawi, under Sadat's increasing control of political thought; release of political dissidents from prison in 1982 following Sadatís death.

The Grolier Encyclopedia reveals a different reading of the Sadat era, writing that "although Sadat increased political freedoms, he also periodically cracked down on dissidents. In 1981 he was killed by Muslim fundamentalists."

•1982: Sadat's successor, Hosni Mubarak, "honored the peace treaty with Israel but criticized the lack of progress on the Palestinian issue." He also improved Egyptís relations with other Arab countries, allowing Egypt readmission to the Islamic Conference in 1984 and the Arab League in 1989.

•1987: re-election of Mubarak, despite criticisms of his government due to economic decline and increasing influence of Islamist fundamentalism.

During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), Egypt aided the Iraqis (as did the U.S.). However, in concordance with the U.S. policy, he criticized the Iraqi government after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

•1993: re-election of Mubarak for a third term; during this time he made accommodations with the Muslim Brotherhood, while cracking down on more radical groups. Border conflicts with Sudan arose during this time.

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