Hosni Mubarak’s Legacy of Forced Stability

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Translator: “In the name of Allah, the most 00:00:02.916 —> 00:00:05.560 gracious, most merciful, my fellow countrymen —” This is Michael Slackman for The New York Times. Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for almost 30 years, never intended to be president. His rise was described by many as an accident of history, set in motion by the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar el-Sadat, in 1981. Mr. Mubarak, then vice president, was seated beside Mr. Sadat when gunmen opened fire. That experience helped set the principles by which he ruled Egypt for the next three decades. He focused on security and stability. He maintained a tight grip on society through the police and the intelligence services, an approach that ultimately led to his downfall. During his years in office, Hosni Mubarak maintained an emergency law that gave his forces the ability to arrest and detain without cause. He kept in place a ban on the Muslim Brotherhood. He also silenced popular secular political movements and leaders that might have challenged his monopoly on power. In many ways, Hosni Mubarak was a very reliable ally to Washington and other Western capitals. He provided a check, or so they believed, against an Islamist takeover of Egypt. He provided a counterbalance to Iran also, but perhaps most importantly to the West, he preserved the peace treaty with Israel, and in return, received billions and billions of dollars in aid. For years, Mr. Mubarak appeared invincible, having survived multiple assassination attempts. But as life grew harder for most Egyptians and the social contract frayed, Mr. Mubarak was increasingly viewed as an isolated autocrat who promoted or at least allowed corruption and cronyism. It finally took a wave of popular revolts across the Middle East to threaten his iron grip. For 18 days, tens of thousands — at some points, it appeared millions of Egyptians — poured into Tahrir Square, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor, secular and religious, united behind the ideas of democracy, freedom, opportunity, and ultimately, Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign. [cheering] In 2012, after Mubarak was removed from power, Mohamed Morsi, a leader in the banned Muslim Brotherhood, a group that for decades was suppressed by Egypt’s rulers, came to power. But after a year in office, Morsi’s increasingly autocratic and ineffective rule ignited a new wave of protests. The military moved in, and ousted him from power. Eventually it installed Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as Egypt’s next president. Hosni Mubarak initially thought he would be able to ride out retirement in quiet, but that was not to be the case. He was arrested, and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, along with many of his government allies, were put into prison. Mr. Mubarak was taken to court. It was a spectacle no Egyptian had thought they would ever see. He was wheeled in on a hospital stretcher into a cage in a courtroom, and remarkably, treated like any other defendant. Getting ousted, replaced by his nemesis from the Muslim Brotherhood and imprisoned was a painful fall from grace. But once the military took back the reins of power, the former president was left to live in the relative comfort of a military hospital overlooking the Nile. With Mubarak gone, and his security services in shambles, Egypt fell into chaos. Ultimately, his former allies returned to public life, and many of the very protesters who helped to topple him in the first place, were arrested. In 2017, Mubarak himself was quietly released and returned to his family, but few Egyptians seemed to care. The man once spoken of as Egypt’s modern-day pharaoh quietly slipped from public view, half-forgotten by the people he had once ruled.



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