The Arab Republic of Egypt (Egyptian Arabic: جمهورية مصر العربية Ǧumhūriyyat Miṣr al-ʿArabiyyah) is a state in northeast Africa. Its capital, Cairo, is home to the Pyramids of Giza. While geographically located in Africa, culturally and politically, Egypt is considered to be part of the Middle East, in part because of its proximity and in part because of its large Muslim, Arabic-speaking population. In 1967 Egypt went to war with Israel; in 1978, it became the first state in the region to make peace with Israel and acknowledge its existence with the signing of the Camp David Accords.
The former "president" of Egypt (or, more accurately, the head of a military junta), Hosni Mubarak, was seen by the West as a fairly benign autocrat. However, he did have the rather nasty habit of locking up political rivals, repressing civil rights, allowing corruption, turning a blind eye to police brutality and torture, and neglecting the poor, the middle classes, the educated professionals, in short, anyone who didn't actively support Hosni Mubarak. The United States tended to turn a blind eye to this behavior since said rivals were either Islamists, organizations Mubarak painted as Islamists, or unimportant to United States interests. Egypt receives a great deal of American aid, mainly because the Americans saw Mubarak as a "moderate" in a region full of extremists and because Egypt is one of the few Middle Eastern nations to have recognized Israel's right to exist (though the main journalists' organization, as well as the Egyptian Writers' Guild and Actors' Guild, have forbidden their members to work in Israel). Moreover, the aid is the price of Egypt's continued recognition of and peace with Israel.
Egypt is the birthplace of one of the oldest civilizations and houses the only surviving "Wonder of the Classical World," the Great Pyramid at Giza. The Sphinx of Giza forms a part of the same complex. The desert climate surrounding Egypt means that many early documents and monuments from its ancient civilization have been preserved. One of the world's earliest writing systems, Egyptian hieroglyphics, was created there. A Proto-Sinaitic script derived from or inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics is a likely candidate for the origin of the Phoenician alphabet, and as such Egyptian hieroglyphics would represent the ultimate ancestor of all the major alphabetic scripts currently in use, including the Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, and Brahmi-derived scripts of South Asia.
Females married around their first menses, with males usually between 16-20; premarital sex was allowed, though, as was no-fault divorce (which was uncommon in many cultures). Both genders inherited wealth equally and separately from each parent, while the end of childhood was marked by the first menses in girls and circumcision in boys at 13. Careers in ancient Egypt were hereditary; only the male children of scribes could expect classroom education; scribes also did not have to pay taxes. All professions were paid in grain, as proper money would not be invented for some time; the ancient Egyptians' favorite thing to drink was beer (albeit warm and with much lower alcohol content than most modern brews), while their favorite board game, senet, invoked the journey into the underworld.
In 621, Lower Egypt was conquered by the Muslim armies of Amr ibn al `Aas on behalf of the Rashidun caliphate of Omar.
The fate of the Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria was a famous library and institution of Hellenistic learning in Alexandria, Egypt. It was constructed by the Hellenistic Pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter, or his son, during the third century BCE.
An often-repeated folktale blames the loss of this storehouse of ancient learning on the Caliph Omar, who is claimed to have remarked that "if those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them." This tale appears first in the Syriac Christian author Bar-Hebraeus, quoting a Latin writer otherwise unknown called John the Grammarian.
In fact, there wasn't much left of this library when the Caliph conquered Egypt. A major fire destroyed much of the collection during Julius Caesar's campaigns in Egypt in 48 BCE. The remaining collection was moved to a Hellenistic temple of Serapis/Osiris, the Serapeum of Alexandria. Further depredations occurred to the remaining collection when Aurelian warred with Zenobia around 270. But the final death blow to the library was struck by the Christian emperor Theodosius, who ordered the destruction of the Serapeum in 391 CE. There wasn't a Library of Alexandria for Omar and his commanders to put to the torch anymore.
After gaining independence from the British Empire in 1922 as a puppet state, nothing of interest happened for a while. Then in 1952, a group of officers kicked out the monarchy and the British and gave Sudan independence. After the coup, Nasser effectively became the dictator. The country greatly modernized under the new regime, and following a victory in nationalizing the Suez Canal, the ideology of Arab nationalism exploded throughout the Arab world. After a brief period of Egypt and Syria being united under one government, Syria regained independence, and the spread of Nasser's ideology began to decline. After Egypt was humiliated in the Six-Day War, Nasser briefly resigned before protests put him back in power, and he ruled until he died in 1970.
Anwar Sadat would succeed him; he established a multi-party system and ended the Arab-centric form of socialism Nasser implemented. He regained the land lost to Israel in the Six-Day War and signed a peace treaty with Israel. He was criticized for this by other Arab states and the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist member of which assassinated him. He was succeeded by Hosni Mubarak, who was yet another dictator and ended the warming relations with Israel. He would rule the country for nearly thirty years.
The 2011 revolution
Following and inspired by the Jasmine Revolution, or more properly the Sidi Bouzid revolt, in Tunisia, on 25 January 2011, Egypt experienced the first moments of the revolution that would see Mubarak removed from power. On the "Day of Anger" or "Day of Revolt", protests broke out in Cairo, Alexandria, , Aswan, and Ismaïlia. Organized through social networking groups and by word-of-mouth, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, with most of the protesters concentrated in Cairo and Alexandria. The size of the protest in Cairo was much larger than the police expected it to be. So, as a result of this, the protesters were able to break out of the cordon that the police had placed them in and head to Tahrir Square, which, in the days to come, would become the focal point for a protest movement seeking democratic reform in Egypt. Although the police deployed tear gas and water cannons and initially dispersed the protesters, this tactic ultimately failed. The police were eventually forced to retreat from the protesters as they came under bombardment from stones.
With the shock of Mubarak's non-resignation still a raw wound to the pro-democracy protesters, 11 February saw an increase in the number of protesters from the day before. The organizers called this day "Farewell Friday", presumably hoping that if they kept on hitting the government over the head with the same message repeatedly, the message would sink in. In addition to the crowds in Tahrir Square, thousands of protesters continued to surround the Parliament and the Presidential Palace, and crowds also blockaded the state TV building. Something had to give, and at about 16:02 GMT / 18:02 Cairo Local Time, it did, when Vice-President Suleiman announced that the office of President had been vacated and that the military council would take over the running of Egypt. Quite unsurprisingly, this announcement triggered wild celebrations throughout Egypt, celebrations that would be continued on the following Friday as a reminder to the Egyptian Military Council that the pro-democracy supporters still had their eye on them and expected real change. On 15 February, the Military Council announced that a new constitution would be adopted within 10 days.
1848 all over again
Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi[note 1] won the 2012 presidential election with 51.73% of the vote. Initially characterized as a bully and a tyrant after he attempted to take broad constitutional powers for himself that year, in mid-2013, he was revealed to be a paper tiger after being deposed by the military in a coup. While officially the acting president was a judge named Adly Mansour, minister of defense General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is widely considered to be in de facto control of the country. A crackdown on the Brotherhood has followed the coup, and while the situation has been compared to the rise of fascism in Europe, the events of 1848 in France are perhaps a better parallel.
Accordingly, Egyptian politics have changed for the absurd — by early 2014, people were accusing puppets of terrorism and photographers of killing protesters. Presumably, all this will settle down at some point, but in the meantime, a variety of countries are warning their citizens that Egypt is just a tad dangerous at the moment, for some reason.
Trouble in the Sinai
Since 2011, there has been a particularly vicious insurgency being waged by Islamist militants in the Sinai peninsula. At first the insurgency was waged by Bedouin tribes taking advantage of the chaos to launch attacks on the government, but soon after Islamist militants started pouring out of the woodwork from all over. DAESH in particular has taken root in the Sinai, and has proven particularly stubborn to root out. The Sinai militants have links to militant groups in Libya and Gaza, and are suspected to get their weapons from black market connections to groups in Libya.
Both sides are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The crackdown by the Egyptian government has been particularly harsh, with Egypt taking a cue from Israel and demolishing the homes of hundreds of Sinai residents and forcibly displacing thousands more to build a security corridor to prevent the trafficking of guns and militants to and from Gaza. The Sinai suffers from crippling poverty compared to the rest of Egypt, with poor sanitation services and high unemployment rates exacerbating an already volatile situation.
In April 2017 DAESH bombed several Christian churches, killing 40. In April 2021 DAESH militants released a video of them murdering a Christian and two others in an apparent warning to the indigenous Christian community of Egypt.
On the other side of the aisle, DAESH has targeted Muslims they view as insufficiently orthodox. One attack in November of 2017 was particularly deadly. DAESH stormed a mosque where over 300 Sufis were killed and a hundred more were wounded. Among the dead were 27 children. This marked a change in insurgent tactics, as before this attacks on Friday prayer services were unheard of.
In August 2022 a video was released of the Egyptian Army extrajudicially executing three wounded Sinai militants in their custody. The Egyptian government has also taken to forced disappearances, including of children, torture, and general collective punishment, in addition to the aforementioned population displacement.
Although there is ostensibly freedom of religion in Egypt, legal blasphemy charges are frequently used against religious minorities and atheists on the slightest of pretexts. Apostasy can also lead to a prison sentence. The Christian minority is constantly threatened, while the Jewish minority has all but disappeared.
- ↑ Sometimes "Morsy," or a variety of other transliterations.
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/feb/17/what-caused-egyptian-revolution What caused the revolution in Egypt?
- ↑ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/9394068.stm 16:39, Egypt unrest: Day 17 as it happened
- ↑ John F. Healey, The early alphabet; (University of California Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0-520-07309-8), p. 18.
- ↑ http://fathom.lib.uchicago.edu/2/21701778/
- ↑ Bar Hebraeus: Historia Compendiosa Dynastiarum, (Oxford, 1663). Quod ad libros quorum mentionem fecisti: si in illis contineatur, quod cum libro Dei conveniat, in libro Dei [est] quod sufficiat absque illo; quod si in illis fuerit quod libro Dei repugnet, neutiquam est eo [nobis] opus, jube igitur e medio tolli.” Jussit ergo Amrus Ebno’lAs dispergi eos per balnea Alexandriae, atque illis calefaciendis comburi; ita spatio semestri consumpti sunt. Audi quid factum fuerit et mirare
- ↑ Socrates of Constantinople, Ecclesiastical History, lib. V ss. 16
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/18/mohamed-elbaradei-tunisia-egypt Mohamed ElBaradei warns of 'Tunisia-style explosion' in Egypt
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/blog/2011/jan/25/middleeast-tunisia Protests in Egypt and unrest in Middle East – as it happened
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates 12:29, Protests in Egypt - as they happened
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/blog/2011/jan/25/middleeast-tunisia Protests in Egypt and unrest in Middle East – as it happened
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/feb/11/egypt-hosni-mubarak-left-cairo 16:02, Mubarak resigns - Friday 11 February
- ↑ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12466893 Egypt crisis: Army sets constitution reform deadline
- ↑ Monopolizing Power in Egypt, 16 August 2012.
- ↑ Coup topples Egypt's Morsy; deposed president under 'house arrest', CNN, July 4 2013.
- ↑ Egypt and the f-word, Bilal Ahmed, 15 October 2013.
- ↑ Puppet regime: A few more notes on Egypt and paranoia
- ↑ Egypt in TV, Nour Youssef.
- ↑ Egypt travel alert (US, January 06 2014).
- ↑ "ISIS in Sinai - the Libyan connection" - The Jerusalem Post. Published February 21st, 2017.
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 "Sinai population still striving for basic rights as unrest continues: Report" - Ahram Online. Written by Ahmed Eleiba. Published March 12th, 2015.
- ↑ "Palm Sunday bombings of Egyptian Coptic churches kill 44".
- ↑ "ISIL-linked group in Egypt claims execution of Copt, 2 tribesmen" - Al Jazeera. Published April 19th, 2021.
- ↑ "Egypt launches air strikes after deadly mosque attack" - The Age. Written by Farid Farid. Published on November 26th, 2017.
- ↑ "Egypt: New Videos of North Sinai Executions". August 30th, 2022.
- ↑ If You Are Afraid for Your Lives, Leave Sinai!. 28 May 2019.
- ↑ Egypt’s War on Atheism
- ↑ Egyptian Atheist Currently in Hiding Makes Video Urging Viewers to Rethink Their Belief in God