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|Gamal Abdel Nasser
the first President of Egypt
Gamal Abdel Nasser was born in Alexandria, Egypt, on January 15, 1918. He received his primary and secondary education in Cairo and studied law before entering the Royal Military Academy. In 1938, he graduated from the Military Academy and was appointed as an officer in the infantry. He served in the Sudan during World War II, then was appointed as an instructor at the academy. In 1948, he took part in the Arab-Israeli War, during which his troop was besieged at Al Falouga.
While at the academy, and in subsequent military service, Nasser and some of his fellow officers created the Free Officers, a secret revolutionary society dedicated to overthrowing the monarchy and getting Britain out of Egypt. On July 23, 1952, the Free Officers staged a virtually bloodless coup and ousted King Farouk. In 1953 the monarchy was abolished and a republic proclaimed.
The new republic was initially headed by Muhammad Naguib, with Nasser in a subordinate role. But a series of events, combined with Nasser's skills, gradually brought Nasser out of Naguib's shadow until, on February 23, 1954, he became Prime Minister.
On July 24, 1954, he negotiated and signed the treaty by which Egypt was evacuated after 72 years of British occupation. Nasser also played a key role in the Bandung Conference of 1955, which resulted in the launching of the non-alignment movement throughout the Arab world.
President of Egypt
In 1956, a referendum concerning the enactment of a new constitution was held, and Nasser was officially elected President of the Republic of Egypt. The constitution made Egypt a socialist state, with a one-party system and Islam as its official religion.
Suez Canal Incident
In 1956 Britain and the United States withdrew their financial support from the Aswan High Dam project. In order to obtain funds for the project, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. This brought aggression from France and Britain in alliance with Israel. Under pressure from the United States, the three were finally forced to withdraw, and a United Nations emergency force was subsequently placed as a buffer between Egypt and Israel.
United Arab Republic
His handling of the Suez Canal incident made Nasser a hero in the Arab world. In 1958 Syria and Egypt united under his presidency, forming the United Arab Republic. The union broke up in 1961, however, following a coup in Syria.
War with Yemen
In 1962, Nasser sent Egyptian troops to assist the Yemeni Free Officers in their bid to oust the Yemeni royal family. By 1965 more than 55,000 Egyptian troops were engaged in Yemen, in what was ultimately a losing cause.
By 1967 the Arab-Israeli situation had deteriorated. After the UN peacekeeping force, at Nasser's request, had been withdrawn, and Egyptian guns had blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli ships, Israel attacked Egypt and occupied the entire Sinai Peninsula up to the Suez Canal.
Resignation and Return
Taking responsibility for Egypt's defeat in the Six-Day War, Nasser resigned as President of Egypt on June 9, 1967. The people, however, immediately responded by taking to the streets and demanding his return to government. Nasser responded by resuming the presidency almost immediately.
On September 28, 1970, Gamal Abdel Nasser died suddenly of a heart attack. He was succeeded by Anwar al-Sadat.
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This page was last updated on May 30, 2017.