ABSTRACT

In 1952, the Egyptian Revolution dramatically cast aside centuries of foreign domination and established a popular revolutionary republic. Riding the crest of this wave of change, Gamal Abd’ al-Nasser projected his charismatic, proudly independent presence throughout the Arab world. His disruption of elite hegemony, implementation of socialist reforms, embrace of pan-Arabism, and non-aligned foreign policy won the support of the masses in Egypt and other Arab states who hoped for humane politics and greater political participation. Beneath this idealistic image, however, less than ideal means were employed to safeguard the new regime’s hold on power. Both accommodative and coercive tactics were used to neutralize opponents; the latter tactics severely tarnished the state’s human rights record. Anwar Sadat assumed power following Nasser’s death in 1970 and was credited with moving Egypt away from Nasser’s socialist legacy toward more liberal economic policies and a multiparty system. When critical voices began targeting Sadat himself, he cracked down on his opposition and jailed thousands of intellectuals and activists. The alienation and anger this generated among the populace was dramatically revealed in 1981, when he was assassinated by Islamist opponents. His successor and the current president, Hosni Mubarak, proceeded cautiously during his first term, wary of the fate of his predecessor. As the following report reveals, however, Egypt’s human rights record remains far from satisfactory. Nominal guarantees and lofty ideals aside, formal structures and informal practices uphold a framework of repression.