That was then: 23 July 1952

Yesterday was the 57th anniversary of the July Coup that brought the Free Officers' to power. Egypt is no longer a Free Officers' regime (i.e. led by a ideologically-guided vanguard of mid-level officers) and the "revolution" of July 1952 has petered out into institutional military rule combined with some semi-democratic, but dysfunctional, civilian institutions, as well as elements of a classic police state. The occasion is hardly celebrated by most Egyptians, and while the state press makes an effort at pageantry, many in the opposition lament this traumatic event that would have all kind of nefarious long-term consequences (although arguably it started, but failed to follow through, with a genuine social revolution in upward mobility). It also marks, importantly, a rare occurrence in the reassertion of Egyptian rule in a country long-ruled by foreigners or from abroad.

The Guardian has republished the article it published the day after the coup:


Army dictates terms in Egypt



Originally published on 24 July 1952

Successful and Bloodless Coup

The Egyptian Army yesterday organised a bloodless revolt and last night Aly Maher Pasha, a politician on whom the Army looked with favour, was installed as the "emergency Premier." Last night King Farouk entrusted him with the formation of a new Government. The declared purpose of the coup – which was carried out by troops, tanks, and planes – was to demand a purge in the High Command of the armed forces and in political life. General Naguib, the author of the coup, proclaimed himself Commander-in-Chief and he was confirmed in that post last night by King Farouk. A proclamation by General Naguib late last night said to-day's action has been completely successful and the Army was in control of the situation.



Reasons for Army's Discontent

CAIRO, JULY 23

The first military coup in Egypt since the Arabi movement seventy years ago contains many puzzling features, and some people see a connection between the latest developments and the recent sudden exodus of Wafdist leaders for Europe.

It is recalled that when a Wafdist youth organisation urged Serag el-Din Pasha to stay he said that he had been advised to leave quickly. It has long been known that the reverse in Palestine has rankled with younger officers, who felt that they had been betrayed by corruption which resulted in supplies of obsolete arms and ammunition.

Recent charges of corruption and failure to change the old guard added to their discontent. Certain officers who supported the previous commander-in-chief, General Haider, were arrested during the night and unconfirmed reports say that there were some casualties among those who resisted. The first news of the Army's action was given to the public about breakfast time by the wireless, which broadcast an appeal to officers in the name of General Naguib. This said that "traitors" had been interfering with national affairs and had even dared to meddle with Army matters. The military had, therefore, decided to purify themselves of traitors and weaklings, confident in the support of all members of the armed forces.

Tanks and armed guards surrounded the main barracks and government buildings while jet aircraft flew low overhead. There was no opposition and it was soon evident that the movement enjoyed overwhelming support. Later broadcasts amplified Naguib's earlier statement. It was explained that the traitors had conspired against the country and military affairs had been left in the hands of either ignorant, corrupt, or traitorous persons, which had compelled Army intervention.
Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.