Remembering Gamal Abdel Nasser After 40 Years Of His Death
Gamal Abdel Nasser, the second President of Egypt, was one of the most prominent figures of Arabian political history who heralded a new era of modernization. An audacious and determined personality, he is seen as the pioneer of pan-Arab nationalism and the first Arab leader who posed a serious challenge to the Western hegemony in the Middle East.
Nasser who was born on 15th January, 1918 in Alexandria played a pivotal role in nationalizing the Suez Canal. His reforms and policies, which came to be regarded as Nasserism, won the hearts of the Arab populace. He was also one of the masterminds behind the birth of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Gamal Abdel Nasser who was born as the first son of Abdel Nasser and Fahima had to travel extensively throughout Egypt due to his father’s transferable job and that contributed to broadening his horizon of knowledge immensely. A voracious reader, he was deeply influenced by Gandhi, Mustafa Kamel and Ahmed Shawqi.
At the tender age of fifteen, Nasser participated in anti-British demonstrations which sowed the seeds of his daring confrontation with the monarchy for the rest of his life. In 1938, he graduated from the Royal Military Academy. Even though he continued to serve the army, his anti-imperialistic views never deserted him.
Nasser’s thwart to the British domination was publicly exposed in 1942. To his utter consternation, a battle of British troops led by Lord Lampson, the British ambassador to Egypt, marched into King Farouq’s palace and commanded him to appoint Nahas Pasha as the head of the government. Nasser was appalled by the British monarchy’s clamorous attempt to establish their sovereignty and started instilling nationalistic feelings in a young group of military officers to overthrow the British power.
In 1948, he fought the Arab-Israeli war by serving in the 6th Infantry Battalion. The Arab nations ultimately succumbed to the newly formed Israel. Nasser who suspected a conspiracy by the Egyptian Royal Family by providing them faulty weapons became more and more aggressive in his mind with his idea of having a parliamentary democracy.
Nasser moved forward with his aim by forming a secret group called the Free Officers. In 1952 after a bloodless rebellion King Farouq was overthrown and General Muhammad Naguib who led the rebellion, became the first president of Egypt.
But that did not prove fruitful as Naguib’s presidency became engaged in a long duel with Nasser. He finally ascended the pinnacle of power as the second President on November 17th, 1954, after Naguib resigned.
Nasser who resented the ever-increasing supremacy of the larger nations became instrumental in founding the Non-Allied Movement cohesively with other stalwarts such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Josip Tito and Sukarno. The inter-governmental organization pledged to bring about security, peace and economic growth to the developing nations.
He nationalised a number of corporations to guarantee that the wealth generated by the Egyptian Royal Family could be used to enhance the living conditions of the Egyptian people.
Nasser is vividly remembered for nationalizing the Suez Canal. In his attempt to negate Western Influence, he announced nationalization of the canal built in 1869 by Ferdinand de Lesseps. The move received major emotional support from the Arabian world but provoked the British and the French to attack. The invasion proved futile as it received worldwide condemnation mainly by America.
This catapulted Nasser to global fame and even more popularity amongst the Arabian nations.
Nasser then turned his attention to another problem that plagued Egypt – the yearly floods caused by Nile. To overcome the losses suffered due to the floods the building of a dam became imminent. But America’s pro-Israel attitude dissuaded Nasser from asking for their support and hence he sought the help of the Soviet Union.
The USSR sensed an opportunity to gain their foothold in the Mediterranean Sea and in 1958 they offered to provide the financial support needed for the completion of the dam. Thus the Aswan High Dam came to existence which generated worldwide attention.
However his life-long hostility with Israel decimated him as Egypt and other Arab nations were defeated in the Six-Day War of 1967. Broken, Nasser offered his resignation and died in 1970 following a heart-attack.
Nasser is remembered fondly by the Arabians as one who worked selflessly for their welfare. Under him Egypt received a major boost in culture, education, economy, health never hitherto seen and thus he continues to be revered in the Arab world even after 40 years of his death.
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