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Opinion: Nearly 60 years later, Egyptians are divided on the revolution

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Fifty-seven years ago Wednesday, Egyptians woke up to news on the radio announcing a revolution that had toppled the country’s monarchy overnight. The 1952 coup was led by a group of military officers -- known as the Free Officers -- with Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat in their ranks.

Today, more than a half century later, Egyptians remain divided on what the 1952 revolution meant. One group, pro-Revolution and pro-Nasser, believes the revolution marked a new beginning for Egypt that was finally free from the British colonialists and the King’s autocracy -- in other words, an Egypt finally governed by Egyptians.

Meanwhile, anti-revolution and anti-Nasser Egyptians are nostalgic for what they recall as an era of democracy, prosperity and liberalism. They refer to the revolution as a conspiracy to overthrow a good, progressive monarch.

Both groups are adamant about their views and raise their children to adopt same beliefs. For years, the pro-Nasser Egyptians were louder in expressing their support of the revolution, speaking of patriotism, nationalism and social equality. However, as a majority of Egyptians nowadays find themselves struggling to make ends meet, anti-Nasserists have managed to rally some support. In their eyes, the result of the revolution was to make rich Egyptians poor and poor Egyptians poorer. Until almost three years ago, anti-Nasserists were not able to express their views openly for fear of being regarded as ruthless aristocrats who oppressed poor Egyptians. But amid escalating poverty rates and public dismay over lack of democracy under Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, anti-Nasserists finally are speaking out.

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In 2006, Alaa Al-Aswany -- a prominent Egyptian author and outspoken critic of the Egyptian government -- wrote his best selling novel “The Yacoubian Building,” which was adapted into a motion picture. The film depicts stories of corruption, fundamentalism, prostitution and homosexuality in modern Egypt. The blockbuster film reminisces about pre-revolution Cairo, once known as the Paris of the Middle East.

In 2007, an Egyptian soap opera called “King Farouk” aired on satellite television and depicted Egypt’s last king as a democratic, noble ruler, highly concerned for the well-being of his country. Preceding the series, Farouk’s daughter was interviewed on MBC satellite TV, speaking for the first time ever of her father’s love for Egypt and his last days in exile. The series and the interview fueled controversy among Egypt’s Nasserists.

A year later, another series was aired, this time portraying former Nasser as Egypt’s honorable reformist.

Despite Egyptians’ opposing views of the revolution’s objectives, there seems to be one thing they agree on: The revolution failed to promote democracy Since July 23, 1952, the Egyptian military has never really left the executive offices because all leaders have come out of the military and remain horrified by opposition.

The question remains: What will happen to Egypt after Mubarak, 81, who has held office for nearly 28 years? He has given no indication that he plans to retire, and his allies have suggested that he is likely to serve another five-year term when his current one expires in 2011. However, it is widely believed that the president is grooming his son Gamal, 46, as his heir to the presidency. But critics say the younger Mubarak lacks a popular touch and that most Egyptians would not welcome this inheritance of power.


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