The Free Officers after the coup. Nasser is seated third from left. (Wikimedia Commons)

The July 23 Revolution – Past, Present and Future

Al-Watan, Egypt, July 23

Sixty-eight years after the July 23, 1952, revolution carried out by the Free Officers Movement, Egyptian society remains deeply divided on the merits and costs associated with this monumental event enshrined in our collective memory. On the one hand, there are those who exaggerate the accomplishments and gains achieved by the Free Officers Movement and refuse to recognize any of the disadvantages. On the other hand, there are those who place blame on the revolution for all the problems and crises experienced in Egypt today. To clarify, I belong to those who believe that the July 23 Revolution is one of the most important events in contemporary Egyptian history. This revolution raised people’s demands for emancipation and independence. It brought an end to Egypt’s colonial rule and led to unfathomable social and political change in our society. Moreover, the occurrence of the revolution was inevitable due to the incompetence of King Farouk and his disregard for the aspirations and hopes of Egyptian citizens. Therefore, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Nevertheless, this belief does not prevent me from acknowledging the fact that the political system installed by Mohammed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser failed at achieving many of its stated objectives and, in the process, failed many hopeful citizens in Egypt. Nasser succeeded in strengthening Egyptian national identity and building a strong industrial base, but he also rushed to centralize his power, seize control over resources and limit the free-market economy. He succeeded in enhancing education, healthcare and the treatment of the poor, but abandoned the private sector. He succeeded in mobilizing the energies of the Arab nation but lost most of the major battles he fought. He sided with the people, workers, peasants and the middle class but deprived everyone else of true democratic rule. Therefore, complete alignment with or against the revolution does not reflect the reality of what happened. It neither explains our present affairs nor helps us think about the future. Indeed, it is our duty to understand the nuanced nature of the political system born following the July 23 Revolution and unpack the reasons for both its successes and failures, not just for the sake of academic debate, but for the impact and legacy of the revolution that accompany us to this day. Understanding our present and thinking about our future requires us to look back. We must understand the profound societal changes that the revolution created and appreciate both the positive and negative impacts it has had on our country and society. We must put aside our political partisanship and discuss this event with composure and respect. Only then will we be able to learn the lessons of the past and make better decisions for our future. – Ziad Bahauddin (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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