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In Egyptmarker, the clandestine revolutionary Free Officers Movement ( )was composed of young junior army officers committed to unseating the Egyptian monarchy and its British advisors. It was founded by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser in the aftermath of Egypt's defeat in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Background

Economic challenges of the post WWI period, namely the Great Depression, affected economies around the globe including those in the Middle East. Stereotypes surrounding modernity and progress centralized issues which became apparent in the post world Middle East. During this time, the activities of the Great Powers in the Middle East, specifically the removal of economic development institutions after some positive advancement became evident, encouraged many political groups to organize against the politicians who dominated the parliamentary politics of the time. Workers had become accustomed to development efforts which were meant to stabilize the economy of the region. The state led initiatives set the standard for what the people expected of their government including the regulation of imports, industrial investment, and commodity distribution and production supervision.

Formation

Politicians and government bodies were forced to respond to the demands of groups who were directly affected by the initiative changes and withdrawals. Some of these groups included military officers. While the first military coups began its mission in Syriamarker in the late 1940's, it was the Free Officers coup in Egyptmarker and the revolution of 1952 that would have the greatest impact and encourage later movements. The members were not of the wealthy elite, but rather the middle class, young workers, government officials and junior officersThe movement, which began and spread throughout the 1940’s, came to fruition with the help and leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser formed a coordinating committee (1949), of which he was acclaimed head (1950). He was respected by the party and its followers. Coming from a modest background he signified the groups majority; the hard working middle class. The Free Officers consisted of urban dwellers and educated militants with a lower middle class upbringing. He was a war hero who rose quickly in military rank to colonel. He like many others dedicated his time and energy to reverse the corruption and sleaze seen on the part of the government throughout the 1948 Palestine war by restoring a democracy. He saw the problem of domestic passive reaction to imperialism as much a problem as imperialism itself. They strengthened a “new” middle class. Due to this dedication toward change, the Free Officers referred to their group and its entirety as simply a “movement.” Later however, it would become a revolution.

The Free Officers Committee enlisted General Muhammad Naguib as a public figurehead in preparation for the successful coup of July 23, 1952. The nine men who had constituted themselves as the Committee of the Free Officers Movement and led the 1952 Revolution were Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, Major Abdel Hakim Amer, Lieutenant Colonel Anwar El-Sadat, Major Salah Salem, Major Kamal el-Din Husayn, Wing Commander Gamal Salem, Squadron Leader Hassan Ibrahim, Major Khalid Mohieddin, and Wing Commander Abdel Latif Boghdadi. Major Hussein el-Shafei and Lieutenant Colonel Zakaria Mohieddin joined the committee later.

The continued agitation within Egypt as a result of British control led to a series of revolts where British military outposts were attacked. From 1950-52, workers in the Suez Canalmarker zone went on strike but were blockaded by British tanks. The government in Cairo warned nationalists not to interfere in public spaces that are associated with colonialism. Contrarily, attacks were made against the British and the elite Egyptians who worked with them. At this point, Egyptian nationalist groups were divided and unorganized. The military was the only area that still held some sort of organized mission, which led to the Free Officers Revolution in 1952. They publicized the need for reform and social justice; marched on Cairomarker and forced King Farouq to abdicate his throne. The Free Officers were significant in the initiation of Egyptian Independence from British military occupation and Egyptian nationalism. This is an example of a dedicated democratic body overturning a monarchy.

Legacy

Similar movements were organized by other Arab politicians seeking to mimic Nasser's ascent. For example, Libyanmarker president Muammar al-Gaddafi used a similar group to overthrow the Libyan King Idris in 1969, and the leaders of the Syrianmarker Ba'ath Party used a similar group to overthrow the Nasser organized union between Egypt and Syria (see United Arab Republic) in 1961. In Saudi Arabiamarker during the 1960s the Saudi Prince Talal used a similar idea, the Free Princes Movement in an unsuccessful effort to overthrow his country's conservative monarchy. He was exiled to Egypt as a result and was given asylum by Nasser.

The Free Officers Movement can be seen in context in the entries for Nasser and Naguib. The anniversary of their coup is now commemorated as Revolution Day, an annual public holiday in Egypt on July 23.

The name was consciously assumed by the Free Officers and Civilians Movement, led by Brigadier-General Najib al-Salihi who opposed Saddam Hussein.

A faction of the Free Officers led a revolution in Iraq in 1958 in which King Faisal (cousin of King Hussein of Jordanmarker) was brutally murdered. This coup was due to Nasser's anger over the formation of the Arab Federation between Iraqmarker and Jordanmarker a few months earlier.

Members

This is a list of some of the major officers of the movement:

Major Hamdy Ebeid

References

  1. Gelvin, James L. The Modern Middle East: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.


See also



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