Born on May 4, 1928 (Kafr El-Meselha, Egypt)
President of Egypt
Hosni Mubarak has been the leader of Egypt longer than any other ruler since 1850. Mubarak has held the position of president since the assassination of Anwar Sadat (1918–1981; see entry) in 1981. Over the course of his rule, Mubarak has led Egypt back to a position of power within the Arab world. At the same time, he has maintained peace with Israel and to lessen the influence of religious extremism, two accomplishments that have eluded the leaders of other Arab countries in the Middle East. He is considered the most powerful leader in the Arab world.
"I care about stability. I care about the fact that terrorism, though it can't be stopped could be lessened if peace moved forward. Time will prove that I am right."
Inspired by father to serve his government
Born on May 4, 1928, Mohammed Hosni Mubarak was one of five children. His father worked as an inspector in the Ministry of Justice and inspired his son to seek a government career himself. Mubarak received Egypt's finest military education, graduating from the National Military Academy in 1949 and the Air Force Academy in 1952. After graduation, Mubarak stayed on at the Academy as a flight instructor until 1959. He continued his education in 1964 at the Frunze General Staff Academy, the top military school in the Soviet Union.
Returning to Egypt in 1965, Mubarak began to rise through the ranks of the Egyptian air force. By 1967 he had become director of the Air Force Academy and two years later he rose to become air force chief of staff. His success in these positions brought him to the attention of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who appointed Mubarak commander-in-chief of the air force and deputy minister of military affairs in 1972.
Hero of the war
Mubarak became a national hero on the first day of the Arab-Israeli War in 1973 (this war is known as the Yom Kippur War in Israel). The war was fought between the allied Arab nations of Egypt and Syria against Israel, over disputed territory claimed by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. Serving as Egyptian Air Marshall, Mubarak was the mastermind of a twenty-minute Egyptian air attack that destroyed 90 percent of its Israeli targets. Mubarak's planning and execution restored Egyptian confidence, bruised during the 1967 conflict, which Israeli forces easily won. As the embodiment of the Egyptian military's best, Mubarak became a spokesman to every Arab country during the 1970s. His primary mission was to explain Egypt's reasons for seeking peace with Israel, a country the rest of the Arab world still refused to recognize.
On April 15, 1975, President Sadat appointed Mubarak to the vice presidency. Mubarak quickly proved himself a skillful negotiator, leading several diplomatic missions to Arab nations, Europe, and, most importantly, Israel. As Sadat became increasingly interested in personally negotiating with Israel in the late 1970s, Mubarak began to take more control over Egypt's internal affairs. Sadat authorized Mubarak to run weekly cabinet meetings as well as the country's intelligence services, oversee the development of Egypt's nuclear energy program, and to undertake other duties of the president's office. By 1978 Mubarak had also become the vice chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP), Egypt's largest and most powerful political party.
Elected to the presidency
On October 6, 1981, Mubarak stood by President Sadat's side at a celebration of the anniversary of Egypt's success in the Yom Kippur War. As military planes streaked through the sky overhead, a group of gunmen jumped from a truck parked in front of the presidential viewing stand. One tossed a grenade, and three others peppered the stand with bullets. President Sadat was killed, but Mubarak escaped the attack with only a wound to his hand. The attackers were Islamic fundamentalists, who wanted to topple the secular, or nonreligious, government of Egypt.
Hours after the attack, Mubarak announced the death of the president to the Egyptian public. Mubarak was Sadat's heir apparent. He had been nicknamed "Sadat's Sadat," a reference to his faithful service as vice president to Sadat, just as Sadat had been a faithful vice president to President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–1970; see entry). On October 7, 1981, the NDP elected Mubarak as its presidential candidate. On October 13, Mubarak won 98 percent of the vote and officially began his first six-year term as Egyptian president. He would win four subsequent elections to become Egypt's longest-serving leader since 1850. He is up for election again in 2005.
Democracy in Egypt
Though Egypt is described as a social democracy, the form of democracy used in Egypt is very different from that in the United States and other Western nations, such as Britain, France, and Canada. The country has a popularly elected legislature, more than a dozen political parties, and an independent judiciary. But the power of these institutions is minimal. Since 1981 President Mubarak has run the country under emergency rules. These rules allow the government to detain people in jail without trial for an indefinite period of time. Thousands of people remain in Egyptian jails under these rules. The president and the military have a great deal of authority to control the country.
Other aspects of Egyptian government limit citizens' rights to political participation. The Egyptian government limits freedom of the press; those who criticize the president may find themselves in jail. The government must also approve political parties. The National Democratic Party has held a vast majority of government seats throughout President Mubarak's leadership. Mubarak has run for office unopposed for each of his four terms in office. He is expected to run unopposed for his fifth term in 2005, though he may appoint a successor to run for the office. Though a democracy in name, in truth Egypt is run by a president with ultimate authority and little need to answer to his people.
Cracked down on religious fundamentalists
The religious fundamentalists who killed President Sadat were part of a section of Egyptian society that wanted Islamic rule for their country. Nearly 95 percent of the Egyptian population is Muslim, which means they practice the religion of Islam. Among the Muslim population were a number of religious fundamentalist groups who wished to overthrow the government. They wanted to bring the Egyptian government in line with Sharia, or Islamic holy law.
Throughout his presidency Mubarak has kept control through strict policies designed to curb violence instigated by Islamic fundamentalists. In his inaugural speech, Mubarak warned that "anyone who thinks he can mess about with the rights of the people, not one of them will escape ruthless measures," according to Time. Shortly after Sadat's death, Egypt imprisoned more than 2,500 religious fundamentalists suspected of working against the government. Mubarak's government has continued to view religious fundamentalists with suspicion over the years, and religious groups have been banned from forming political parties. However, some Islamic codes were written into Egyptian law and the president has praised Allah, Islam's name for God, in his speeches. In 1993 the Egyptian government hanged twenty-three religious militants for their participation in attacks on tourists. By 1999 more than twenty thousand people had been detained by the Egyptian government. Although attacks by religious groups had decreased by the early 2000s, Egypt continued to struggle against groups that would only accept Islam as the basis for their government.
Mubarak's hard line against religious opposition to his rule brought on more than six assassination attempts by fundamentalist groups. The closest call came in 1995, when the presidential motorcade was fired upon while making its way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a political summit meeting. The attempts on Mubarak's life are frightening to many Egyptians. Mubarak has never appointed a vice president or indicated anyone as his successor during his long reign. Egyptians and foreign observers have speculated that Mubarak's son Gamal, who became chairman of the National Democratic Party in 2000, will succeed his father, but Mubarak has denied grooming his son for the presidency.
Changed economy for the better
When Mubarak became president in 1981, Egypt was experiencing difficult times. The Egyptian economy was not performing well and unemployment was high. To make matters worse, Egypt's population, the largest among Arab nations, was growing at a quick pace, adding more than one million people a year to the struggling country. Mubarak focused on improving Egypt's infrastructure as a way to grow the economy. He introduced several plans to increase jobs, housing, and healthcare for his people. He secured foreign investments to develop affordable housing and health plans. At the same time, he encouraged birth control to slow population growth. Under Sadat's rule, many government-owned companies were sold to private investors, but many of the dealings were tainted with corruption, making a very few people very rich. As a symbol of his efforts to bridge the gap between Egypt's rich and poor, Mubarak also ordered the destruction of several luxurious retreats built during Sadat's years of extravagant spending.
Mubarak positioned himself as a good role model for his countrymen. He maintained a modest lifestyle, living quietly in a suburban two-story house with his wife and two sons. He worked hard, putting in nearly sixteen-hour days, and played hard too, participating in hard-fought squash games well into his sixties.
Over the years, Mubarak's efforts turned the Egyptian economy around. Under Mubarak, Egypt has become the recipient of the second largest sum of U.S. aid, after Israel; with this money, Egypt has been able to improve its roads, build schools, offer aid to farmers, and develop other social programs. Combined with foreign aid, Mubarak's government reforms have increased jobs, the number of privately owned businesses, and access to healthcare, and improved public services, especially access to clean drinking water and working sewers. While state-owned businesses once made up the majority of the economy, by the 1990s Mubarak had controlled corruption, increasing the number of privately owned businesses that made up about 70 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, the net income of the country's domestic companies.
Cold peace with Israel
Throughout Mubarak's presidency, he has maintained the peace with Israel that his predecessor worked so hard to establish. Although relations between Israel and Egypt have remained cool, both Egypt and Israel have respected the Camp David Peace Accord signed in 1979, which restricted warfare between the countries. The barriers to a complete easing of relations between Israel and Egypt come from continued disagreements between the two countries over Israel's path to peace with the Palestinians, those Arabs who had lived in the area now claimed by Israel. In 2000 Egypt withdrew its ambassador from Israel as a protest against Israeli policy toward Palestinians. But Mubarak worked hard to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestine. "It was Mubarak... who prodded Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat [1929–2004; see entry] to recognize Israel's right to exist," according to Business Week. Mubarak offered Egypt as host for important meetings between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the organization representing the Palestinian people, over the years. Mubarak also persuaded the United States to open communication channels with the PLO, which it had previously shunned, considering it a terrorist organization. Mubarak continued to encourage negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians after Arafat's death in 2004. The fruits of Mubarak's labors were slow to grow; by the early years of the twenty-first century, Egypt remained one of only two Arab nations formally at peace with Israel.
As Mubarak maintained Egypt's position of peace with Israel, he has also repaired Egypt's relations with other Arab nations. Sadat's negotiations with Israel in the late 1970s prompted nearly every Arab state to condemn Egypt's recognition of the Jewish state, and Egypt was ejected from the Arab League in 1979. The Arab League is an organization of Arab nations that strives to strengthen ties among its members, coordinate policies, and promote common interests. Trade between Egypt and other Arab nations was severely limited. Egypt went from being a leader among Arab nations to being an outcast.
Through careful negotiations, Mubarak secured a trade agreement with Jordan in 1983, and with many other Arab nations in 1987 after an Arab summit. Egypt was readmitted to the Arab League in 1989 and the League's headquarters returned to Cairo from Tunis, Tunisia. Since that time, Mubarak has steadily built Egypt's reputation as a leader of the Arab world, especially in negotiations with the West. Egypt's good relations with the United States have proved important in the country's standing among other Arab nations.
Since the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Arab nations have struggled to position themselves against spreading terrorism. Mubarak has been out-spoken about his desire for what he called "stability" in the Middle East, he told Newsweek. Egypt supported the United States' "War on Terror," but at the same time encouraged the United States to continue pursuing peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Mubarak felt that continued U.S. involvement in efforts for peace between Israelis and Palestinians would help reassure many Arabs who were concerned that the "War on Terror" would be targeted solely at Arabs. The United States' attempts to introduce democracy into Iraq after removing Saddam Hussein (1937–; see entry) from power have sparked debates among the Arab world, where democracy, if it exists, is quite unlike that in the United States. In a press conference on May 1, 2003, Mubarak announced that "forcing foreign standards on Iraq would not necessarily bring democracy and reform in the Arab and Islamic world or curb fanaticism."
As the elections of 2005 approached, the seventy-year-old Mubarak had yet to indicate whether or not he would seek another term in office. Although Mubarak suffered some health problems in 2004, he remained without an apparent successor as 2005 elections neared. Apparently his often repeated statement still stands: he has not yet found a suitable successor.
For More Information
Wakin, Edward. Contemporary Political Leaders of the Middle East. New York: Facts on File, 1996.
"Egypt's Cautious Man with a Mission." U.S. News and World Report (March 18, 1985): p. 15.
"Is Egypt on Way Back to Arab Leadership?" U.S. News and World Report (June 11, 1984): p. 43.
"'It Is Out of Control': Mubarak Comes to Washington Pleading for Bush to Get Involved in the Mideast." Newsweek (April 9, 2001): p. 35.
"Mubarak's Opening: Egypt after Controlled Elections." New Republic (July 2, 1984): p. 13.
Time (October 19, 1981). Available online in Newsmakers 1991 at http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (accessed on December 21, 2004).
"We'll Clap Our Hands." Newsweek (October 29, 2001): p. 52.
The Egyptian Presidency.http://www.presidency.gov.eg (accessed on July 7, 2005).
Hosni Mubarak (born 1928) led Egypt after the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. He continued the policy of peace with Israel and also won back diplomatic relations with Arab Sates that had cut themselves off from Egypt when Sadat decided to recognize Israel's right to exist.
Hosni Mubarak came from the same Nile delta province, Minufiya, as his predecessor and patron, Anwar Sadat. Mubarak's village of Kafr-El Moseilha had a reputation for stressing education and had produced four cabinet ministers. His father was a minor official in the Ministry of Justice. After primary schooling in his village and secondary studies in the near-by provincial capital of Shibin El-Kom, Mubarak attended Egypt's Military Academy and its Air Academy, graduating from the latter in 1950. He completed the military training in only two years, opting to continue studying instead of taking his summer leave. He became a pilot and spent part of his training in the then Soviet Union.
Mubarak spent the next 25 years in the Air Force. He taught at the Air Academy and commanded Egypt's bomber force in the Yemen civil war in the 1960s. He visited the Soviet Union on several occasions and spent a year at the Soviet's Frunze military academy. He spoke Russian and English in addition to Arabic.
President Gamal Abdel Nasser named Mubarak director of the Air Academy in 1967, giving him the crucial task of rebuilding the air force, which the Israelis had destroyed on the ground in the Six Day War of June 1967. Mubarak moved up to Air Force chief-of-staff in 1969, and in 1972 he became its commander-in-chief. He helped plan the successful surprise attack on the Israeli forces occupying the east bank of the Suez Canal on October 6, 1973, launching the Yom Kippur War.
President Sadat rewarded Mubarak's patient competence in 1975 by naming him vice president. Sadat disliked routine administration and enjoyed the international limelight, so Mubarak quietly took over the day-to-day running of the government. Mubarak presided over cabinet meetings, controlled the security apparatus, and became vice president of the ruling National Democratic party. Diplomatic assignments abroad gave him experience with foreign affairs. He was sent to Syria, Iraq, the United States, and China. His expertise was integral to the negotiations for the 1978 Camp David Accords which Egypt and Israel signed, ending decades of conflict.
Mubarak escaped with a minor hand wound when Islamic fundamentalists gunned down Sadat at a military review on October 6, 1981. Moving quickly to restore order and consolidate his position, Mubarak crushed an Islamic uprising in Asyut and jailed over 2,500 members of militant Islamic groups. He executed a handful, had others sentenced to prison terms, and gradually released the rest. He also released the more secular political figures whom Sadat had indiscriminately jailed in the September crackdown that helped provoke his assassination.
Mubarak only slightly modulated the main lines of Sadat's foreign and domestic policies. He kept the 1979 Camp David treaty with Israel and Sadat's close ties to the United States. Egypt regained the Sinai peninsula when the Israelis withdrew in 1982. Egypt remained cool to Israel, however, because of a minor border dispute, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and Israeli policies toward the Palestinians in the West Bank. In 1986, however, he agreed to return the Egyptian ambassador to Tel Aviv.
Throughout the 1980s Mubarak combated Egypt's most pressing problems, unemployment and a struggling economy. He increased the production of affordable housing, clothing, furniture, and medicine. He also kept a tight rein on his officials, firing ministers at the first hint of scandal and fining parliamentary legislators for unnecessary absences.
Egypt's heavy dependence on U.S. military and economic aid and her hopes for U.S. pressure on Israel for a Palestinian settlement continued under Mubarak. He carefully offered the Americans only military "facilities" and not bases, however, and quietly improved relations with the Soviet Union, whose ambassador returned to Cairo in 1984.
All the Arab states but three had broken relations with Egypt to protest the treaty with Israel. Without renouncing the treaty, Mubarak patiently rebuilt bridges to Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It was Mubarak who prodded Arafat to recognize Israel's right to exist and moderate his extremist stance.
Internally, the military, the swollen government bureaucracy, the consumer-oriented upper middle class, and the rural power structure were still the mainstays of Mubarak's regime. The scattered opposition included Muslim idealists who longed for a theocracy, Nasserists and leftist who looked back to the populist redistributive policies of the early 1960s, and the New Wafd rightists who wanted further economic and political liberalization. Egypt's Christians, the Copts, remained nervous about the political resurgence of Islam. Mubarak's National Democratic party won a comfortable majority in the May 1984 elections. He told U.S. News and World Report that in Egypt "no religious political parties are allowed, and I am not going to change the laws … I don't want headaches. I would like to build a country and not cause reasonable people to fight one another."
Sadat's "open-door" economic policies—which encouraged foreign and local private investment—continued, although Mubarak tried to shift the emphasis from imported luxuries to productive enterprises. Mubarak did not dare to discontinue the costly government subsidies which reduced the prices of basic foods to consumers.
Mubarak dismissed several cabinet ministers from the Sadat days for corruption, prosecuted Sadat's brother (who had amassed a fortune overnight), and sternly warned his own relatives to avoid such temptations. He razed the luxury weekend retreats on the pyramids' plateau at Giza. Like Nasser, but unlike Sadat, Mubarak followed local mores in separating his public from his private life. His wife Suzanne, who had a master's degree in sociology, did not try to play the highly visible "first lady" role which had attracted Westerners to Jihan Sadat but had offended many Egyptians. In 1987 Mubarak won election to a second six-year term.
Mubarak was shocked and angered over the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He thought the Gulf War could have been avoided, but placed that responsibility on Saddam Hussein. He felt that the Saudi Arabians were justified in inviting assistance from the West to protect their sovereignty. He sent 45,000 troops to the allied coalition, with the unanimous approval of the Egyptian people. After the war Mubarak's prompt actions and support boosted Egypt to the forefront in leading the Arab world.
In 1993 Mubarak was elected for a sixth term with 96.3 percent of the vote. Many felt that the vote reflected the Egyptian's approval and confidence in Mubarak's stand against Islamic fundamentalists. Plots to assassinate Mubarak had surfaced in 1992 and 1993 but had failed. In 1995 however after two policemen and assailants were killed in another attack against the president, Mubarak continued his hard-line stance against the extremists. Not only were they plotting to overthrow the government, but their actions had damaged Egypt's already unsteady economy. His crackdown brought his government accusations of torture, summary execution intimidation of the press, and other human-rights violations.
In 1997, Mubarak embarked on the New Valley Canal project which many called his "great pyramid" or lasting legacy to Egypt. In effect Mubarak planned to "make the desert bloom" by creating a new canal through one of the hottest and driest places on earth, turning arid desert into arable farm land.
No book-length biography of Mubarak in either Arabic or English has yet appeared. He refused to discuss his private life, so articles on him and interviews with him necessarily concentrate on his public policies. See, for example, J. G. Merriam, "Egypt under Mubarak," Current History, 82 (1983); William E. Farrell, "Mubarak's Time of Testing," New York Times Magazine, 131 (January 31, 1982); and Hamied Ansari, "Mubarak's Egypt," Current History, 84 (1985). Also, U.S. News and World Report, May 19, 1997; April 10, 1989; April 16, 1990, Barrons, Jan 21, 1991, Facts on File, Oct 10, 1993; June 29, 1995, and Time, October 19, 1981; Sept 10, 1990; February 25, 1991; July 10 1995. □
Born: May 4, 1928
Kafr-El Meselha, Egypt
Hosni Mubarak became president of Egypt after the assassination (political murder) of Anwar Sadat (1918–1981). He continued his country's peace with Israel, made efforts to bring peace to the entire Middle East, and cracked down on Islamic groups that participated in terrorist activities.
Hosni Mubarak was born on May 4, 1928 in the Nile delta province of Minufiya. He had four siblings and his father was a minor official in the Ministry of Justice. Mubarak's village of Kafr-El Meselha was known for its schools and had produced four cabinet ministers. Mubarak did well in school and completed primary schooling in his village and secondary studies in the nearby capital of Shibin El-Kom, Egypt, before going on to Egypt's Military Academy and then its Air Academy. He graduated from the Air Academy in 1950, completing his studies in only two years by attending year-round. He became a pilot and received part of his training in the former Soviet Union.
Mubarak was an instructor at the Air Academy and commanded Egypt's bomber force in the Yemen civil war in the 1960s. He was named director of the Air Academy in 1967 and given the important task of rebuilding the air force, which the Israelis had destroyed in the Six Day War of June 1967. Mubarak moved up to air force chief of staff in 1969 and commander in chief in 1972. He helped plan a successful surprise attack on Israeli forces occupying the east bank of the Suez Canal in October 1973, launching the Yom Kippur War.
President Sadat named Mubarak vice president in 1975. Sadat preferred the international spotlight to administrative work, so Mubarak took over the day-to-day running of the government, leading cabinet meetings and handling security details. He gained foreign affairs experience with many trips to other countries, including Syria, Iraq, the United States, and China. His experience was important in the talks leading to the 1978 Camp David Accords, agreements signed by Egypt and Israel that ended years of conflict.
Takes over as president
Mubarak escaped with a minor hand wound when Islamic fundamentalists (those who interpret their religious beliefs as law) assassinated Sadat in October 1981. Taking over as president, he moved quickly to crush an Islamic uprising and jailed over two-thousand five-hundred members of militant (engaging in violence) Islamic groups. Mubarak kept most of Sadat's foreign and domestic policies, including the Camp David treaty and Sadat's close ties to the United States. All the Arab states but three had criticized Egypt for the treaty with Israel, so Mubarak tried to rebuild relations with Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat (1929–). It was Mubarak who encouraged Arafat to compromise and recognize Israel's right to exist.
Throughout the 1980s Mubarak increased the production of affordable housing, clothing, furniture, and medicine. He also kept a close eye on his officials, firing ministers at the first hint of wrongdoing and fining members of parliament for unnecessary absences. Egypt's heavy dependence on U.S. aid and her hopes for U.S. pressure on Israel for a Palestinian settlement continued under Mubarak. He also quietly improved relations with the former Soviet Union. In 1987 Mubarak won election to a second six-year term.
More Middle East conflict
Mubarak was angered over the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and he sent forty-five thousand troops to help fight back against the Iraqis. In 1993 he was reelected with 96.3 percent of the vote, a sign of the Egyptian people's approval of his stand against Islamic fundamentalists. Plots to assassinate Mubarak had surfaced in 1992, 1993, and 1995, after two policemen were killed in another attack against the president. But Mubarak continued his tough stance. His crackdown led to charges against his government of torture, threats to the press, and other human rights abuses.
In September 1999 Egyptian voters elected Mubarak to a fourth six-year term in office. In 2000 he became the first Egyptian head of state to visit Lebanon since 1952. He also continued his efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, meeting with Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1942–), and U.S. President Bill Clinton (1946–). During these meetings he urged the foreign leaders to end the violence for the benefit of the entire region. In October 2001 Mubarak ordered hundreds of Islamic militants to stand trial in Egyptian courts for participating in terrorist activities.
For More Information
Cox, Vicki. Hosni Mubarak. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.
Solecki, John. Hosni Mubarak. New York: Chelsea House, 1991.