In the Summer of 1952, Egypt’s king Farouk was deposed and exiled from Egypt by the country’s army¸ the same army that has been in control of the country ever since. Not only did most of the population want him gone, but many political officials wanted him gone as well. People in Egypt crowded the docks in Alexandria to witness that moment in history, hoping for change and a restored government. Unfortunately, not much changed for the people and national debt, corruption, and political freedoms all worsened after king Farouk’s exile.
King Farouk was born on the 11th of February 1920 and as a young teen, he went to school in England but when his father, King Fuad I died from a heart attack on April 29th, 1936, he was sent back to Egypt and was crowned king at the tender age of 16. At first, he was extremely popular with the Egyptian people but quickly became very adapted to the luxuries of being a king. Amassing hundreds of cars, planes, yachts, and many palaces, he became more of a playboy rather than a king. Sir Miles Lampson, the British high commissioner, described him in a report to the Foreign Office in 1937 as ‘uneducated, lazy, untruthful, capricious, irresponsible and vain, though with a quick superficial intelligence and charm of manner’.
By July of 1952, king Farouk was very unpopular with the Egyptian people mainly because of his failure to take the British out of Egypt completely and his failure during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. In the early morning of July 22nd of that year, troops under Mohamed Naguib and Gamal Abdel-Nasser (both generals who later became president) and other free officers stormed the royal palace in Alexandria and within the week, king Farouk was on a boat headed to Europe where he lived out the rest of his life in exile. Less than a year later, Egypt was declared a republic, ending a 150-year monarchy and ever since then, Egypt had six presidents, five of whom were from the army, and of those five, four of them ruled the country for longer than a decade each.
Even after king Farouk was exiled and the army took command of Egypt, corruption, persecution of other political parties, and poverty were still rampant. The army leaders in Egypt ruled the country while still doing some of the things that king Farouk did that got him exiled. During World War II, king Farouk continued his lavish lifestyle and refused to comply with British measures during the war. He still kept tight relations with the Italians which forced the British to assert their dominance over the country by sending in troops to his palace and making sure that they had political dominance in the country during that time. King Farouk tried appeasing both axis and allied powers and stay neutral but capitulated under British pressure to follow their measures. It weakened the country’s image and made king Farouk look weak on a world stage. But, after his rule, President Anwar Sadat, did a similar thing with the USSR and the United States during the cold war but had to choose sides with the Americans under pressure during the Egyptian-Israeli conflict. Like Cuba in 1959, Egypt transferred loyalty from one superpower to another in the midst of the Cold War conflict, and, gradually, the US replaced the Soviets as Egypt’s main military supplier. Even though the Soviet Union supplied Egypt with weapons, helped finance the construction of the Aswan dam, the Egyptian president transferred loyalties to the United States, believing that the Soviets would fail at making peace in the Middle East.
Another great reason why king Farouk was overthrown was because of the conflict with Israel. When Israel defeated the Arabs in 1948, they became a country. Many of Egypt’s citizens and government officials, blamed this massive defeat on king Farouk, who supported although Palestine all the way, was getting all the blame. He had created the Arab-League, am organization which aimed to develop the economy, coordinate political goals, and resolve political disputes. Its greatest target was to combat Israel and isolate them as much as possible. It was working with Egypt remaining a leader in the organization for many years up until President Gamal Abdel-Nasser and other Arab leaders were stunned during the six-day war with Israel. The Egyptian military was crippled and had the country lost the entire Sinai region. It wasn’t until President Sadat launched an attack in 1973 that Egypt tried but failed to defeat Israel again. President Sadat then signed an extremely controversial peace treaty with Israel and threw the entire Arab-world in shock, anger, and president Sadat was seen as a traitor. His actions caused other Arab countries to isolate Egypt and suspend them from the league and moving the headquarters away from Cairo. Throughout the conflicts with Israel, both Nasser and Sadat failed to assert any victories and Egypt’s image was shattered after the Camp David Accords were signed.
Furthermore, when it comes to the Brotherhood in Egypt, they supported the overthrow of king Farouk because of his ties with the British and wanted Egypt to be and independent Islamic country. They supported the overthrow of the king and distanced king Farouk from the Egyptian people, labeling him as a puppet to the British. The brotherhood was consequently banned, and 32 members were imprisoned. Afterwards, under president Nasser, major crackdowns happened against the Brotherhood with thousands of their members were imprisoned and tortured because of accusations that they attempted to assassinate president Nasser. Once Sadat became president, they were gradually released from jails and were sometimes recruited to assist in government positions. After the Camo David Accords, they became enemies of president Sadat and assassinated him which caused for their imprisonment once more. Under the subsequent president Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood weren’t much of an enemy and even help parliament positions in the country. But, after the revolution in which president Mubarak stepped down, the Brotherhood emerged as the most powerful political group in Egypt with their leader, Mohamed Morsi, rising to power and becoming Egypt’s only democratically elected president in the country’s history only to be toppled by the army shortly after. His presidency was short lived and lasted only about a year when general Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi led a coup to become president himself and is the current ruler. He outlawed the Brotherhood, jailed hundreds of leaders including president Morsi, massacred hundreds of their supporters in a sit-in while injuring thousands more, and sentenced thousands of brotherhood members to death since he took office in 2014. Like president Mubarak, president Sisi jailed most of the candidates that try to run for president.
To sum it all up, Muslim Brotherhood and many groups like it, have been banned and jailed during every president’s ear but during King Farouk’s era, they thrived in the beginning but still saw sort of backlash. Their trials and tribulations reflect on how the army in Egypt manages to stay in control with very little opposition ever since King Farouk was exiled. Even though history proves that countries ran by the military always fails, corruption in Egypt keeps the military above the law, and allows for the cycle to continue. Basically, just like how military-ran countries justify their rule by claiming to protect their country from ideologies such as communism or socialism, the Egyptian army is using the Brotherhood and protection from terrorism as their reason to rule and to keep political stability. Along with Thailand and the Ukraine, Egypt and those two countries are the only current governments in the world that have a military dictatorship. After the Egyptians threw the British out of Egypt, President Nasser and Sadat were able to maintain their power for over a decade each by spreading nationalism throughout the people and throughout the government.
Furthermore, corruption didn’t ease up after king Farouk’s removal. In Egypt, corruption is at an all-time high and this is due to the distribution of wealth in the country. According to tradingeconomics.com, Egypt ranks 58th most corrupt country out of 175 other nations. Corruption was at its worst in Mubarak’s later years as corruption in Egypt fell significantly under president Morsi and climbed back up in 2017. President Mubarak was heavily criticized for his corruption and it was one of the main things that brought him down, similar to king Farouk. In both cases, people were struggling while the leaders in Egypt lived lavishly. According to Forbes.com, Mubarak had amassed a wealth of over $70 Dollars in cash, gold, and other state-owned valuables by the time he was removed from power through. Like Mubarak, Farouk also made his fortunes through the country’s wealth and had hundreds of cars, along with numerous palaces, yachts, and priceless jewelry.
In terms of the economy, Egypt’s natural resources, oil fields, and especially, the Suez Canal, bolstered Egypt’s economy leading into WWII. By the end of the war, Britain had owed Egypt money and was in debt. On May 16, 1945, an article by The Canberra Times wrote about the debt headlining as “Britain’s Debt to Egypt”, stating “According to the Finance Minister (Makran Pasha), Britain owes Egypt between £300 and £360 million. He said that an agreement had been reached on a settlement of the debt, but he suggested that Britain might repay in machinery and finished products”. King Farouk had also laid out the foundation for modern Egypt’s economy and industrialized the economy, his economic plan was later used by the army after they exiled him. Also, in king Farouk’s era, the Egyptian Pound (EGP) was using the gold standard but after WWII and the decline of cotton prices, Egypt entered a time of economic crisis in 1952, another reason why king Farouk was removed.
To add on to that, Egypt’s economy never flourished into something that can match western economies and relied on aid ever since the country became a republic. On the other hand, poverty rates were gradually growing and began to grow much more rapidly in the 21st century until now as it reached all-time highs in 2017. Corruption and wealth distribution have been key factors in the reason why 21st century Egypt has an economy in free-fall. But before that, Egypt’s economy was improving in the early 1990’s in president Mubarak’s early days, reforming the economy and opening up new trade. Throughout both eras, Egypt’s economy suffered many times, more times that it succeeded.
King Farouk’s era will always remain a very interesting time in Egypt’s vast history because at that time, Egypt was always regarded as a place of mystery to the outside world. When president Naguib and president Nasser ruled, it was seen as a period of nationalism and pride in the mid-20th century. In president Nasser’s book, Egypt’s Liberation: The Philosophy of the Revolution, he talks about the last days of the monarchy feeling that it was time for Egypt to take a new path saying, “Before July 23rd, I had imagined that the whole nation was ready and prepared, waiting for nothing but a vanguard to lead the charge against the battlements, whereupon it would fall in behind in serried (crowded) ranks, ready for the sacred advance towards the great objective.”.
In the time of president Sadat, he sought to chart a new political and economic path, including the daring October 1973 war, liberalization of Egypt’s political economy, the January 1977 food riots, and peace with Israel. During president Mubarak’s time Egypt entered into a more modern era. It wasn’t until the historic revolution in 2011 that the people in Egypt had enough of the army’s government rule and wanted change. President Sisi, the current president, took control of Egypt in another historic coup which saw Egypt’s only non-army president removed. To sum it all up, Egypt’s unique history, governments, and people are what make up the country today. King Farouk will always be remembered in history as the last king to rule over that region, ending over 2000 years of Egypt being ruled over by various empires, kingdoms, and rulers, but never as a republic.