Hosni Mubarak death: Former Egyptian president ousted in Arab Spring dies, aged 91

He ruled the country during an era of prosperity and corruption that lasted 30 years

Borzou Daragahi
International Correspondent
Tuesday 25 February 2020 11:59
Hosni Mubarak death: Former Egyptian president ousted in Arab Spring dies, aged 91

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who reigned over Egypt for 30 years before he was ousted in the Arab Spring uprisings, died on Tuesday, state television reported.

He had been taken to an intensive care unit the day before, according to reports, following complications from a previous surgery. He was 91.

Mubarak, who served as president from 1981 to 2011, played a major role in Egypt’s recent history, ushering in an era of relative prosperity and close political and military relations with the United States, but also a time of corruption and economic polarisation.

He took over following the assassination of Anwar Sadat at the hands of violent Islamist extremists, having previously commanded the air force during the October 1973 war with Israel. His efforts in this battle meant many Egyptians saw him as a heroic figure, particularly after a humiliating 1967 loss to Israel.

Last year, he spoke about the October War in a video interview that was his first in years.

“The first airstrike was launched in the first few minutes of the war and it hit the intended targets,” he said. “When the planes came back, I called the president in the main operations room to tell him the mission was a success and the losses were minimal.”

He entered politics as a leading member of Egypt’s dominant National Democratic Party, using his stature as a war hero to consolidate his rule over 30 years.

His reign became one characterised by uneven and even frenetic economic growth that enriched some, including his own family members, but kept millions of Egyptians mired in poverty. Educational and health infrastructure lagged while state enterprises were ignored in favour of the rising private sector.

Mubarak also became adept at using the secret police to hunt down and suppress dissidents, including Islamists and leftists. Elections were a sham, with police sometimes physically blocking voters in opposition districts from reaching the polls.

Despite the political repression under his rule, he was considered far more tolerant than Egypt’s current ruler, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, and allowed opposition political parties and news outlets.

Scattered protests against Mubarak gelled into a movement in 2005, fuelled by rising discontent among labour activists and civil society figures who declared “kafia”, or enough, which became a slogan of a reform movement.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (left) visiting the pyramids in Giza with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak, in 2002 (AFP/Getty)

He was toppled in a popular uprising during the 2011 wave of protests across the Middle East and North Africa.

Jailed on corruption and human rights charges, he was convicted but later acquitted.

Since his 2017 release from prison, he has led a fairly quiet life with his wife, Suzanne, and their two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who were both convicted on corruption charges but released after four years in prison.

Egyptian media reported that Mubarak would receive a full military funeral, a decision that could prove controversial among the millions who consider him a criminal.

“The presidency mourns with deep sorrow the death of former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak,” the spokesperson for Mr Sisi wrote on Facebook. “The deceased was the commander of the Air Force during the October War, which restored the dignity of the Arab nation.”

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