Monday, June 16, 2008

Mohammad Naguib & 1984

George Orwell completed writing his most famous and influential novel, 1984, in 1948. Yet, I did not read the book, until the early nineties. Orwell highlighted the main responsibilities of the Ministry of Truth, where Winston Smith, the protagonist works. They are the continual rewriting and altering of history, destroying evidence, amending newspaper articles, deleting the existence of people identified as unpersons, so that the existing government would always look perfect.

Reading 1984 reminded me of my first realization of the presence of what could only be described as Nasser's own Ministry of Truth in the late sixties. One day, while discussing what I learned in the social studies class with my dad, he got really upset (at the time I thought with me) when I told him that Gamal Abdel Nasser was the first president of the United Arab Republic (aka Egypt).

I was truly shocked to learn that for almost two year, Egypt was ruled by someone by the name of Mohammad Naguib. I wondered how could the smart and knowledgeable people who wrote my school history books could make such a mistake? I had no reason to suspect that this omission was intentional. When I look back at this incident, and in spite of the negative effect of such a shock on an innocent, naive, and angelic young girl (if you remember me as being a little devil, then please, balash fadaye7), I have to admit that I learned several useful lessons:
  • Never blindly trust any piece of information that crosses my way, no matter how trust worthy the source might seam to be at the time.
  • Never mix politics and the emotions of love or hate.
  • No one, especially politicians, is perfect.
The next time I heard of Naguib was in 1972 when he was released by Anwar Saddat after the 18 years of house arrest imposed on him by Nasser. Sometimes I wonder, what could Egypt be like today, if the democratic wing of the revolution lead by Naguib and Khalid Mohieddin had prevailed? The answer is similar to that of all the hypothetical questions in history:
We will never know.

For more about Naguib click here.


Valeria Vernon said...

I remember Mohammad Naguib. (I am Italian but I was born in Egypt). The revolution broke on July 23rd 1952 in Cairo(and on July 26th in Alexandria when king Farouk and his family left Alexandria on the royal yacht, the Mahrousssa). I was only ten then, but I remember everything because a few months earlier there had been an attempt of revolution by the Muslim Brothers in Cairo (I think it was January 26th) and I was so impressed that I started reading the newspapers (Le Journal d'Egypte and Le Progrès). Today I came across a sort of "what happened today some years ago" by Enciclopeadia Britannica and found a para on the Egyptian Revolution. There was no mention of Mohammad Naguib even in the main EB site, so, now that I've finished work, I Googled the name and found your site. I remember Mohammad Naguib because I saw him on a jeep in Rue Sherif, Alexandria. He had a very reassuring smile. I also saw Nasser some years later in Cairo, it was early in the morning and he was going to the Cairo Radio for a speech.

nahoul said...

Hello Valeria,

Thank you for your comment. It is great to hear your memories of my beloved Alexandria.