In his eleven years as president, he changed Egypt
's trajectory, departing from many of the political and economic tenets of Nasserism
, re-instituting a multi-party system
, and launching the Infitah
economic policy. As President, he led Egypt in the Yom Kippur War
of 1973 to regain Egypt's Sinai Peninsula
, which Israel
had occupied since the Six-Day War
of 1967, making him a hero in Egypt and, for a time, the wider Arab World
. Afterwards, he engaged in negotiations with Israel
, culminating in the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty
; this won him and Menachem Begin the Nobel Peace Prize, making Sadat the first Muslim
Nobel laureate. Although reaction to the treaty—which resulted in the return of Sinai to Egypt—was generally favorable among Egyptians,
it was rejected by the country's Muslim Brotherhood
and the left, which felt Sadat had abandoned efforts to ensure a Palestinian
With the exception of Sudan, the Arab world and the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO) strongly opposed Sadat's efforts to make a separate peace with Israel without prior consultations with the Arab states.
His refusal to reconcile with them over the Palestinian issue resulted in Egypt being suspended from the Arab League
from 1979 to 1989.
The peace treaty was also one of the primary factors that led to his assassination
; on 6 October 1981, militants led by Khalid Islambouli
opened fire on Sadat with automatic rifles during the 6 October
parade in Cairo, killing him.
Early life and revolutionary activities
Sadat graduating from the military college in 1938
Anwar Sadat was born on 25 December 1918 in Mit Abu El Kom
, Egypt to a poor family, one of 13 brothers and sisters.
One of his brothers, Atef Sadat
, later became a pilot and was killed in action during the October War
His father, Anwar Mohammed El Sadat was an Upper Egyptian, and his mother, Sit Al-Berain, was Sudanese
from her father.
Sadat in 1953
He graduated from the Royal Military Academy
and was appointed to the Signal Corps. He entered the army as a second lieutenant and was posted to Sudan (Egypt and Sudan were one country at the time). There, he met Gamal Abdel Nasser
, and along with several other junior officers they formed the secret Free Officers
a movement committed to freeing Egypt and Sudan from British domination, and royal corruption.
During the Second World War
he was imprisoned by the British for his efforts to obtain help
from the Axis Powers
in expelling the occupying British forces. Anwar Sadat was active in many political movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the fascist Young Egypt
, the pro-palace Iron Guard of Egypt
, and the secret military group called the Free Officers.
Along with his fellow Free Officers, Sadat participated in the military coup that launched the Egyptian Revolution of 1952
, which overthrew King Farouk
on 23 July of that year. Sadat was assigned to announce the news of the revolution to the Egyptian people over the radio networks.
During Nasser's presidency
During the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sadat was appointed minister of State in 1954. He was also appointed editor of the newly founded daily Al Gomhuria
In 1959, he assumed the position of Secretary to the National Union. Sadat was the President of the National Assembly
(1960–1968) and then vice president
and member of the presidential council in 1964. He was reappointed as vice president again in December 1969.
Some of the major events of Sadat's presidency were his "Corrective Revolution" to consolidate power, the break with Egypt's long-time ally and aid-giver the USSR
, the 1973 October War
with Israel, the Camp David peace treaty
with Israel, the "opening up" (or Infitah
) of Egypt's economy, and lastly his assassination in 1981.
1972 Echo newsreel
about the early Sadat years
Sadat succeeded Nasser as president after the latter's death in October 1970.
Sadat's presidency was widely expected to be short-lived.
Viewing him as having been little more than a puppet of the former president, Nasser's supporters in government settled on Sadat as someone they could manipulate easily. Sadat surprised everyone with a series of astute political moves by which he was able to retain the presidency and emerge as a leader in his own right.
On 15 May 1971,
Sadat announced his Corrective Revolution
, purging the government, political and security establishments of the most ardent Nasserists
. Sadat encouraged the emergence of an Islamist movement, which had been suppressed by Nasser. Believing Islamists to be socially conservative he gave them "considerable cultural and ideological autonomy" in exchange for political support.
In 1971, three years into the War of Attrition
in the Suez Canal zone, Sadat endorsed in a letter the peace proposals of UN negotiator Gunnar Jarring
, which seemed to lead to a full peace with Israel
on the basis of Israel's withdrawal to its pre-war borders. This peace initiative failed as neither Israel nor the United States of America accepted the terms as discussed then.
Shortly after taking office, Sadat shocked many Egyptians by dismissing and imprisoning two of the most powerful figures in the regime, Vice President Ali Sabri
, who had close ties with Soviet officials, and Sharawy Gomaa, the Interior Minister, who controlled the secret police.
Sadat's rising popularity would accelerate after he cut back the powers of the hated secret police,
expelled Soviet military from the country
and reformed the Egyptian army for a renewed confrontation with Israel.
Yom Kippur War
On 6 October 1973, in conjunction with Hafez al-Assad
, Sadat launched the October War
, also known as the Yom Kippur War (and less commonly as the Ramadan War), a surprise attack against the Israeli forces occupying the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula
and the Syrian Golan Heights
in an attempt to retake these respective Egyptian and Syrian territories that had been occupied by Israel since the Six Day War six years earlier. The Egyptian and Syrian performance in the initial stages of the war astonished both Israel, and the Arab World. The most striking achievement (Operation Badr
, also known as The Crossing) was the Egyptian military's advance approximately 15 km into the occupied Sinai Peninsula after penetrating and largely destroying the Bar Lev Line
. This line was popularly thought to have been an impregnable defensive chain.
As the war progressed, three divisions of the Israeli army led by General Ariel Sharon
had crossed the Suez Canal
, trying to encircle first the Egyptian Second Army. Although this failed, prompted by an agreement between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, the United Nations Security Council
passed Resolution 338
on 22 October 1973, calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Although agreed upon, the ceasefire was immediately broken.Alexei Kosygin
, the Chairman
of the USSR Council of Ministers
, cancelled an official meeting with Danish Prime Minister Anker Jørgensen
to travel to Egypt where he tried to persuade Sadat to sign a peace treaty. During Kosygin's two-day long stay it is unknown if he and Sadat ever met in person.
The Israeli military then continued their drive to encircle the Egyptian army. The encirclement was completed on 24 October, three days after the ceasefire was broken. This development prompted superpower tension, but a second ceasefire was imposed cooperatively on 25 October to end the war. At the conclusion of hostilities, Israeli forces were 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Damascus
and 101 kilometres (63 mi) from Cairo
Peace with Israel
The initial Egyptian and Syrian victories in the war restored popular morale throughout Egypt and the Arab World and, for many years after, Sadat was known as the "Hero of the Crossing". Israel recognized Egypt as a formidable foe, and Egypt's renewed political significance eventually led to regaining and reopening the Suez Canal
through the peace process. His new peace policy led to the conclusion of two agreements on disengagement of forces with the Israeli government. The first of these agreements was signed on 18 January 1974, and the second on 4 September 1975.
One major aspect of Sadat's peace policy was to gain some religious support for his efforts. Already during his visit to the US in October–November 1975, he invited Evangelical pastor Billy Graham
for an official visit, which was held a few days after Sadat's visit.
In addition to cultivating relations with Evangelical Christians in the US, he also built some cooperation with the Vatican. On 8 April 1976, he visited the Vatican for the first time, and got a message of support from Pope Paul VI
regarding achieving peace with Israel, to include a just solution to the Palestinian issue
Sadat, on his part, extended to the Pope a public invitation to visit Cairo.[failed verification]
Sadat also used the media to promote his purposes. In an interview he gave to the Lebanese paper El Hawadeth
in early February 1976, he claimed he had secret commitment from the US government to put pressure on the Israeli government for a major withdrawal in Sinai and the Golan Heights.
This statement caused some concern to the Israeli government, but Kissinger denied such a promise was ever made.
In January 1977, a series of 'Bread Riots'
protested Sadat's economic liberalization and specifically a government decree lifting price controls
on basic necessities like bread. The riots lasted for two days and included hundreds of thousands in Cairo. 120 buses and hundreds of buildings were destroyed in Cairo alone.
The riots ended with the deployment of the army and the re-institution of the subsidies/price controls.
During this time, Sadat was also taking a new approach towards improving relations with the West.
The United States and the Soviet Union agreed on 1 October 1977, on principles to govern a Geneva conference on the Middle East.
Syria continued to resist such a conference.
Not wanting either Syria or the Soviet Union to influence the peace process, Sadat decided to take more progressive stance towards building a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel.
On 19 November 1977, Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel officially when he met with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin
, and spoke before the Knesset
about his views on how to achieve a comprehensive peace to the Arab–Israeli conflict
, which included the full implementation of UN Resolutions 242
. He said during his visit that he hopes "that we can keep the momentum in Geneva, and may God guide the steps of Premier Begin and Knesset, because there is a great need for hard and drastic decision".
Sadat (left) shaking hands with Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman
President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin
acknowledge applause during joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., during which President Jimmy Carter
announced the results of the Camp David Accords, 18 September 1978
The Peace treaty was finally signed by Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in Washington, D.C., United States, on 26 March 1979, following the Camp David Accords (1978)
, a series of meetings between Egypt and Israel facilitated by US President Jimmy Carter
. Both Sadat and Begin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
for creating the treaty. In his acceptance speech, Sadat referred to the long-awaited peace desired by both Arabs and Israelis:
Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of equity and truth. And it is this call, which reflected the will of the Egyptian people, of the great majority of the Arab and Israeli peoples, and indeed of millions of men, women, and children around the world that you are today honoring. And these hundreds of millions will judge to what extent every responsible leader in the Middle East has responded to the hopes of mankind.
The main features of the agreement were the mutual recognition of each country by the other, the cessation of the state of war that had existed since the 1948 Arab–Israeli War
, and the complete withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the rest of the Sinai Peninsula
, which Israel had captured during the 1967 Six-Day War
The agreement also provided for the free passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal
and recognition of the Strait of Tiran
and the Gulf of Aqaba
as international waterways. The agreement notably made Egypt the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel. The peace agreement between Egypt and Israel has remained in effect since the treaty was signed.
The treaty was extremely unpopular in most of the Arab World and the wider Muslim World.
His predecessor Nasser had made Egypt an icon of Arab nationalism, an ideology that appeared to be sidelined by an Egyptian orientation following the 1973 war (see Egypt
). The neighboring Arab countries believed that in signing the accords, Sadat had put Egypt's interests ahead of Arab unity, betraying Nasser's pan-Arabism
, and destroyed the vision of a united "Arab front" for the support of the Palestinians against the "Zionist Entity". However, Sadat decided early on that peace was the solution.
Sadat's shift towards a strategic relationship with the US was also seen as a betrayal by many Arabs. In the United States his peace moves gained him popularity among some Evangelical
circles. He was awarded the Prince of Peace Award by Pat Robertson
In 1979, the Arab League
suspended Egypt in the wake of the Egyptian–Israel peace agreement, and the League moved its headquarters from Cairo
. Arab League member states believed in the elimination of the "Zionist Entity" and Israel at that time. It was not until 1989 that the League re-admitted Egypt as a member, and returned its headquarters to Cairo. As part of the peace deal, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula
in phases, completing its withdrawal from the entire territory except the town of Taba by 25 April 1982 (withdrawal from which did not occur until 1989).
The improved relations Egypt gained with the West through the Camp David Accords soon gave the country resilient economic growth.
By 1980, however, Egypt's strained relations with the Arab World would result in a period of rapid inflation.
Relationship with Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran
The relationship between Iran and Egypt had fallen into open hostility during Gamal Abdel Nasser
's presidency. Following his death in 1970, President Sadat turned this around quickly into an open and close friendship.
Overnight, the Egyptian and Iranian governments were turned from bitter enemies into fast friends. The relationship between Cairo
became so friendly that the Shah
of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
, called Sadat his "dear brother".
After the 1973 war with Israel, Iran assumed a leading role in cleaning up and reactivating the blocked Suez Canal
with heavy investment. The country also facilitated the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Sinai Peninsula
by promising to substitute the loss of the oil to the Israelis with free Iranian oil if they withdrew from the Egyptian oil wells in western Sinai.
All these added more to the personal friendship between Sadat and the Shah of Iran. (The Shah's first wife was Princess Fawzia of Egypt
. She was the eldest daughter of Sultan Fuad I of Egypt and Sudan (later King Fuad I
) and his second wife Nazli Sabri.)
The last months of Sadat's presidency were marked by internal uprising.
Sadat dismissed allegations that the rioting was incited by domestic issues, believing that the Soviet Union was recruiting its regional allies in Libya and Syria to incite an uprising that would eventually force him out of power.
Following a failed military coup in June 1981, Sadat ordered a major crackdown that resulted in the arrest of numerous opposition figures.
Although Sadat still maintained high levels of popularity in Egypt,
it has been said that he was assassinated "at the peak" of his unpopularity.
Earlier in his presidency, Islamists
had benefited from the 'rectification revolution' and the release from prison of activists jailed under Nasser.
But Sadat's Sinai treaty with Israel enraged Islamists, particularly the radical Egyptian Islamic Jihad
. According to interviews and information gathered by journalist Lawrence Wright
, the group was recruiting military officers and accumulating weapons, waiting for the right moment to launch "a complete overthrow of the existing order" in Egypt. Chief strategist of El-Jihad was Abbud al-Zumar
, a colonel in the military intelligence whose "plan was to kill the main leaders of the country, capture the headquarters of the army and State Security, the telephone exchange building, and of course the radio and television building, where news of the Islamic revolution would then be broadcast, unleashing—he expected—a popular uprising against secular authority all over the country".
In February 1981, Egyptian authorities were alerted to El-Jihad's plan by the arrest of an operative carrying crucial information. In September, Sadat ordered a highly unpopular roundup of more than 1,500 people, including many Jihad members, but also the Coptic Pope
and other Coptic clergy, intellectuals and activists of all ideological stripes.
All non-government press was banned as well.
The round up missed a Jihad cell in the military led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli
, who would succeed in assassinating Anwar Sadat that October.
According to Tala'at Qasim
, ex-head of the Gama'a Islamiyya
interviewed in Middle East Report
, it was not Islamic Jihad but his organization, known in English as the "Islamic Group", that organized the assassination and recruited the assassin (Islambouli). Members of the Group's 'Majlis el-Shura' ('Consultative Council') – headed by the famed 'blind shaykh' – were arrested two weeks before the killing, but they did not disclose the existing plans and Islambouli succeeded in assassinating Sadat.
On 6 October 1981, Sadat was assassinated during the annual victory parade held in Cairo to celebrate Egypt's crossing of the Suez Canal
Islambouli emptied his assault rifle into Sadat's body while in the front of the grandstand, mortally wounding the President. In addition to Sadat, eleven others were killed, including the Cuban
ambassador, an Omani
general, a Coptic Orthodox
bishop and Samir Helmy, the head of Egypt's Central Auditing Agency
Twenty-eight were wounded, including Vice President Hosni Mubarak
, Irish Defence MinisterJames Tully
, and four US military liaison officers.
The assassination squad was led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli
after a fatwā
approving the assassination had been obtained from Omar Abdel-Rahman
Islambouli was tried, found guilty, sentenced to death, and executed by firing squad in April 1982.
Sadat was succeeded by his vice president Hosni Mubarak, whose hand was injured during the attack. Sadat's funeral was attended by a record number of dignitaries from around the world, including a rare simultaneous attendance by three former US presidents: Gerald Ford
, Jimmy Carter
and Richard Nixon
's President Gaafar Nimeiry
was the only Arab head of state to attend the funeral. Only 3 of 24 states in the Arab League
—Oman, Somalia and Sudan—sent representatives at all.
Israel's prime minister, Menachem Begin
, considered Sadat a personal friend and insisted on attending the funeral, walking throughout the funeral procession so as not to desecrate the Sabbath.
Sadat was buried in the unknown soldier memorial in Cairo
, across the street from the stand where he was assassinated.
Over three hundred Islamic radicals were indicted in the trial of assassin Khalid Islambouli, including future al-Qaeda
leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
, Omar Abdel-Rahman
, and Abd al-Hamid Kishk
. The trial was covered by the international press and Zawahiri's knowledge of English made him the de facto spokesman for the defendants. Zawahiri was released from prison in 1984. Abboud al-Zomor
and Tareq al-Zomor, two Islamic Jihad
leaders imprisoned in connection with the assassination, were released on 11 March 2011.
Despite these facts, the nephew of the late president, Talaat Sadat
, claimed that the assassination was an international conspiracy. On 31 October 2006, he was sentenced to a year in prison for defaming
Egypt's armed forces, less than a month after he gave the interview accusing Egyptian generals of masterminding his uncle's assassination. In an interview with a Saudi television channel, he also claimed both the United States and Israel were involved: "No one from the special personal protection group of the late president fired a single shot during the killing, and not one of them has been put on trial," he said.
Media portrayals of Anwar Sadat
In 1983, Sadat
, a miniseries based on the life of Anwar Sadat, aired on US television with Oscar
-winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr.
in the title role. The film was promptly banned by the Egyptian government, as were all other movies produced and distributed by Columbia Pictures
, over allegations of historical inaccuracies. A civil lawsuit was brought by Egypt's artists' and film unions against Columbia Pictures and the film's directors, producers and scriptwriters before a court in Cairo, but was dismissed, since the alleged slanders, having taken place outside the country, fell outside the Egyptian courts' jurisdiction.
The film was critically acclaimed in North America, but was unpopular among Egyptians and in the Egyptian press. Western authors attributed the film's poor reception in Egypt to racism – Gossett being African-American – in the Egyptian government or Egypt in general.
Either way, one Western source wrote that Sadat's portrayal by Gossett "bothered race-conscious Egyptians and wouldn't have pleased [the deceased] Sadat," who identified as Egyptian and Northeast African, not black.
The two-part series earned Gossett an Emmy
nomination in the United States.
The first Egyptian depiction of Sadat's life came in 2001, when Ayyam El Sadat
(English: Days of Sadat
) was released in Egyptian cinemas. This movie, by contrast, was a major success in Egypt, and was hailed as Ahmed Zaki
's greatest performance to date.
The young Sadat is a major character in Ken Follett
's thriller The Key to Rebecca
, taking place in World War II Cairo. Sadat, at the time a young officer in the Egyptian Army and involved in anti-British revolutionary activities, is presented quite sympathetically; his willingness to cooperate with German spies is clearly shown to derive from his wish to find allies against British domination of his country, rather than from support of Nazi ideology. Some of the scenes in the book, such as Sadat's arrest by the British, closely follow the information provided in Sadat's own autobiography.
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Upset by 'Sadat,' Egypt Bars Columbia Films
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