The 1952 revolution: From the headlines of the time

Amira Noshokaty , Thursday 23 Jul 2020


Today marks 65 years since the eruption of 1952 Revolution. Ahram Online reviews the chronicles of the revolution through the front-page news and headlines published in Al-Ahram newspaper from 24 July to 23 October 1952.

An examination of the headlines of Al-Ahram daily, the leading Egyptian newspaper at that time, provide an interesting insight into how events were perceived at the time, at least by the media.

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Thursday 24 July, 1952

Headlines: "The army pushes a peaceful military movement. The detention of high-profile military officers and protection of public property."

The story began in the realm of the military officers club, where some high-profile army officers were voicing their anger and denouncing the acts of treason that occurred in the 1948 war and calling for those responsible for the Arabs' defeat and the loss of Palestine to be brought to justice. The group of army officers was headed by General Mohamed Naguib.

Things escalated when they closed down the military officers club altogether. Consequently, on 23 July, 1952, 300 army officers and 3,000 soldiers marched towards the army's headquarters in El-Qobba, between Abbasiya district and Heliopolis.

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They succeeded in entering and detained top military leaders inside the premises of the armed forces academy.

Mohamed Naguib then delivered three speeches to the nation on the radio,  which were transcribed in Al-Ahram Newspaper:

"Egypt has suffered from difficult times recently, from bribery and corruption and the unrest of traitors and conspiracy makers who were the cause of our defeat in the Palestine war (1948), which affected the army deeply. Such a coalition between some traitors and the army was led by either an ignorant person or a traitor or someone corrupt, so that Egypt lost its protecting army. And so we decided to implement our own military purge through army figures in whose capabilities and patriotism we trust, and there is no doubt that Egypt is very happy to receive such news."

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The news goes on to reveal that the Free officers contacted the United states embassy and the British embassy to assure them that the military movement is an internal one aimed at reforming the military and that it is not affiliated with any external powers. Such news was met with the blessings of both embassies.

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Friday 25 July, 1952

Headline: "The legal documents of the Ali Maher Cabinet and acceptance of the resignation of The Helali cabinet. The prime minister and the new ministers took the oath last night in the presence of the King."

On the previous day at 7:30 pm the new prime minister, along with the ministers, got their blessings from King Farouk in Montaza Palace, Alexandria. "We pray for God to help you do what's good for this country," was the royal answer and blessing to the movement.

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Saturday 26 July, 1952

Headline: "The heads of the navy in Alexandria meet with Mohamed Naguib and declare their support for to the army movement."

However, in what seems to have been a sudden change in the course of events, the movement toppled King Farouk, and the departure of the king was headline news in the following morning's headlines.

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Sunday 27 July, 1952

Headline: "King Farouk abdicated his throne and sailed away last night. The call for making King Fouad II the king of Egypt and Sudan. The previous king writes down the names of the guardian of the throne. The cabinet replaces the king's authority in assigning the Guardian Council."

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A transcript of the government's official speech, broadcast on the radio, was published that day explaining to the public the following:

"My fellow citizens, to complete the work of what your great army has already done, for the cause of the people, I have met with the prime minister Ali Maher and handed him a petition addressing the king, one, that beholds two main demands of the people: one is that his royal highness would abdicate the throne to the heir of the throne, his son Prince Fouad I, yesterday afternoon; two, that he leaves the country before 6 pm. However, Queen Nariman is expected to come back to Egypt with the heir of the throne (infant king) after five years."

A picture of the enfant heir of the throne was published.

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Soon the tides had changed, and the military moved towards ruling the country, despite their public denial of mixing military matter with politics. Up until this moment, there was no news, not even a hint, of Gamal Abdel Nasser and his fellow army men.

On Monday 28 July, 1952, the news explained that the previous king, despite sailing to Italy, plans to live in Brazil. The headlines also said that the commander-in-chief of the armed forces explained that the media was one of the tools that helped with the success of their mission.

He added, "Now is the military purging phase, which is quite critical. We have detained a lot of people to cover our backs, but we didn’t have time for investigations. The amendment of the constitution is for the politicians."

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By Wednesday 30 July, 1952, the headlines were showing the international reaction, which blessed the whole "movement" in all it's directions and inclinations:

"The British ambassador meets with prime minister Ali Maher and General Mohamed Naguib. The British government shows its willingness to withdraw and an agreement that Egypt would find good enough, with regard to the Sudan issue."

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However, on the same front page, a small news item explained that people living in Egypt need to obtain a permit from the interior ministry if they want to travel anywhere, as their passports are not enough.

On 1 August, 1952, the press insisted, "The army leaves the government to rule the country's affairs".

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6 August, 1952: "A historic day in Abdeen Palace where the Guardian Council (Prince Mohamed Abdel Moniem, Doctor Bahi El-Din Barakat, and Rashad Mehana) give their oaths in front of the cabinet."

Things seemed to be smooth and stable for a while.

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On 11 August, 1952, the headlines read: "The people are our masters, and the throne, parties and government are in their service."

The sub-headline declared that elections would be held in February.

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The headlines explained that the government, in the meantime, aimed to eleviate the economic status of the people by freezing taxes, limiting personal ownership of agricultural land and looking into investment in industry. The government also warned its citizens against engaging in rumors, asking them to report those who spread rumors against the government.

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By 8 September, 1952, the headlines read: "General Mohamed Naguib issues the new cabenet and Ahmed Maher Pasha submits his resignation. The government detains 62 people from the royal family, political parties and former ministers.

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On 9 September, 1952, Al-Ahram held the first interview with Mohamed Naguib after he became president.

Headlines read: "There are no thoughts of dissolving the political parties at the moment."

However, on the same front page (not a headline though), a presidential decree ordered the removal of all public King Fouad's pictures and their replacement with a calligraphy reading "God Al-Mighty". Another decree banned the official titles.

Mohammad Naguib and Nasser
Mohamed Naguib and Gamal Abdel-Nasser with leading members of The Free Officers immediately after the 23rd of July revolution (Reuters)

By 19 October, 1952, President Mohamed Naguib fired back at the personal memoirs of former king Farouk, which were published in the Imperial News newspaper.

On 24 October, 1952, and in celebration of three months of the "liberation movement", Cairo celebrated its biggest-ever military show.

It wasn't until 19 November 1952, until Gamal Abdel Nassar made his first front page news item in Al-Ahram.

The news read :A grand greeting at the university campus to the representative of the general commander

Gamal Abdel Nasser : Here is where the revolution against colonialism first boomed and flourished.

Soon Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free officers efforts and big roles in the military movement were highlighted and on 19- July 1953  headlines read:

Egypt is a Republic, Mohamed Naguib is the president, and prime minister, while Gamal Abdel Nasser is the vice president and Minister of interior.

Pages and information are courtesy of the Al-Ahram microfilm archive.


*This article was originally published on 23 July, 2017 and updated on 23 July, 2020

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