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Hosni Mubarak: the Egyptian strongman's life in pictures

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at an opening ceremony of a new Nile River canal in January 1997.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at an opening ceremony of a new Nile River canal in January 1997. © AFP

Former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, who died Tuesday at age 91, will be laid to rest on Wednesday. Mubarak, who ruled with an iron fist for 30 years until his 2011 ouster, was dubbed the Pharaoh at the height of his power, but he leaves behind a mixed legacy.

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Born on May 4, 1928, in Kafr-El Meselha in northern Egypt, Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak spent his childhood years in relative poverty. His prospects changed when he joined the Egyptian Military Academy, graduating in 1949. He switched to the Air Force in the 1950s and gradually rose up the ranks.
 

Undated picture of Hosni Mubarak as a young Royal Egyptian Air Force lieutenant, taken before the revolution that deposed King Farouk in 1952.
Undated picture of Hosni Mubarak as a young Royal Egyptian Air Force lieutenant, taken before the revolution that deposed King Farouk in 1952. © AFP



Mubarak became a national figure as commander of the Egyptian Air Force and deputy defense minister, when he played a decisive role in planning a surprise attack in the early stages of the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel.

His reward came two years later, when then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat appointed him vice president.

On October 6, 1981, Mubarak was at Sadat’s side when Islamist Egyptian soldiers opposed to their country’s 1979 peace deal with Israel shot and killed the president during a military parade commemorating the 1973 war. Mubarak was wounded in the attack, but lived. He would survive several more attempts, including a dramatic one in 1995, when militants fired at his motorcade during a visit to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
 

Hosni Moubarak, then vice president of Egypt, with then President Anwar Sadat, a few minutes before the attack that killed Sadat on October 6 1981.
Hosni Moubarak, then vice president of Egypt, with then President Anwar Sadat, a few minutes before the attack that killed Sadat on October 6 1981. © AFP



Mubarak became president after Sadat's death, at a time when his populous, impoverished nation faced isolation following Egypt's ouster from the Arab League over the peace deal with Israel.

Mubarak started working his country's way back into the Arab world, by building a bilateral relationship with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The tactic yielded results: Cairo was Baghdad’s ally during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, and two years after it ended, Egypt was accepted back into the Arab League at the initiative of Iraq and Yemen.

Meanwhile the country’s draconian emergency law, which remained in place throughout Mubarak’s presidency, provided the backdrop for a security crackdown against the Islamist opposition, with brutal detention conditions in Egypt’s police stations and jails. Mubarak consistently defended his regime’s human rights track record, as he did in a 1985 speech at the Cairo Police Academy, pictured below.  
 

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak delivers an address at the Police Academy in Cairo on January 24, 1985.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak delivers an address at the Police Academy in Cairo on January 24, 1985. © Reuters



In Sadat's days, Mubarak was long considered a loyal deputy lacking in leadership and charisma. In a report in the French daily Le Monde, the journalist Hicham Kassem wrote that former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who met Mubarak in the 1970s when he was vice president, thought he had a minor staff job “because he was so low-profile.”

But as a head of state and government, Mubarak proved to be adept at leveraging the US-Egyptian relationship, maintaining his country’s controversial peace treaty with Israel and earning considerable US military and economic aid in the process.

On September 28, 1995, Mubarak, along with Jordan’s King Hussein, joined then US president Bill Clinton at the White House when then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat signed the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement.

But the deal did not bring peace, nor Palestinian liberation from Israeli occupation, and Mubarak was derided on the Arab street. Egypt’s peace deal with Israel, dependent on ties with the US, and Egyptian prison cells full of with tortured Islamist opposition figures earned Mubarak various monikers, including “America’s puppet” and “laughing cow” after the cheese brand.
 

US President Bill Clinton watches Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat sign a peace accord in the White House as Hosni Mubarak and King Hussein of Jordan look on in September 1995.
US President Bill Clinton watches Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat sign a peace accord in the White House as Hosni Mubarak and King Hussein of Jordan look on in September 1995. Luke Frazza, AFP



While poverty, rampant corruption and human rights abuses were widespread at home, foreign policy dominated Mubarak's presidency, and abroad he was considered a pillar of the Arab political establishment.
 

French President Jacques Chirac and Mubarak on October 16, 2002, in Alexandria, Egypt.
French President Jacques Chirac and Mubarak on October 16, 2002, in Alexandria, Egypt. © Patrick Kovarik, AFP



By the mid-2000s however, under US pressure, Mubarak began to ease his grip on political life. Protests – and an independent and critical media – were largely tolerated.

In early 2005, Mubarak called on parliament to amend Article 76 of the constitution to allow other candidates to run in elections, scheduled for later that year. But when the September elections were finally held, restrictions on opposition candidates ensured that only Mubarak’s ruling party candidates won.

Mubarak also won the presidential election, as he had when he stood unopposed in referendums in 1987, 1993, and 1999. Critics said the 2005 poll was neither free nor fair, and when it was over, Mubarak's principal opponent, Ayman Nour, was jailed.
 

Campaign workers in Cairo add the finishing touches to a billboard ahead of the 2005 Egyptian elections.
Campaign workers in Cairo add the finishing touches to a billboard ahead of the 2005 Egyptian elections. © Cris Bouroncle, AFP



During his 30-year tenure, Mubarak worked with five US presidents, ending with Barack Obama, who was in office when protests against Mubarak’s rule erupted in Egypt.
 

Mubarak meets US President Barack Obama at the White House on September 1, 2010.
Mubarak meets US President Barack Obama at the White House on September 1, 2010. © Jason Reed, Reuters


In the winter of 2011, an extraordinary protest movement shook the Arab world. Following the ouster of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in Cairo, turning Tahrir Square into a protest camp and a symbol of the Arab Spring. The movement would see the overthrowing of Mubarak, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh.
 

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi rests his arms on the shoulders of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in October 2010. A few months later, all three leaders were removed from power.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi rests his arms on the shoulders of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in October 2010. A few months later, all three leaders were removed from power. © Asmaa Waguih, Reuters



After decades of wooing foreign leaders, Mubarak was unable to win the love of his own people. Aging and frail, he anointed his son, Gamal Mubarak, as his de facto business-political successor, in a country where the state and military own major economic assets. The younger Mubarak was viewed as a corrupt upstart, sparking deep resentment.
 

Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square hold up defaced posters of President Hosni Mubarak on January 30, 2011.
Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square hold up defaced posters of President Hosni Mubarak on January 30, 2011. © Mohammed Abed, AFP



The size and scale of the protests caught the Egyptian establishment by surprise.

Amid speculation that he would either run for a reelection later that year and then cede power to Gamal, the besieged "Pharaoh” delivered a televised address on February 1, 2011, announcing he would not stand for reelection. But it was not enough and too late. The crowds in Tahrir Square had expected the strongman to announce his resignation. On February 11, Mubarak accepted the inevitable and stepped down.
 

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak addresses the nation on February 1, 2011. His resignation announcement was deemed too little, too late.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak addresses the nation on February 1, 2011. His resignation announcement was deemed too little, too late. © Screengrab Egyptian State TV, Reuters


Following his resignation, Mubarak and his son Gamal faced corruption charges. The former president also faced charges for ordering the killing of protesters. An ailing Mubarak attended the court proceedings on a hospital bed.
 

Hosni Mubarak, centre, with his sons Gamal, left, and Alaa, right at a court hearing April 13, 2013.
Hosni Mubarak, centre, with his sons Gamal, left, and Alaa, right at a court hearing April 13, 2013. © Reuters



Mubarak’s last public appearance was a dramatic face-off between two former Egyptian presidents, when he testified in a Cairo criminal court on December 26, 2018 at the trial of Mohamed Morsi, his successor and Egypt’s only democratically elected president, who died in custody on June 17, 2019.

Hosni Mubarak at the trial of Mohamed Morsi on December 26, 2018.
Hosni Mubarak at the trial of Mohamed Morsi on December 26, 2018. © Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters


 

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