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al-Sadat, Muhammad Anwar (1918-1981)

Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, third President of post-independence Egypt (governing from 1970 to 1981), was born of peasant background in the Nile Delta village of Mit Abu al-Kum on December 25, 1918. The son an Egyptian army clerk and a Sudanese housewife, Sadat was educated in Cairo, where his family moved in 1925. As a result of the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, access to the Military Academy was no longer restricted to the upper classes and by 1938, Sadat was a commissioned officer.

Al-Sadat became involved in underground political activities by 1941, joining others seeking to overthrow British rule, including Lieutenants Gamal abdel-Nasser and Zakariah Mohieddin. Sadat also joined right-leaning clandestine groups like Young Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. Throughout the 1940s he was in and out of jail for collaborating with German agents and conspiring in a number of assassination attempts. By the end of the decade, Sadat was out of prison, reinstated into the Army, and had gotten married to the well-connected, half-British Jihan Safwat Rouf. In 1950, Nasser asked Sadat to join the Free Officer’s Movement, having known of his involvement in anti-British organizations.

When Nasser and other Army officers led a military coup on July 23, 1952 against King Farouk, Sadat was chosen to announce the coup leaders’ initial proclamations on the radio.  Sadat was also made a member of the Revolutionary Command Council, where he served as liaison to the Muslim Brotherhood and editor of the official newspaper, al-Jumhuriah.  With Nasser soon strengthening his hand and pushing out the opposition, Sadat loyally supported the powerful leader. He was rewarded with a number of prominent positions: Minister of State in 1954, Speaker of the National Assembly of the United Arab Republic in 1958, and vice-president from 1964 to 1967 and later from 1969 to 1970. By 1969, the Vice Presidency was limited from seven chairs to one, with Sadat winning the single appointment over Ali Sabri, who Nasser saw as a growing political threat.

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