Death of the ‘accidental pharaoh’: Arab and world leaders react to passing of Hosni Mubarak

Death of the ‘accidental pharaoh’: Arab and world leaders react to passing of Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak died on Tuesday aged 91. He had led Egypt for 30 years. (AFP)
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Updated 26 February 2020

Death of the ‘accidental pharaoh’: Arab and world leaders react to passing of Hosni Mubarak

Death of the ‘accidental pharaoh’: Arab and world leaders react to passing of Hosni Mubarak
  • Hosni Mubarak never expected to lead Egypt … but the assassination of Anwar Sadat propelled him into a presidency that lasted for 30 years

CAIRO: Middle East and world leaders paid tribute on Tuesday to Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian air force officer who never expected to become president but ruled his country for 30 years.

Mubarak, who was 91, took office in October 1981 after six years as vice president, when Anwar Sadat was assassinated in Cairo by Islamist militants. He was forced to stand down in February 2011 after 18 days of protests during the so-called “Arab Spring.”

The former president died in the intensive care unit of a Cairo military hospital, where he underwent surgery a few weeks ago.

Mubarak was admired and detested in equal measure, both in Egypt and in the wider Middle East, a paradox reflected in reactions to his death.

The office of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi offered condolences and described Mubarak as one of the “heroes of the October 1973 war against Israel.”

In Saudi Arabia, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent their “deepest condolences and sincere sympathies” to Mubarak’s family, and the Egyptian president and people.


Gallery: Mubarak’s 30 years in power saw him meet many world leaders


Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, described Mubarak as “an Arab leader who worked loyally for Arab unity and stability and stood firmly against extremism and terrorism.” 

Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said he was “a statesman ... who espoused nationalistic and historical positions.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he mourned Mubarak’s death “with great sorrow” and praised his support of the Palestinian cause. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of his “deepest sorrow” on behalf of Israel and its people. “President Mubarak, a personal friend of mine, led his nation to peace and security,” he said.

The former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El-Baradei, a key opposition figure in Mubarak’s declining years, also paid tribute. “May God have mercy on the former president ... and grant his family patience and comfort,” he said.


Abdellatif El-Menawy — Hosni Mubarak: Egypt's warrior leader left his mark on Middle East history 


Protesters who took part in the revolution that unseated Mubarak were also forgiving. “He was loyal and loving of Egypt,” said opposition activist Wael Ghoneim. “He took on a great responsibility toward the Egyptian people.

“He was right a lot of the time and also wrong a lot of the time ... history will decide.”

Former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, who ran against Mubarak in the 2005 elections and was later jailed, was also conciliatory. “I promise to God I personally forgive him,” he said.

Ordinary Egyptians, many of whom admired Mubarak but complained of corruption, oppression and unemployment under his rule, had mixed feelings about his death.

“We had good and bad memories,” said Sherin Saad, a woman in her 30s, who criticized graft and the privatization of public companies, which Mubarak’s critics say enriched the elite.

Atef Bayoumi, walking on the Nile Corniche in central Cairo, said: “He was a patriot. Regardless of the final events, he surely did good things for the country.”

However, Gamal Eid, a prominent human rights activist, said: “My condolences to all tyrants, they lost one today.”

Such views, however, will be in a minority for the rest of this week. Mubarak’s funeral will take place on Wednesday, with full military honors, followed by three days of official mourning throughout Egypt.


In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

Updated 55 min 37 sec ago

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

BAJET KANDALA CAMP, Iraq: For half a decade, Zedan suffered recurring nightmares about militants overrunning his hometown in northern Iraq. The 21-year-old Yazidi was just starting to recover when COVID-19 revived his trauma.
Zedan had lost several relatives when Daesh stormed into Sinjar, the rugged heartland of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq’s northwest.
The militants killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.
Zedan and the surviving members of his family fled, finding refuge in the Bajet Kandala camp near the Syrian border where they still live today.
“We used to be farmers living a good life. Then IS (Daesh) came,” he said, wringing his hands.
In a pre-fabricated building hosting the camp’s mental health clinic, Zedan shared his traumas with Bayda Othman, a psychologist for international NGO Premiere Urgence. Zedan refers to the violence of 2014 vaguely as “the events.”
The UN says they may constitute something much more serious: Genocide.
“I started having nightmares every night. I would see men in black coming to kill us,” Zedan said, telling Othman that he had attempted suicide several times. He has been seeing her for years, learning how to cope with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through breathing exercises that she taught him.
Earlier this year, his nightly panic attacks stopped. Finally, he could sleep again. But only for a few months.
In March, Iraq declared a nationwide lockdown to try to contain the spread of Covid-19. Zedan broke down.
“I fear that my family could catch the virus or give it to me,” he said. “It obsesses me.”
As lockdown dragged on, Zedan’s brother lost his job at a stationery shop on the edge of the camp.
“There’s no more money coming into the family now. Just thinking about it gives me a panic attack,” he said.
“The nightmares returned, and so did my desire to die.”
Out of Iraq’s 40 million citizens, one in four is mentally vulnerable, the World Health Organization says.
But the country is in dire shortage of mental health specialists, with only three per 1 million people.

HIGHLIGHT

The Daesh extremists killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.

Speaking about trauma or psychological problems is widely considered taboo, and patients who spoke to AFP agreed to do so on the condition that only their first names would be used.
In camps across Iraq, which still host some 200,000 people displaced by violence, the pandemic has pushed many people with psychological problems into remission, Othman said.
“We noticed a resurgence of PTSD cases, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts,” she told AFP.
In October, there were three attempted suicides in Bajet Kandala alone by displaced people, who said their movements outside the camp were restricted by the lockdown, or whose economic situation had deteriorated even further.
A tissue factory who fired people en masse, a potato farm that shut down, a haberdashery in growing debt: Unemployment is a common thread among Othman’s patients.
“It leads to financial problems, but also a loss of self-confidence, which rekindles trauma,” she said.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about a quarter of Iraqis who were employed prior to lockdown have been permanently laid off.
Youth were particularly hard hit: 36 percent of 18-24 years old who had been employed were dismissed, the ILO said.
A new patient in her forties walked toward the clinic, her hair covered in a sky-blue veil.
Once settled in a faux-leather chair, Jamila revealed that she, too, feels destabilized by the pandemic.
The Yazidi survivor lives in a one-room tent with her son and four daughters. But she doesn’t feel at home.
“I have totally abandoned my children. I feel all alone even though they’re always at home. I hit them during my panic attacks — I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.
Othman tried to soothe Jamila, telling her: “Hatred is the result of untreated sadness. We take it out on relatives, especially when we feel devalued — men prey on women, and women on children.”
But the trauma is not just an issue for the displaced, specialists warn.
“With the isolation and lack of access to care, children who have lived a genocide develop difficulties as they become adults,” said Lina Villa, the head of the mental health unit at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Iraq.
“We fear suicide rates will go up in the years to come.”