Effects of Nasser on Egyptian Society
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Outline the changes in Egyptian society as a result of Nasser's policies from 1952 - 1970. Gamal Abdel Nasser, was the second Egyptian president. He ruled from 1956 up to 1970 and is responsible for some of the drastic changes in the Egyptian society. Some of which are caused by the introduction of a Land Reform, which limited land ownership to 200 feddans (200 acres), the reformation of the educational system, new rights for women such as the right to vote, and industrialising the country, but also the persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood and propaganda. These policies had strong impact on Egyptian society which will be examined in the following. One of Nasser's first and probably one of his biggest domestic achievements is the Land Reform, which had its origin on the 11.September.1952 (A second one took place in 1961).Prior to the reform, less than 6% of the Egyptian population owned more than 65% of the Land. These few, but major land owners had almost autocratic control over the land and charged immensely high rents which averaged 75% of the income generated by the land. This drove many of the small farmers and peasants into debt. The peasants wage was so low and their situation so bad that the historian Anouar Abdel Malek called them "an exploited mass surrounded by hunger, disease and death".
The process continued and between 1955 and 1957, the Egyptian government under Nasser nationalised all foreign-owned banks and insurance companies as well as a string of foreign-owned manufacturing companies and forced all foreign agencies and representations to move to Egyptian ownership. Another factor helping to increase Egypt's economic capacity was the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The projects aim was to prevent the river's floating, generate electricity and provide water for agriculture. Also the project was completed in July 1970 and did not reach full capacity until 1976 power generation already began in 1967. At its peak the dam produced half of all electricity produced in Egypt and is therefore a major factor in the economic growth that took place under Nasser. However the dam and the nationalisation of the Suez Canal were not only from economic importance, they became symbols for a new and more powerful Egypt. The nationalisation of the Suez Canal and especially the short military conflict in which Egypt resisted Britain, France and Israel until they had to stop their attack because of international pressure, gave the Egyptian people new confidence and for them this was the final sign for the decolonialisation of Egypt. Furthermore Nasser, through his policies, laid the foundation for more welfare and economic growth in Egypt, although this took effect after his rule.
This propaganda also opened the Egyptians to Nasser's ideas and policies and moved them especially towards Arab unity. One of his policies, had great impact on society and maybe even caused the biggest change. In January 16.1956 Nasser announced a new constitution, giving women the right to vote. Although he banned all feminist groups together with all other political organisations, women were probably never better off than under Nasser. They gained the right to vote and the right to run for election and were also equally treated in the areas of work and education. This caused a great change in the Egyptian society towards the equality of women and their general acceptance. And also Nasser's reform of the educational system affected society, as they had much better educated people, although this came to full effect only under Nasser's successor Sadat, who was able to use newest technology and advanced weapon systems in the Yom Kippur war in 1973 because of the better educated and skilled Egyptians. All in all it can be said that Nasser's policies caused great changes in Egyptian society. Nasser transformed Egypt into a more confident, industrialised, educated country, he stopped the exploitation of agricultural workers and gave women more rights than they had in any other Arab state. Although many of these changes did not occur during his time and his methods are very questionable he still laid the foundations for a new Egypt.
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