Rifaat al-Saeed (1932 – 2017), leftist politician, enlightenment figure, dies

21-08-2017 11:11 PM

George Edward - Mariam Farouq


On 17 August 2017, Egypt lost a great leftist politician who was also famous for his enlightened, tolerant, inclusive stances: Rifaat al-Saeed who died at age 84.
The Coptic Orthodox Church mourned the departure of Dr Saeed in a statement which termed him a persistent fighter for the rights of the working classes. “The Church,” the statement said, “Will always remember Dr Saeed’s courageous, patriotic stances.

Muhammad Rifaat al-Saeed held two doctoral degrees in history. He began his political career in the 1940s as an active figures in the Egyptian communist movement. This brought him under the wrath of successive governments that cracked down on the communists; he was imprisoned more than once on account of his political views. In 1958, under the Gamal Abdel-Nasser regime, he spent four years in prison, then again in the 1960s and 70s.

When President Anwar al-Sadat allowed the formation of political parties in the 1970s, after some two decades during which they had been banned and there was a one-party system in Egypt, Dr Saeed was appointed secretary of the leftist al-Tagammu party. Under his leadership, Tagammu was the main opposition party, but was later accused of working compromises with the Mubarak regime which held power in Egypt during 1981 – 2011. It was later understood that Dr Saeed’s tactical alliance with Mubarak stemmed from a mutual desire to block political Islam, represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, from gaining power. In 1995 Tagammu accepted the presidential nomination of Dr Saeed to the Shura Council (Upper House of parliament). He became head of the Tagammu Party in 2005, a post he held until 2013.
Dr Saeed was a scholar and writer who regularly contributed opinion pieces to major papers in Cairo, as well as al-Ahali, the mouthpiece of the Tagammu party. He also wrote a number of books that focused on political issues, especially political Islam and socialism.

Watani International
21 August 2017

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