50 years ago, President Nasser died in Cairo ~ #REUTERS:

In the evening, all radio and television stations abruptly interrupt their broadcasts, broadcasting verses from the Koran.

In a voice interrupted by sobs, then writes AFP, Vice-President Anouar al-Sadat himself comes to announce on the radio the death of Nasser at 6.15 p.m. local (3.15 p.m. GMT).

“The United Arab Republic, the Arab nation and all mankind have lost one of the dearest, bravest and most sincere men,” he said, pointing out that Nasser died in a last ditch effort tor “to put an end to the horrible drama which has afflicted the Arab nation”.

The day before, President Nasser had succeeded in wresting an agreement with King Hussein of Jordan and the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat to stop the bloody clashes of “Black September”.

Heavy smoker, diabetic, his state of health had not been revealed to the public, and his death is a real shock.

One of the main leaders of “free officers” who overthrew the monarchy in 1952, the raïs seized power two years later. Co-founder of the non-aligned movement, charismatic and champion of Arab nationalism, he had set up a one-party regime and ruled with an iron fist for 16 years.

Its greatest successes were the nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956 and the routing of the Franco-British operation intended to regain control of this strategic axis, then the inauguration in 1964 of the Aswan dam. And its greatest defeat, that inflicted in June 1967 by Israel on its army.

Night of mourning

An official mourning of forty days is proclaimed.

Shortly after the announcement of the death, the first demonstrations took place in Cairo. In Heliopolis, men, women and children cry out their pain or cry silently. In working-class neighborhoods, gatherings are formed.

Throughout the night, a compact crowd – first in disbelief, then dismayed – marched towards Nasser’s residence, then towards the presidential palace in Koubbeh, where the remains were transported. The authorities use the armed forces and tanks to block the tracks.

In Alexandria, all the shops are closed and the cinemas interrupt their screenings.

Trauma

On September 29, the Cairo press appears surrounded by a black frame. Condolences are pouring in from all over the world.

“One hundred million Arabs today feel orphaned”, writes a Lebanese newspaper. He was for the “super-big” the only “valid interlocutor of the Arab world, the only one who can speak on his behalf”, points out another newspaper.

In Cairo, life is paralyzed. All offices and stores are closed. From the suburbs, teenagers arrive carrying flowers and holding up portraits of Nasser.

“Heartbreaking farewell”

On October 1, Nasser’s coffin, wrapped in the Egyptian flag, is placed on a gun carriage drawn by eight horses and flanked by forty army generals. Five thousand cadets from the military school preceding the procession. His comrades in arms took place there, followed by heads of state and foreign governments.

Helicopters fly over the capital and Mig-21 fly past. A 21-gun salute is fired.

A crowd, estimated at several million people, throngs the route of the procession, about fifteen kilometers long. “Vive Nasser” and “There is no other God but Allah“chanted the huge crowd.

Started in order, the ceremony turns to the greatest confusion, the crowd repeatedly forcing the procession to stop. Anwar al-Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan are victims of unease.

It is only inside the al-Nasr Mosque that relative calm is restored, as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar presides over the religious service.

Nasser is buried according to Muslim tradition in his shroud and his coffin was broken by the last faithful who kept relics of it.

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Source: Reuters-VOA.

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