Egyptian Chronicles: Farewell Mohamed Hassanein Heikal "1923-2016"

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Farewell Mohamed Hassanein Heikal "1923-2016"

Earlier Wednesday, iconic journalist and writer Mohamed Hassanein Heikal passed away after a short illness in Cairo.
The 92-ears old veteran writer and former minister of information passed away after a very long life and legacy whether in journalism or politics in Egypt and the Arab world.
Now one must wonder how he or she can write true balanced obituary or profile for such man who played a significant role in Egypt's politics and media in the past 60 years.
Mohamed Hassanein Heikal

The veteran journalist already did not stop or really quit the political or media arena as he said several times before.
Heikal has left a huge big political legacy that won't stop creating debates or controversy at any time soon.
Just from few months, he created another controversy when he slammed the Saudi decision to intervene militarily in Yemen describing it as "Political crap".
You can imagine how that statement was covered in the Gulf media.
Already the gulf media was not that fond of Heikal because after all he was Nasser's confidant in the 1960s and did not consider Iran as the grand Satan of the Middle East not to mention his position from Syrian revolution.
The man was not already buried in his family cemetery or even his funeral at Al-Hussein Mosque started when the Egyptian and Arab social media was divided into two major groups: The one that praises him and the one that curses.
That has not stopped yet nor it will stop in the upcoming weeks.
That's why I find it hard to profile him now.
Journalistically speaking, Heikal renovated Al-Ahram newspaper making it the number one newspaper in Egypt and the Arab world in its golden years turning into a giant press institution.
Mohamed Hassanein Heikal  in Al-Ahram
The only time me and Mohamed Hassanein Heikal were in the same room in May 2014 
As a writer, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal used that rich and highly eloquent Arabic style that amazes you.
As a historian, his so many books in English and Arabic are another important source of history in the Middle East.
Politically speaking, we can have a lot of debate from here to eternity about Heikal and his political role in Egypt and in the Middle East.
He was not only Nasser's ghostwriter or his number one journalist but also for the first time we find journalist and writer joining that circle of decision making in Egypt in a very critical time.
Despite how many people look to the Nasserite era as the Golden age of Pan-Arabism, it is overshadowed with lots of disasters above them the lack of democracy, the Police State and the six days war.
Naturally, Heikal is always accused of being part of that regime that brought all this to the Middle East.
I felt that it was like a curse that followed the man whenever he tried to speak regardless what his views were.
Since Nasser, Heikal had a very interesting relation with Egypt's presidents.
He had a good start then a bad end with Sadat, Mubarak and Morsi.
Despite the good start with President Sadat and his role in the 1973 war, their relation went from bad to worse to worst especially with the Camp David treaty. In September 1981, the former minister of information was arrested and detained among thousands of Sadat's dissidents.
After his release, Heikal wrote his famous and one of his best-selling "Autumn of fury" slamming Sadat and his rule.
Then came Mubarak who did not read like Nasser or Sadat nor did even like intellectuals.
The relation between Heikal and Mubarak was good in the first couple of years but once again it went from bad or worse or worse.
The late veteran writer was already from the early and very few prominent figures declaring publicly their rejection of Mubarak's policies but also the plans to groom his son for the presidency in Egypt. He paid a price for that and was no longer welcomed to speak publicly in Egypt.
Then came the 25 January revolution and Heikal once again returned back to the media as a writer and a guest speaker in TV shows. He also returned back to politics.
When it comes to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, things were complicated.
Mohamed Hassanein Heikal in Al-Ahram
Heikal in Al-Ahram newspaper building in May 2014 
The relation between Heikal and the MB as well Morsi was good at first but then the MB could not forget that he was among Nasser's close staff when he began to criticize Morsi's rule.
Then came 3 July and Sisi.
The role of Heikal in summer 2013 will be debatable forever as many say that he was Sisi's adviser during those days. The truth of his role will soon be known but personally, I hope that he has left something written about it in his last days because after all dead people can not defend themselves.
In the following two years again the relations with Sisi went from good to bad.
The old veteran writer already told Sisi in December 2014 to revolt against his regime and lead a "correction revolution" against Muabrak's men.
During then, rumors spread that once again the presidency closed its door to the old veteran political journalist.
In December 2015,he urged El-Sisi to have a vision for the country. That was last TV interview.
Personally, I believe that Heikal realized that Sisi was not even that sort of leader he and other Nasserites wished him to be so.
Since Nasser, all journalists wanted to be Heikal in the Egyptian presidency regardless of who is the president.. and they all failed and turned into bunch of informants
Simply because they are not Heikal and the President was not Nasser.
It was a unique condition of its own.
I do not know what to say more about Mohamed Hassanein Heikal.
Simply he has not left us for really. His books are still there and his interviews are still there. A legacy that will continue creating debate.
Personally, I believe we can learn a lot of that legacy. At least, we can learn from the mistakes and avoid them
May God bless his soul, bring patience to his family and have mercy on us all.

1 comment :

  1. Allah swt ya Rhamo WA Yahsen Elias.
    He served his Country.


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