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Anwar Sadat
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Anwar Sadat

Born: December 25, 1918
Died: October 6, 1981 (assassinated)
Nobel Peace Prize: 1978 (shared with Menachem Begin)

Anwar Sadat was born in a large Egyptian family in an average Egyptian village. When he was old enough, he became part of one of the first groups of Egyptian men to attend a military school recently constructed by the British. At his first posting he met Gamal Abdel Nasser - they, along with others, began a plot which would eventually lead to the military overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy and the explusion of the British.

On July 23, 1952, the Free Officers Organization lead by Nassar took control and Sadat would serve as the public relations minister and one of Nasser's most trusted lieutenants. When Nasser died on September 29, 1970, Sadat took control - but he was unknown and untested as a leader. He tried to pressure the Soviet Union for more military and economic support, but when the Soviets refused Sadat summarily expelled them from the country, leading to a great deal more popular support for him among Egyptians. At this time, Egypt was still one of the leading non-aligned countries in the world, offering a voice for third-world countries all over.

Such support could not, however rescue Egypt's deteriorating economy and, in a move of desperation, Sadat offered to travel anywhere, any time in an effort to achieve peace with Israel. Sadat hoped that once peace was finally restored, he could focus more of the nations resources on solving internal problems. The Israeli's took him up on his offer and he gave a speech to the Knesset. This event would lead to 1978 Camp David Accords and a final peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Unfortunately, the expected "peace dividend" never really materialized and, even worse, Muslim fundamentalists in Egypt felt that Sadat's peace treaty was nothing short of a betrayal of Islam itself. Already opposed to the secularization which had begun under Nasser, they did not even accept Sadat's efforts to increase the importance of Islam by instituting the Shari'a in place of secular law. During a military review several fundamentalists jumped out of a military vehicle and sprayed the viewing stand with bullets. One shouted out "Death to the Pharoah," thus indicating that in their minds Sadat was no longer a Muslim and, hence, a valid target for execution.

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