Egyptian critic of Mubarak and acclaimed academic Saad Eddin Ibrahim dies aged 85

Egyptian critic of Mubarak and acclaimed academic Saad Eddin Ibrahim dies aged 85
One of Egypt's leading sociologists and a staunch critic of the Mubarak regime, Saad Eddin Ibrahim has passed away at the age of 85.
2 min read
30 September, 2023
Ibrahim was a fierce critic of Mubarak and proponent of democracy in Egypt [Getty]

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a prominent Egyptian-American academic and pro-democracy activist during the reign of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak , died on Friday. He was 85.

Ibrahim's death was announced by Egyptian state media on Friday although few further details were given. The acclaimed academic was a leading critic of Mubarak's autocratic government and an advocate for the rights of minority groups in Egypt, such as Coptic Christians. He spent most of the 2000s either detained or in self-imposed exile. It remains unclear where he died and what the cause of death was.

Ibrahim was born in 1938 near the northern delta city of Mansoura and turned to a career in academia after finishing school.

In the 1980s he founded two Cairo-based rights organizations: The Arab Organization for Human Rights, and later, The Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Both were critical of Mubarak's government and other Arab states.

In 2000, while a university professor at The American University of Cairo, Ibrahim was detained after allegedly receiving funds from the European Union without any authorization from the Egyptian government. In a high-profile trial, he was eventually charged with several offences including the defamation of Egypt’s image and sentenced to seven years in jail. He was later cleared of all charges and released in 2003.

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In the years that followed, Ibrahim continued to advocate for democratic reform in Egypt. In writings and speeches he called on the U.S. to make its aid to Egypt conditional on greater political freedoms. Egypt is one of Washington’s top recipients of military aid since it signed a U.S.-brokered peace deal with Israel in 1979.

Ibrahim went into self-imposed exile in 2007 shortly after meeting President George W. Bush and lobbying the former president to pressure Egypt into further democratic reform. The next year, he was again charged with defaming Egypt's image and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.

During his years abroad, he taught in America and Lebanon before retiring from academia. He returned to Cairo amid the build-up to the 2011 uprising that became known as the Arab Spring , but he was not arrested.

In an interview with The Daily Egypt in 2010, Ibrahim said that he had come back to Egypt to witness society change. “People are getting ready for a post-Mubarak stage,” he said.

In later life, Ibrahim often gave political interviews to media outlets. He is survived by his wife Barbara, and his two children, Randa and Amir.