Egypt. Despite the tension in the country during the year, it seemed to slow down somewhat and no major acts of terrorism continued, the government continued to try to fight Islamists and moderate oppositionists. The government side carried out military actions against people suspected of being militant Islamists. A number of casualties were required on both sides. Two brothers were hanged in May after being convicted of killing ten people, nine of them German tourists, in an attack on a tourist bus in Cairo in 1997. Both were said to have carried out the attack in the name of Islam. In May, the Islamist organization al-Wasat rejected its application to form a political party. The organization, which is not an extreme group but has several Christians in the leadership, was not considered to have a program sufficiently different from already existing political parties.
According to Countryaah, the capital of Egypt is Cairo. President Hosni Mubarak also made use of restrictions on freedom of the press. In April, a number of independent editors of state-owned newspapers were reported to have been replaced by others loyal to the government. In June, the publication of the country’s two leading English-language newspapers, the Cairo Times and Middle East Times, was halted by printing such restrictions that publishing became economically impossible.
During the year there was also a debate about child labor after a total of 45 children were killed in a series of accidents in connection with their moving to or from their work. In February, a research institute published data that 70% of Egypt’s agricultural workers are children. The law prohibits children under the age of 14 from working, but children from the age of 12 may engage in so-called work training. According to the report, the abuse of this rule is widespread.
In April, the first satellite of Egypt – and the Arab world – was launched into space. Nilesat, which was launched with the French rocket Ariane, was loaded with equipment to convey television programs from 43 channels.
By early 1998, the number of victims of assaults and political murders had reached 1251 and the number of political prisoners had reached 10-30,000.
In March 1999, there was a heated debate in Parliament about the government’s decree on female circumcision. The critics argued that the government’s laws violated women’s rights, as women without circumcision would have few chances of marriage. The legislation created considerable resistance within the traditional sectors of Egyptian society.
The parliamentary debate on the status of women in Egyptian society flared up again in January 2000. The government had proposed a change in family law that would make it easier for women to get divorced and which would make it legal for them to go abroad without the prior permission of their husband. It was expected that the reform – like the previous reforms – would be passed in parliament, or implemented as presidential decree. The proposal was seen as “non-Islamic” among the traditional sectors, while the groups defending women’s rights perceived it as severely limited.
The ruling party obtained a majority in parliament at the August election, after several candidates who had been members of the ruling party first, and then presented themselves as independent again returned to the party. Six members of the Prohibited Muslim Brotherhood stood as independent candidates and were also elected. However, the election was marked by several irregularities as several opposition parties were prevented from participating.
In November 2000, the Supreme Court passed a decree from the Interior Ministry for unconstitutional. The decree allowed men to forbid their spouse from going abroad. In March, the government had allowed women to seek divorce with allegations of incompatibility – with or without the husband’s approval. Until then, the woman had only been able to request a divorce in particularly serious cases such as abuse. But the woman, by divorce, is still forced to return any money, possessions or gifts she may have received during the marriage, and she must at the same time forgo retirement.
Due. internal and external pressure, Egypt was forced to resume its relations with Iraq, which had otherwise been severed since the Gulf War in 1991. The anti-American and anti-Israeli attitudes had grown in strength due to Israel’s violent response to the Palestinians’ 2nd Intifada. The interest offices in the two countries were upgraded to the status of embassies and this opened the way for full resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. At the same time, Egypt withdrew its ambassador from Israel in protest of the country’s violent behavior towards the Palestinians.
In December, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria signed an agreement on the construction of a gas pipeline in the Mediterranean. The pipeline will transport Egyptian natural gas to the Lebanese port city of Tripolis, where it will be connected to a Syrian pipeline. Another pipeline will transport natural gas to Turkey and the European markets. In March of that year, Mubarak and the Presidents of Syria and Jordan had inaugurated a connection linking the electricity grid in the three countries.
94 years after the theft, half of the interior of the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Tut Ankh Amon in December 2001 was returned to Egypt, where it was displayed at the National Museum. It was Queen Nefertitis’ husband, Amon, who made Egypt monotheistic. The sarcophagus was made of gold, and was discovered in December 1907 in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor. The lower part was robbed and appeared 20 years later at a Swiss collector.