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January 30, 2011

The Mubaraks - Egypt's most hated family

The Canadian Charger

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(Cairo, January 30, 2011) After 30 years of iron-fisted rule, Egyptians have come to revile President Mubarak, his wife and his two sons. Much like the family of former Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, the Mubarak family has a hand in almost every business in Egypt.

Until the recent demonstrations across Egypt - in the wake of the fall of Tunisian strongman Ben Ali - the IMF and the World Bank, a few European capitals, and even certain sectors of Washington, D.C., considered Mubarak's youngest son, 47-year-old Gamal as a pillar of Egypt’s future. 

After all, the younger Mubarak is Western-educated, pro-business technocrat who worked as a banker in London and has surrounded himself with a cadre of corrupt businessmen.

But 30 years of Mubarak’s rule resulted in a 60 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day, while poorer districts of Cairo lack the basic services of everyday life that most westerners take for granted. Two-thirds of the country's 80 million people are under 30, while 40 per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 are unemployed.

Superimposed over this backdrop of dire poverty and desperation, lurks the Mubarak family, which has accumulated an estimated 40 billion dollars in properties and assets in banks in the U.S., Switzerland and Britain.

Considering that Mubarak himself is the son of a farmer, who rose through the ranks to become Commander of the Air Force, then Vice President, before assuming the presidency on October 14, 1981, in the wake of Anwar Sadat's assassination, it's obvious to many Egyptians that his family accumulated their wealth at the expense of the Egyptian people.

It's well-known in Egypt that most major companies are forced to contribute 50 per cent of their annual earnings to a member of the Mubarak family.

Commissions on arms deals and questionable real estate deals in Cairo and tourism investment zones in Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh are other sources of the Mubarak family's wealth - money which could have been used to improve the day-to-day living conditions of the people.

While many struggle to provide the basic necessities of life for their families, Mubarak's wife Suzanne became a billionaire in 2000 - according to a confidential foreign source – with vast sums in American banks and property in several European capitals such as London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris and more in Dubai.

Estimates of her wealth range from three to five billion dollars, the lion's share of which was skimmed from investors and businessmen in return for allowing them to do business in Egypt.

As is commonly the case, arrogance and callous disregard for the suffering of others comes with this kind of wealth and power.

In Mrs. Mubarak's case, although U.S. officials praise her publicly, with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton saying that Mr. Mubarak and his wife Suzanne are friends of her family, secret U.S. cables released by Wikileaks portray her is a less favourable light: One cable reported that during a visit to Sinai, she commandeered a bus that had been bought with money from the United States Agency for International Development and that had been meant to carry children to school. 

Meanwhile, the Algerian newspaper Alkhabar reported that Gamal Mubarak has 17 billion dollars in several banks in Switzerland, Germany, the United States and Britain, while Alaa Mubarak's 8 billion dollar fortune includes properties in Los Angeles, Washington and New York, as well as two yachts worth in excess of 60 million Euros.

Although promising to be a one-term president when he took power in 1981, and repeatedly promising free and fair elections – as he's now doing in response to the current unrest – political corruption in the Mubarak administration's Ministry of the Interior has risen dramatically over his years in power, in order to maintain power over the institutional system necessary to sustain his prolonged presidency.

This corruption has led to the imprisonment of political opposition figures and young activists, without trials, often in illegal undocumented hidden detention facilities.

In 2007, Amnesty International released a report criticizing Egypt for torture and illegal detention. The report alleges that Egypt has become an international centre for torture, where other nations send suspects for interrogation – often as part of the “War on Terror.”

Due to emergency law – which Mubarak has repeatedly promised to abolish - university, mosque and newspaper staff members are often rejected based on political inclinations and Egyptian government officials routinely violate citizens' human rights, using unconditional arrests. 

In this, the internet age, the Egyptian people are no longer willing to tolerate lack of fundamental human rights and subsistence living conditions while the Mubarak family lives in a lap of luxury at their expense.

There are reports that the Mubaraks, except the father, are all fled Egypt.

The president will join them very soon, or maybe he fled to a different place.

The international community must arrest them all and hand them to the new Egyptian government to charge them in a court of law for 30 years of crimes against the Egyptian people.

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M. Elmasry

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