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Pan-Arabism, Nationalist notion of cultural and political unity among Arab countries
Its origins lie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when increased literacy led to a cultural and literary renaissance among Arabs of the Middle East. This contributed to political agitation and led to the independence of most Arab states from the Ottoman Empire (1918) and from the European powers (by the mid-20th century).
An important event was the founding in 1943 of the Baʿth Party, which formed branches in several countries and became the ruling party in Syria and Iraq.
Another was the founding of the Arab League in 1945.
Pan-Arabism’s most charismatic and effective proponent was Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. After Nasser’s death, Syria’s Ḥāfiẓ al-Assad, Iraq’s Ṣaddām Ḥussein, and Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi tried to assume the mantle of Arab leadership.
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein (Arabic: جمال عبد الناصر حسين, IPA: [ɡæˈmæːl ʕæbdenˈnɑːsˤeɾ ħeˈseːn]; 15 January 1918 – 28 September 1970) was the second President of Egypt, serving from 1956 until his death. He planned the 1952 overthrow of the monarchy, and was deputy prime minister in the new government. In 1953, Nasser introduced far-reaching land reforms. Following a 1954 Muslim Brotherhood-led attempt on his life, he ordered a crackdown on the organization, put President Muhammad Naguib under house arrest, and assumed executive office. A June 1956 public referendum approved both the new constitution and Nasser's nomination for presidency.
Nasser's neutralist policies during the Cold War led to tense relations with Western powers, which withdrew funding for the planned Aswan Dam. Nasser's retaliatory move to nationalize the Suez Canal Company in 1956 was acclaimed within Egypt and the Arab world. Consequently, Britain, France, and Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula, but withdrew amid international pressure, boosting Nasser's political standing significantly. From then on, Nasser's popularity in the region grew substantially and calls for pan-Arab unity under his leadership increased, culminating with the formation of the United Arab Republic with Syria (1958–1961).
In 1962, Nasser began a series of major socialist measures and modernization reforms in Egypt. Despite setbacks to his pan-Arabist cause, by 1963 Nasser's supporters gained power in several Arab countries. He also became embroiled in the North Yemen Civil War. Nasser introduced a new constitution in 1964, the same year he became president of the international Non-Aligned Movement. He began his second presidential term in March 1965 after all his political opponents were legally forbidden from running. Following Egypt's concessions to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, Nasser resigned only to retake office after popular demonstrations called for his reinstatement. Between the 1967 defeat and 1968, Nasser appointed himself prime minister, launched a war to regain lost territory, began a process of depoliticizing the military, and issued a set of political liberalization reforms.
After the conclusion of the 1970 Arab League summit, Nasser suffered a heart attack and died. His funeral in Cairo drew five million mourners and an outpouring of grief across the Arab world.