Egyptian history: The Director’s Cut

Egyptian history in six movies

Egypt’s post-independence history resembles a series of remakes of a classic film, with a fresh cast trying out traditional roles, enacting a familiar script of revolution and repression. Throughout these years, Egyptian cinema has flourished, with many of the best films serving as vehicles for satire, social commentary or national pride.

In this feature for the BBC News website’s Magazine, I used six clips from popular Egyptian movies to explore six decades of Egyptian history.

The clips are among dozens of snippets from Egyptian cinema featured in the three-part documentary, Egypt’s Modern Pharaohs, screened on BBC World. The documentary-maker, Jihan El-Tahri, uses the clips as illustration or counterpoint to her interviews with key players and witnesses. The result is enthralling – a spliced-up history lesson.

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Three wars in one

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How did Turkey enter the fight against Islamic State militants while simultaneously fighting a Kurdish rebel group whose allies are fighting Islamic State militants? I unpack the three-way conflict in this explainer for the BBC News website. From July 2015.

Lost at sea II

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Islamic State militants in Libya have threatened to attack Europe, while boatloads of migrants flee the collapsing state for European shores. Could the migrant flows provide a cover for the militants – as Italy and Egypt have claimed? Their warnings evoke a vicious logic, at odds with humanitarian imperatives: refugees bring conflict, as conflict breeds refugees. Analysis for the BBC News website.

Lost at sea

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Can the white specks spotted in the Indian Ocean come from the wreckage of Flight MH370? Or are they just ocean debris – the flotsam of globalisation? Scientists say it is virtually impossible to conclude anything from the images alone. For them, the hunt for the plane has only emphasised how little we know of the waters that cover two-thirds of the planet’s surface – a knowledge as shallow as the oceans are deep. Analysis for the BBC News website.

When football came home to Iraq

The Iraqi football team plays its first home international since the US-led invasion. The visiting Palestinian team is thrashed three-nil. But the scoreline is not as striking as the delirious celebrations off the pitch. Report from Arbil for BBC News, July 2009

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’: Iraqi football’s joyous homecoming

Forced into exile by conflict, Iraq’s football (soccer) team returns to Erbil to play its first home international since the US-led invasion. The mood in the stadium resembles the lifting of a siege, with hopes for sporting glory chiming with a yearning for peace.

Caucasus foes fight cyber war

Hackers from Russia and Georgia open up a new front in cyberspace as their countries go to war in the Caucasus. Experts say it was inevitable that “the dark side of Silicon Valley” would be enlisted for real-life battles. Analysis for BBC News, August 2008

Ossetian official describes fleeing

An account of the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali from a spokeswoman for South Ossetia’s separatist government. BBC News, August 2008

Georgia sees Iraq as Nato route

Georgia sent 2,000 troops to fight alongside the US in Iraq, making them the third-largest force in the coalition at the start of 2008.

However, this commitment did not bring Tbilisi any closer to Nato, as it had hoped. At a summit that April, the alliance decided against expanding eastwards. Already stalled, Georgia’s Nato ambitions suffered a shattering reversal during its war with Russia that summer, which was seen in the West as a warning against provoking Moscow.

Nevertheless, Georgia’s Iraq deployment was, in some respects, a success. If nothing else, it enabled a tiny Caucasian country to upgrade its Soviet-era military and briefly march in step with the US. Report for BBC News from Tbilisi, April 2008

 

BBC Radio Four’s ‘The World Tonight’: Georgia’s Iraq gamble

In early 2008, Georgia was the third-largest contributor to the US-led coalition in Iraq, sending thousands of troops to guard the border with Iran.

Tbilisi wanted its deployment to pave the way for eventual entry into Nato. But at a summit in April 2008, the alliance balked at encouraging Georgia’s hopes – a move that would have drawn a furious response from Moscow. Georgia’s war with Russia later that summer was seen by many in the West as a further argument against encroaching on Moscow’s “backyard”.

This report from Tbilisi, produced on the eve of the Nato summit, argued that the Iraq deployment had helped Georgia’s military punch above its weight – even if Nato entry remained beyond its reach.

Caucasus on alert over Kosovo

Secessionists stir in the Caucasus over Kosovo’s plans to declare independence. Russia and its allies warned that redrawing borders in the Balkans could destabilise other contested regions. I visited South Ossetia in the winter before Georgia went to war with Russia over the territory. The “frozen conflict” was warming up. Report from Tskhinvali for BBC News, January 2008

Russia’s reach unnerves Chechens

Chechens who fought the Russian army – or simply fled it – cast wistful eyes at their homeland across the border. Report from the Pankisi Gorge for BBC News, January 2008

Georgian protesters give poll icy reception

Opposition supporters voice a range of grievances against President Mikhail Saakashvili – but early results from a snap election suggest most Georgian voters backed him. Report from Tbilisi for BBC News, January 2008

Georgian TV feud mirrors poll rivalry

The contrasting fortunes of two TV stations ignite a debate over press freedom in Georgia, just before a snap presidential election. Report from Tbilisi for BBC News, January 2008

Veltroni: Rising star of Italy’s left

The Italian left pins its revival hopes on the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni. Profile for BBC News, October 2007

Russia’s bear bomber returns

Russia’s lumbering Tupolev Tu-95 bombers are flying into airspace patrolled by Nato jets, reviving memories of Cold War-era skirmishes. BBC News, September 2007