Early Life and Academic Career.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim was born on December 31, 1938, in Bedeen, Mansoura, Egypt. A sociologist and an author, he was one of Egypt’s most prominent human rights and democracy activists. For much of his professional life, he was a professor in the American University in Cairo’s (AUC) Department of Sociology. Before joining AUC, he taught sociology at Indiana’s DePauw University from 1967 to 1974 and was a visiting professor at UCLA in Los Angeles in the spring of 1979.
Activism and Civic Contributions
Ibrahim played a key role in revitalizing Egypt’s research-based civil society movement. He founded the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo and the Arab Organization for Human Rights. In the 1980s, he served as Secretary General of the Arab Thought Forum, chaired by Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan.
He was married to Barbara Ibrahim, the director of the Gerhart Center for Civic Engagement and Philanthropy in Cairo. The couple had two children, Randa and Amir Ibrahim, and four grandchildren.
Ibrahim was no stranger to controversy, having reversed his earlier criticism of Anwar Sadat for his peace initiative with Israel. He was respected for championing various causes, including the rights of Copts, Baháʼís, and other minorities.
In 2000, he was arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison for using European Union funds for election monitoring and allegedly defaming Egypt’s image abroad. After a storm of international protest, he was cleared of all charges in 2003. His activities, the court ruled, were protected as those of a public intellectual.
Exile and Return
In 2007, Ibrahim went into voluntary exile, teaching at various universities such as Istanbul Culture University and Harvard University. He returned to Egypt in February 2011, shortly after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the President he had long criticized.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim passed away on September 29, 2023, at the age of 84, leaving behind a legacy of activism, scholarship, and civic engagement.
Sentence and Legal Troubles
On August 2, 2008, an Egyptian court sentenced Ibrahim to two years in prison for ‘defaming Egypt.’ However, many of these cases against him were later dismissed, and he returned permanently to Cairo on February 12, 2011, in the wake of the 25 January revolution and Mubarak’s departure from office.
Awards and Recognition
In 2006, Ibrahim was awarded the Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture Prize at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He received over 20 other international and regional awards for his scholarly and human rights work.
Written Works and Contributions
Ibrahim continued to write a widely syndicated weekly column for El Masry el Youm newspaper and hosted a weekly open seminar in Cairo at the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies (IKDS).
The life and work of Saad Eddin Ibrahim remain a testament to the enduring power of civil activism and intellectual rigor in the face of political and social challenges.