In November 1954, Abdel Fattah Said Hussein Khalil Al-Sisi, was born in Al-Gammalia in Cairo to a merchant father who owned a bazaar in the long-standing district.
He graduated from the Egyptian Military Academy in 1977 then served in the infantry. He also attended the Egyptian Command and Staff College where he obtained his master’s degree in 1987. Al-Sisi attended the Joint Services Command and Staff College in the United Kingdom in 1992, after which he attended Nasser Military Academy in 2003, and the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania in 2006. He also served as the Egyptian military attaché in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 1998-1999.
Throughout his career, Al-Sisi advanced through the ranks to command a mechanised infantry division. From 2008 to 2010, he served as the commander of Egypt’s northern military zone. In 2010, he was appointed director of the Military Intelligence and Reconnaissance Administration.
Following the 25 January revolution in 2011, Al-Sisi was the youngest member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which comprises Egypt’s most senior military officers. The council took power in the country after former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011.
Al-Sisi is married and is a father of four children.
In August 2012, Islamist former president Mohamed Morsi, who was Egypt’s first elected president following the revolution, appointed Al-Sisi as minister of defence and commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, as a successor to former military leader Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. He was also promoted to general in 2012.
During his tenure as minister of defence, Al-Sisi faced a lot of criticism from Egyptian political parties and movements that opposed Morsi’s rule. At the time, the Freedom and Justice Party, representing the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supported Al-Sisi, describing him as a “minister of defence with a revolutionary flavour.” The opposition, on the other hand, accused Al-Sisi of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and working to appoint MB members to leading positions in the armed forces. The accusations were denied by the military spokesperson at that time, who asserted that the military has no political ideology.
In July 2013, former president Morsi faced mass demonstrations led by a protest movement dubbed “Tamarod” (Rebellion), which demanded that Morsi be ousted or replaced through an early presidential election. On 1 July, Al-Sisi, representing the military, issued an ultimatum to Morsi to bow to the demands of the people within 48 hours, otherwise the army would intervene to “restore order.” Morsi refused to resign or agree to early elections, calling for negotiations with the opposition. The army, led by Al-Sisi, then ousted him and placed him under arrest incommunicado at an undisclosed location on 3 July 2013.
In an unprecedented televised speech for a leader of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Al-Sisi announced that president Morsi did not achieve the goals of the people and failed to meet their demands. He announced that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mansour would serve as interim president as part of a “road map” to restore civilian rule.
In honour of his role in the 30 June uprising, Mansour promoted Al-Sisi to field marshal in January 2014, despite him having never been in combat.
The ouster of Morsi was rejected by his supporters and the MB, which organised demonstrations and sit-ins demanding the return of the president and describing Morsi’s ouster as a military coup. Al-Sisi defended his move, saying it was a necessary step as Morsi’s government did not meet the demands of the people. He also stressed that he is not seeking power for himself.
Following Morsi’s ouster, Al-Sisi became a popular hero, with his photos everywhere in Egyptian streets and squares, and the Egyptian media began to support him, comparing the army leader to former president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Egypt’s private media promoted Al-Sisi as the only person who can counter terrorism and lead the country to stability and prosperity.
In March 2014, Al-Sisi resigned from his position as minister of defence, declaring his plans to run in the presidential election that May. In that election, he had only one competitor, Hamdeen Sabahi. Al-Sisi was elected president with almost 97% of the votes.
During his first presidential term, Al-Sisi launched his plan for countering terrorism and vowed to end the MB. He also announced several national megaprojects such as the New Administrative Capital and the Suez Canal development axis. His first term was also criticised by several international organisations, such as Amnesty International, accusing Al-Sisi’s administration of committing violations against human rights, cracking down on the media, and jailing journalists.