Helmy al-Gazzar is the reported secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood. He replaced previous secretary-general Mahmoud Hussein in September 2020 after Hussein was ousted over accusations of stealing monetary donations to the Brotherhood.“Muslim Brotherhood suffers internal rifts, dismiss Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein,” Egypt Today, September 16, 2020, https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/91998/Muslim-Brotherhood-suffers-internal-rifts-dismiss-Secretary-General-Mahmoud-Hussein.
Gazzar is a longtime member of the Brotherhood, a trained pathologist, and member of the Brotherhood’s shura council decision-making body.Sandro Contenta, “Chaos in Tahrir Square is a blow to Egypt’s generals,” Toronto Star, November 24, 2011, https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2011/11/24/chaos_in_tahrir_square_is_a_blow_to_egypts_generals.html. Gazzar previously worked in the Brotherhood’s Giza district, where he participated in a committee to recruit new members by infiltrating all facets of Egyptian society.Kamel Kamel, “Muslim Brotherhood defect reveals ‘Elite Committee’ role,” Egypt Today, October 28, 2018, https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/59614/Muslim-Brotherhood-defect-reveals-%E2%80%98Elite-Committee%E2%80%99-role. He was arrested multiple times under the regime of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.“Muslim Brotherhood leader El-Gazzar released on bail,” Ahram Online, August 24, 2014, https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/0/109113/Egypt/0/AboutUs.aspx. As nationwide protests spread against Mubarak in 2011, Gazzar headed the Brotherhood’s district party office in northern Cairo.Margaret Coker And Summer Said, “Muslim Group Backs Secular Struggle,” Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2011, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704832704576114132934597622. After Egypt announced its first free parliamentary and presidential elections, Gazzar led the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) list.“Prominent candidates face off in Giza elections,” Daily News Egypt (Cairo), December 14, 2011, https://dailynewsegypt.com/2011/12/14/prominent-candidates-face-off-in-giza-elections. The FJP won the largest number of seats in Egypt’s parliamentary elections in January 2012. “Egypt’s Islamist parties win elections to parliament,” BBC News, January 21, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-16665748. The new parliament set about to redraft Egypt’s constitution, which Gazzar told the Brotherhood’s Ikhwanweb website represented the relationship between state authorities and also between the ruler and the ruled, while guaranteeing the rights of citizens.Hussein Mahmoud, “Dr. Helmi Gazzar: Democracy Will Triumph, Culminating in Writing Constitution,” Ikhwanweb, March 25, 2012, https://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=29810. The FJP’s Mohammed Morsi won Egypt’s presidential elections in June 2012.David D. Kirkpatrick, “Named Egypt’s Winner, Islamist Makes History,” New York Times, June 24, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/world/middleeast/mohamed-morsi-of-muslim-brotherhood-declared-as-egypts-president.html?pagewanted=all. Morsi signed Egypt’s new constitution into law in December 2012 after a national referendum. While Gazzar and other Brotherhood leaders claimed the constitution would protect Egypt’s democracy, critics called the document a betrayal of the revolution that toppled Mubarak because it favored Islamists and did not sufficiently protect the rights of women or Christians.“Egyptian constitution 'approved' in referendum,” BBC News, December 23, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-20829911.
While Morsi’s Egypt maintained its peace treaty with Israel, Gazzar refused to recognize normalization with the Jewish state. In 2013, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) invited Gazzar to attend the Soref Symposium in Washington, D.C., in early May to speak on a panel on the Middle East. WINEP sponsored visas for Gazzar and his assistant, who arrived at Washington’s Ritz-Carlton hotel but checked out of the hotel just before the event began on May 9 without informing WINEP. Gazzar claimed he decided to forgo the conference after he found out Israelis were also attending, though the conference schedule—including Israeli representation—had previously been posted online. Further, Gazzar claimed he paid for the entire cost of attendance, but WINEP alleged it had paid for the hotel stay and business class airfare for Gazzar and his assistant while he had paid only for three meals. Gazzar and his assistant also spent four days in the United States instead of returning directly to Egypt, raising questions at WINEP of how they spent their time.Maya Shwayder, “Flew The Coop: Muslim Brotherhood Official Helmy El-Gazzar A No-Show For Scheduled Appearance In D.C.,” International Business Times, May 11, 2013, https://www.ibtimes.com/flew-coop-muslim-brotherhood-official-helmy-el-gazzar-no-show-scheduled-appearance-dc-1252353. An article in the Washington Free Beacon speculated the Brotherhood itself may have pressured Gazzar to leave the conference.Adam Kredo, “Senior Muslim Brotherhood Official Goes AWOL in D.C.,” Washington Free Beacon, May 9, 2013, https://freebeacon.com/uncategorized/senior-muslim-brotherhood-official-goes-awol-in-d-c/.
Gazzar continued to defend Morsi’s presidency as his popularity declined in his first year. In early 2013, Gazzar called an anti-Morsi petition unconstitutional and, citing FJP polling, claimed the FJP was the most popular party in Egypt.“Egypt’s anti-Morsi signature drive is illegal, unconstitutional: Brotherhood figure,” Ahram Online, May 31, 2013, https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/72815/Egypt/Politics-/Egypts-antiMorsi-signature-drive-is-illegal,-uncon.aspx. In late 2012 and early 2013, Morsi and the Brotherhood were accused of encouraging supporters to commit violence against opposition protesters.Abdel-Rahman Hussein, “Egypt violence worsens as five die in Cairo clashes,” Guardian (London), December 6, 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/06/egypt-violence-worsens-five-die. On July 2, 2013, Egyptian security forces violently clashed with protesters in Bin al-Sarayat, resulting in the deaths of almost two dozen and the injury of about 220.“Muslim Brotherhood leader El-Gazzar released on bail,” Ahram Online, August 24, 2014, https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/0/109113/Egypt/0/AboutUs.aspx; Abdel-Rahman Hussein, “Egypt violence worsens as five die in Cairo clashes,” Guardian (London), December 6, 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/06/egypt-violence-worsens-five-die. The army removed Morsi from office on July 3.Abigail Hauslohner, William Booth, and Sharaf al-Hourani, “Egyptian military ousts Morsi, suspends constitution,” Washington Post, July 3, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/egypts-morsi-defiant-under-pressure-as-deadline-looms/2013/07/03/28fda81c-e39d-11e2-80eb-3145e2994a55_story.html. On July 5, Egyptian authorities arrested Gazzar and other Brotherhood leaders on charges of inciting violence in connection with the killing of protesters at the Muslim Brotherhood guidance bureau in Moqattam and Bin al-Sarayat on July 2.Al-Masry Al-Youm, “FJP figure arrested, others transferred to Tora Prison,” Egypt Independent, July 5, 2013, https://egyptindependent.com/fjp-figure-arrested-others-transferred-tora-prison/. Gazzar allegedly spent three months in a single cell.“4 years after coup, Egyptians recall injustice,” Anadolu Agency, August 13, 2017, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/4-years-after-coup-egyptians-recall-injustice/883654. He was released on bail in August 2014 with the expectation he would stand trial.Al-Masry Al-Youm, “FJP says Helmy al-Gazzar released,” Egypt Independent, August 24, 2014, https://egyptindependent.com/fjp-says-helmy-al-gazzar-released/; “Muslim Brotherhood leader El-Gazzar released on bail,” Ahram Online, August 24, 2014, https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/0/109113/Egypt/0/AboutUs.aspx. However, Gazzar soon after fled Egypt for Sudan, where he remained as of 2017.“4 years after coup, Egyptians recall injustice,” Anadolu Agency, August 13, 2017, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/4-years-after-coup-egyptians-recall-injustice/883654.
The Brotherhood faced a leadership crisis in 2020, which allowed for Gazzar’s rise to the position of secretary-general. On August 28, 2020, Egyptian authorities arrested acting Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat. In September, the Brotherhood dismissed Hussein as its secretary-general over accusations he had stolen monetary donations to the Brotherhood. Gazzar was reportedly named secretary-general later that month. However, the circumstances surrounding Hussein’s ouster contributed to a reported growing lack of faith in the Brotherhood’s leadership among members.“Muslim Brotherhood suffers internal rifts, dismiss Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein,” Egypt Today, September 16, 2020, https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/91998/Muslim-Brotherhood-suffers-internal-rifts-dismiss-Secretary-General-Mahmoud-Hussein. Despite news reports of Gazzar’s ascension to the Brotherhood’s leadership, the Brotherhood’s official Ikhwanweb website and its Twitter account made no mention of the leadership change as of the end of June 2021.Ikwanweb homepage, accessed June 30, 2021, https://www.ikhwanweb.com/; Ikhwanweb, Twitter account, accessed June 30, 2021, https://twitter.com/Ikhwanweb.