January 1, 2012; Source: The Daily Beast (Newsweek) | Being charitable doesn’t mean you don’t have to apologize for your trespasses. And in Egypt, the wife of jailed dictator Hosni Mubarak may have more to say than I’m sorry—and her charitable exploits won’t give her cover.

Suzanne Mubarak was Hosni Mubarak’s westernized first lady. Like U.S. first ladies of the past and present, she threw herself into charitable work, supporting or even leading a number of charities, including the National Council for Women, the Egyptian Society for Childhood and Development, the National History Museum for Children, the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, and the Suzanne Mubarak Women’s international Peace Movement. Newsweek reports that her “Reading Is for Everybody” program, which published inexpensive books for the poor, is widely respected, even though Suzanne’s photograph is in every book.

However, friends and critics don’t see her as charitably motivated but as self-interested. Amal Abdel Hady of the New Woman Foundation told Newsweek, “She’s not a human-rights defender. And she’s not a feminist. She was doing this as part of her personal glory.” Even her close friend Farouk Hosny, a former minister of culture, said that her motivation was “To win an international award.” Some critics suggest that she actually thought she might get a Nobel Prize.

As Mubarak himself aged and began to lose his health and focus, Suzanne Mubarak began to wield more and more control, like Edith Wilson after Woodrow Wilson’s stroke. One feminist leader said, “She was the regime.” An unnamed American official added, “As Mubarak got older, indeed her influence and control became greater—and not in a good way.” U.S. efforts to get the ailing Mubarak to shift to a democratic form of government were resisted mostly by Suzanne.

Unlike her husband and sons, Suzanne Mubarak isn’t in jail after forking over her Cairo villa and $3.4 million to the government. She probably doesn’t have to worry about money after her husband is convicted or worse, since her family’s wealth is estimated at between $2 billion and $70 billion. Some of her personal wealth may have come from her network of nonprofits, for example, missing moneys at the nonprofits and libraries she was associated with.

During the Mubaraks’ rule, Suzanne Mubarak was lionized in the West for her charitable work. Now she may have to apologize for her role in the Mubarak regime’s history of oppression—and her use of the nation’s nonprofits for personal aggrandizement.—Rick Cohen