Skip to main content

Turkish opposition gives lesson to Egypt on how to foil a coup

Egypt's opposition desperately tried not only to beautify the July 2013 coup but also to legitimise the massacres that followed it

The 15th of July 2016 was set to be the gloomiest and most ominous night in the recent history of the Republic of Turkey. It was almost as dark as the night of 3 July 2013 when the Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suspended the Egyptian constitution and launched a bloody military coup that ousted the only democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi.

Thanks to the stupidity of the perpetrators, the Turkish coup was promptly crushed and the plotters are expected to pay a heavy price. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to consider the death penalty against conspirators who committed those traitorous acts against his country.

Unlike Egypt, Turkey’s coup was hastily thwarted. This was due to the planners' obsolete schemes and their complete lack of knowledge about the power of  iPhone 6 and Skype to awake a nation to the danger it faces. The coup however was also thwarted by a realignment of the institutions of society, its media outlets, its opposition parties, the police and the special forces.

Opposition leaders knew in advance what would happen if the military intervened in civilian democratic governance. They had seen it all before . They had all witnessed the catastrophic repercussions of the coups of 1960, 1971-1973, 1980 and 1997. The Turkish people’s painful woes and anguish from earlier blood-stained coups were still fresh in their minds.

Egypt's President Sisi , or rather his coup masterminds, were shrewder and more prudent than their Turkish counterparts, although once in power he has proved to be as frivolous and superficial a leader , as they would have been, faced with the serious and imminent political and economic challenges Egypt faces. Sisi succeeded in mesmorising the National Salvation Front ,the umbrella opposition group formed to oust the first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi. After ousting Morsi the front dramatically vanished.

These secular, liberal forces and sections of the Salafi parties united to ask - paradoxically - for the intervention of the military to protect democracy and save the country from what they saw as the growing hegemony and exclusionist policies of Morsi’s radical Islamist regime.

Undoubtedly, some of their grievances were reasonable political complaints, but they could still have been handled within the framework and mechanisms of democratic civil society. There should be no justifications for any political entity that dares to designate itself as a liberal party or secular group to argue that the Egyptian army’s intervention was not a coup d’état . The Salafi al-Nour party relentlessly preaches about the inevitability of obeying the ruler "Emir", since they believe it is religiously forbidden to betray him or break the pledge of allegiance. They believe that one has to listen and obey the leader whatever he does, even if he beats them and (illegally) seizes their property.

Fortunately, the Turkish opposition doesn’t include an al-Nour party and they decided not to listen to  General Akin Ozturk, who is believed to be the mastermind of the coup saying "Turkey is the mother of the world and will be as great as the world," which is the most famous cliché of Sisi. They chose to peacefully and politically vie to defeat their political rival while the Egyptian opposition chose to crown a militant as a dictator - a man who is not even articulate enough to produce a meaningful discourse, never mind manage the affairs of a big country like Egypt.

At the outset of the Turkish coup, ironically, Erdogan appeared live on his fiercest opposition channel.  Erdogan addressed the nation on CNN Turk in that decisive video phone call that completely changed the course of events. In contrast, in 2013 during the Egypt coup, the most notorious and professionally ridiculous Egyptian channels conspired to   fabricate news and scenes, which were  later proved to be manufactured, using all the tricks in the book to amplify the number of protesters against Morsi.

Meanwhile in Turkey, after a long period of semi-boycott, AK party spokespersons, MPs, and ministers all appeared on opposition channels . They were interviewed on channels which fiercely criticised the government even more than by the pro-government ones. Due to the severe political and social polarisation that followed Turkey's two consecutive elections in 2015, political parties grew increasingly hostile toward each other resulting in a number of fights breaking out among lawmakers in parliament after controversy over a bill to remove immunity from MPs.

All this subsided  after the coup attempt was exposed. Erdogan phoned opposition leaders to thank them for their moral attitude that primarily played a major role to foil the coup and obstruct the plotters from deceiving the international community. In comparison, Egyptian opposition desperately tried not only to beautify the coup but also to legitimize the massacres that followed it.

After the announcement of that Morsi was toppled, Egyptian opposition leaders cheered in Tahrir Square and chanted "Long live Egypt" in that most contemptible scene in history, while Mohamed el-Baradei said the 3 July "coup" was to rectify the outcome of the 2011 revolution. The Coptic Pope Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb and some of the youth leaders of Tamarod and al-Nour party spoke in support of the military intervention. Fortunately, Turkey didn’t also see such a terrible turn of events, otherwise, it would have entered a gloomy tunnel of uncertainty and political turmoil.   

Unlike Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, founder of the Strong Egypt Party and a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who participated in the protests of 30 June that paved the way for the military coup on 3 July, Ahmed Davutoglu, Erdogan’s companion and former Turkish prime minister, immediately rushed to various media outlets to bluntly state that what happened was a coup attempt by some factions in the military who illegally tried to attack Turkey’s democracy.

He rose above his differences with President Erdogan that lately led to his resignation, to back democracy, insisting it was not an attack against the president himself, but an attack against our Turkish democracy.

Obsequiousness and abjection of the Egyptian opposition was further magnified when the Turkish coup attempt began. Absurdly, almost all Egyptian media outlets welcomed the news that the army was taking control of the country and that Erdogan was about to face Morsi’s fate.

The worst of their implausible sycophancy was embodied in their criticism of the alleged hegemony and fascism of Erdogan when he endorsed the death penalty to punish the conspirators of the coup.

They  turned a blind eye to Sisi’s crimes against humanity and even legitimised the Rabaa massacre. When Turkey stands up to deter traitors who aimed to destroy the whole country and conspired to hijack the whole political system, they accuse them of creating a new Nazi regime.

This comes at a time when Turkey's National People’s Party (MHP) states that it would endorse death penalty when the question is raised in parliament. In contrast, prominent Egyptian opposition leaders were calling for summary executions not law enforcement. 

Painfully, none of Egypt's pro-coup politicians have expressed remorse or admit misjudgment of the situation that led to the death of the political and democratic life of Egypt. Hopefully, the Turkish model will inspire what remains of their conscience, if anything does.

- Ahmed al-Burai is a lecturer at Istanbul Aydin University. He worked with BBC World Service Trust and the LA Times in Gaza. He is currently based in Istanbul and mainly interested in Middle East issues. You can follow him on Twitter @ahmedalburai1

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Egypt's National Salvation Front (NSF) members (LtoR) Hamdeen Sabbahi, Amr Moussa, Mohammed ElBaradei and El-Sayed El-Badawi take part in a meeting on 8 June, 2013 in the Egyptian capital, Cairo (AFP).

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.