MUSTAFA AKYOL > The pharaohdom strikes back

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These days, a “soft coup” is taking place in Egypt. It is soft, for nobody has been killed in it – at least yet. But it is a coup for sure, for it amounts to nothing other than the curbing of democratic power and the consolidation of the regime of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s fallen dictator.

The top coup leaders are the generals of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (SCAF). They initiated the process last week, first by reinstating the martial law which allows the military to arrest any civilian they want. Then, just the next day, the Supreme Constitutional Court, an ally of the generals, gave a shocking decision that dissolved the first free and fairly elected Parliament in six decades.

As if this shameless attack on democracy were not enough, the SCAF even imposed a constitutional change which limited the powers of the presidency. Because Egypt just had its first free and fair presidential elections, whose winner seems to be Mohammed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood. The official results are expected to be announced tomorrow and we will see whether the shamelessness of the establishment will go as far as forging election results in favor of its favorite candidate: Ahmed Shafiq, a former Air Force general and the last prime minister of Hosni Mubarak.

All of this shows that the Egyptian Revolution – that heroic and historic uprising against tyranny – is far from being complete. The revolutionary forces of Cairo’s Tahrir Square have certainly been able to take Egypt’s longtime “pharaoh,” Hosni Mubarak, down. But the pharaohdom, with its military, judiciary and political extensions like Ahmet Shafiq, is alive and kicking back.

For worse, there are advocates of the pharaohdom even in the West, and even who claim to be “liberal.” These people keep on pumping the very propaganda that Hosni Mubarak has used for decades: that free and fair elections will bring Islamists to power, and that is why democracy must be curbed. Secular tyranny, in other words, must be upheld against a possible Islamist tyranny. And the very vicious cycle that has toughened the Islamists – their exclusion leading to their radicalization – must be preserved.

I, of course, reject this tyranny-is-necessary-to-protect-liberty argument. If Islamists win the elections, then they must be allowed to govern. Only this will make them more moderate and pragmatic. And only then will democracy begin to take roots in the Middle East. For democracy does not grow on “what ought to exist” in a society. It rather grows on what actually exists.

I am speaking of experience, for we had a similar history here in Turkey. Turkey’s own pharaohdom, too, survived the end of the reign of its founding pharaoh. (Don’t ask me who the man was, for Turkey’s paharaoh-protecting blasphemy laws are still in practice.) In Turkey, too, the military and judiciary orchestrated coups by using the Islamists as their boogeymen. They, too, portrayed themselves as Turkey’s “progressive” forces, despite their draconian laws and torture chambers.

In the past decade, however, Turkey’s “Islamists” have been allowed to govern, and they have not done too badly. Turkey is still far from being a fully liberal democracy, but it has gone only better when compared with the 1990s. And the evolution of the Islamists has been possible, only because we have had a functioning multi-party democracy since the 1950s.

Egypt’s fragile democracy, therefore, must be protected at all costs and despite all the propaganda to the contrary. And the Egyptian democrats should not despair, for theirs is a cause which will ultimately win, sooner or later.


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US Observer

6/21/2012 9:01:59 PM

OK I'm going to agree that there are parts in the U.S. you want no part of, but some of you are exaggerating a bit. The Right to Bear Arms is a Constitutional right! Why is this important? So we have the power to defend our property, lives, and worst case, freedom should the government become too authoritarian. Our founders understood government tendencies thus sought balance when forging the framework as a nation. Easiest path to totalitarianism is by placing all the weapons in one side’s hands.


6/21/2012 3:57:08 PM

2-stateless people.So they re engineered borders again,especially to accomodate jewish people in Israel.Balkans out the way, they still would not let Turkey stretch its borders from Thrace into ME, as first they needed lawless and stateless ME rule to accommodate Israel.So really ME has been shaped against the will of its people.So many injustices have been done to Arabs and Turks to accommodate jews but kurds do not see this.My suggestion is that ME nations abolish their borders n become union


6/21/2012 3:42:41 PM

1- @Agnessmith When it comes to Kurds,splitting ethnic people into nations states takes its roots from ages of racist, discriminatve culture of judo/christian tradition in Europe,nation statehood came as a solution to this problem and has nothing to do with muslims,as they were able to manage coexistence in millet system.Ottoman empire stretched itself from eastern europe,deep into ME.So when they deconstructed ottoman empire to reshape balkan ethnicities into nation states, ME people became+


6/21/2012 3:28:22 PM

@AgnesSmith Gulen doesn't want to come home,cause theCold war implementd strict secular regime is still in place inThis country.He'll return when islam is given freedom with a new constitution in place.Greece din't loose war of independnce cos they had nothing to loose, through the world wars empires of Europe deconstructed in order to shape ethnic groups into nation states, Russians,Greeks,Slavs,Turks,Germans,Jews,Armenians etc. took all their share of theatrical roles given by the EU/US powers

Agnes Smith

6/21/2012 12:14:55 PM

Zohre & Turk Uzan - glad we agree. My subject is TK, not the US. But our author spends time there and Gulen doesn't want to come home. We don't want lawlessness. We don't want gettos, poverty which breeds violence, lack of self esteem and needs a police state, This all adds up to the Turkish spring.And lets get to the facts - Why did Greece loose the War of Independence with Turkey? Easy - lack of numbers. It was a pointless battle. The Kurdish issue has to be addressed soon. Watch that space!


6/21/2012 12:06:51 PM

@AGNES, the political power of an Army harms democracy, and this has nothing to do with police or the judiciary system. in a democratic regime, the military cannot have political roles, you must know this Agnes.


6/21/2012 10:35:42 AM

@TurkUzan well said mate. USA literally might be the most free and lawful state on paper terms,but it certainly is not in real life. The fact that people are armed to their theet is the proof of this situation. Citizens living outside wealthy areas have the spirits to turn into real life gangsters.. Even the rich cannot hold a life without security measures around their dwellings and on personal level protection. It is sooo evident that the country is rolling deep in the bog on moral grounds.

Agnes Smith

6/21/2012 5:22:27 AM

@ Turk Uzan. US is a crazy place - Mustafa sells his book, we don't travel in the troubled areas in the US. Fire arms are very available in TK - online??

Aslam Benli

6/20/2012 8:41:18 PM

I agree with Agnes: where Turkey would be today if Ataturk had not stepped in and filled the power vacuum. Whether you like his tactics or not. Without him the country would have been sewn up and separated by the Greeks and British. Ataturk gave women the vote 25 years before Swiss women got to vote (and that's just an example out of many). The AKP wants to move Turkey into a Islamic theocracy like Iran. So, talking about pharaohs, the AKP has one in mind: Erdoğan

Turk Uzan

6/20/2012 8:14:35 PM

@ Agnes smith, Hahahaha does one ever feel lawlessness in the US... is that a joke hahah ... seriously? US has neighborhoods taken over by gangs to such an extend the police can't enter anymore. People can buy fully automatic weapons in most US states in gun stores. But why should they buy guns as you get them for free in certain states for opening a bank account The US is one of the most dangerous places to live, I'd like to see you walk in to a low income neighborhood at night on your own.
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