‘The revolution will not be televised,’ but the coup was
The headline is a brief summary of what happened in Egypt on July 3 when the military, which was supposedly motivated by the deeds of the Egyptians protesting the new pharaoh, moved to oust Islamist President Mohamed Morsi only a year after he came to power after popular uproar against his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
The symbolic lyric of black movement in the 1970s has yet again become “trendy” among the young antigovernment protesters around the region, including Turkey, due to the lack of media coverage of the uprisings against the rulers who were at the eye of the storm. While Gil Scott-Heron’s poem tells us that “the revolution will be live,” in Egypt, this time, it was the military coup that was broadcasted as it happened.
Soon after the military takeover in Egypt, a debate was sparked over the definition of what really happened there with many, including the Western and regional allies of President Morsi, avoiding calling the coup in Egypt a coup with the argument that the army leaders had popular support. It is needless to say but what happened in Egypt was not something that can be portrayed as not a coup. However, delving into a debate if it was or was not a coup has also been redundant since the events in Egypt have gone beyond the scant controversy both for its people and the entire region. The military coup and the row over its very existence have shrouded the path that brought the country to the unwanted but eventual end.
Taking the helm of Egypt on the heels of street protests for more freedom, rights and representation as well recognition, Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood failed to establish a more democratic system in the country in their a year-long era, became deaf to the calls of their fellows during their fight against Mubarak and created their own dictatorial scheme after the previous one, under which they had suffered much. So, the streets filled with protesters were not for nothing or something new since the old fellows of the Muslim Brotherhood back in the days of the Tahrir protests, mainly young, secular and educated Egyptians, felt that their “revolution” had been hijacked by Islamists who moved to form a Mubarak-style dictatorship but this time with religious references.
After all, the military just had a lucky break and gambled for the high stakes of returning to its almighty days after being openly humiliated by the Islamists in many frictions over ruling the country. The military leaders portrayed the coup as a natural response particularly with the backing of not only protesters, but also religious figures, both Muslim and Christian, moderate and secular opposition figures, including Mohammad ElBaradei and Amr Mousa, who in return will be rewarded with senior positions in the transition government and perhaps in the military-backed government after an election.
The international response led by the United States and the European Union was surprising since the Western allies quickly allied with the Morsi administration and went on galvanizing his regime as a model and a strategic partner. For a long time, however, both the U.S. and the EU have been under a fearful spell of the rising influence of extremist Islamists in Egypt, as well as other Arab Spring-hit countries; therefore, their cool response to the ouster of Morsi reflected their long-standing worst case scenarios.
The reaction of many regional countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, echoed their Western allies’ stance with hastily prepared congratulatory messages to the new rulers of Egypt. Unlike the Western camp in motivation, their approach to Egypt was for a desire to keep the military-dominated status quo in the country since the authoritarian leaders, sultans and kings knew the fate lingering over their power while also fearing that it would be their turn next in line.
On the other hand, the Turkish government was among the few that openly lashed out at the military coup in Egypt against their politically same-minded Muslim brothers amid the ongoing anti-government Occupy Gezi rallies – inspired by the bold, brave protesting mood of the region – across Turkey. As a coup-prone country, Turkey also suffered much under military juntas and, just like in Egypt, the Islamists were the targets of the secular army for years. Today, the military is far from being the real trouble for the Turkish government, but the discontent against the ruling of Justice and Democracy Party (AKP) is. Therefore, the heavy-handed words of senior Turkish leaders, on the surface, aimed at the military coup and Egypt but in fact also gave signals – if not threats – to the “enemies within” against the AKP if they hinder the party’s “march” to democracy for Turkey.
Now, the power struggle in Egypt became a proxy fight of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood over the rival rallies on the streets of Cairo. But the outcome will also decide the fate of the hoax created over the so-called “Arab Spring” since the 2.0 version has yet failed to bear a more democratic and free result for the Egyptians or the other nations in the region – only creating new pharaohs hungry for more and more power.
Long story short, it was the Muslim Brotherhood and their Morsi who called for a military coup in Egypt with their religiously motivated agenda and rule that failed to be a system embracing all Egyptians. In any case, a military coup is unacceptable in terms of liberal democratic norms; however, Egypt was not moving in the direction of democracy under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership and declaring the coup an attack on democratization under their rule would be a naïve analysis since there was nothing to call democracy with the increasingly authoritarian rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.