Coups in Turkey and Egypt

Coups in Turkey and Egypt

There is a reason almost all political segments in Turkey condemned the coup in Egypt in similar ways. Turkey has sacrificed most of its multiparty democracy experience to coups. All of the coups in Turkey were carried out with the aid of the West in one way or another, just like Egypt.

The last coup in Turkey unfolded as the whole world watched on February 28, 1997. That is the coup, out of all coups in Turkish political history, Egypt’s July 3 coup most resembles. Turkey has spent the last decade trying to heal the wounds of the 1997 coup. Turkish politics have been tested by coups and coup attempts for the last half-century, beginning in 1960. With the 2010 constitutional referendum, it was believed that the hanging threat of coups was dispelled to a great extent. It took almost half a century to bring the coup conspirators to justice in Turkey. The Ergenekon trials that attracted the world’s attention to Turkey in the first week of August were the trials in which some of the coup conspirators were tried. The EU and U.S., who even failed to call the coup in Egypt a “coup,” raised their “concerns about the judiciary” in relation to these trials in which dozens of coup conspirators were convicted.

Turkey’s political history is, in one way, also the history of milestone trials – the independence tribunals, the May 27 tribunal established by the 1960 coup, the tribunals that convicted tens of thousands of people after the 1980 coup. Hundreds of thousands of people were convicted via administrative prerogative or media terror without having their day in court, during the 1997 coup. The tribunals had either targeted a specific segment of the society or democratically elected leaders. The Ergenekon trials mark the first time bureaucrats and members of the armed forces were tried and convicted.

The convicted managed to have their voices heard like in an unprecedented manner. As such, many people both in Turkey and abroad became aware of the Ergenekon trials. Some procedural mistakes were made. Nevertheless, when compared to previous post-coup tribunals in Turkey, it is impossible to take the complaints about Ergenekon trials seriously. Of course, the gauge for procedural fairness should not be previous procedural mistakes. However, in post-coup prosecutions, the prevention of future violations on democracy is just as important an aim as the punishment of past crimes. This is the case in almost all world experiences. The Ergenekon verdicts are significant not only because they punish the guilty but also because they set precedents for the punishment of those who attempt to oust a democratically elected government in Turkey.

While Turkey teaches a lesson to its own coup conspirators, the U.S. and EU are busy “fixing” the coup they denied happened. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the military was only restoring democracy in Egypt, but we don’t know who is the client, employer or the subcontractor in this restoration job. If it is Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s job to restore democracy, then what is Burns doing in Cairo? If it is Mohamed ElBaradei who will bring “peace” to Egypt, then what keeps Ashton in Egypt? How much effort will the U.S. and EU expend to resolve the problems created by a coup they deny? Al-Sisi’s “coup backdrop” had collapsed in only one week. Dissent between the Salafis and the liberals became more audible. The Coptic pope and the sheikh of Al-Azhar disappeared. If the EU and U.S. think about becoming part of al-Sisi’s new backdrop then all we can do is to wish them luck. Because “Sisiworld” is a world in which they will not find a fraction of the democracy they said they were concerned about at the Ergenekon trials in Turkey.