In 1980, General Kenan Evren led a military coup against the Turkish government. American President Jimmy Carter was at a musical concert when he received a phone call from a CIA liaison officer saying: “Our agents did it!” Paul Henry, the director of the CIA at the time, admitted that his agency was behind the coup and Washington rejoiced over its control of a group of generals aiding them with their secret mission on the Turkish crisis. This paved the way for many years of social disorder, political violence and economic hardship in Turkey.
It seems as though the similarities between Egypt and Turkey are irresistibly comparable. Both are Muslim countries that are central to the Mediterranean world and both have long held high stakes for Washington when it comes to the governing strategy it pursues in the region. Both states are also associated with close links to Israel. What we are witnessing thirty years after the coup led by Kenan Evren is a coup led by the Egyptian military against the first president to win a fair and democratic election in Egyptian history, and the detention of the first president in modern Egyptian history who did not make political arrests during his rule. It is no surprise that both the Turkish leadership and people are among the most unappreciative of the recent Egyptian military coup, for they have repeatedly tasted the flavor of coups against legitimate authority. He who has tasted understands.
The Egyptian coup did not come out of nowhere. It was the result of several factors, including the manner in which the Egyptian revolution came into existence, as well as the rise of [Mubarak] loyalists who made their way towards a revolution, waiting for perfect opportunity to pounce. This also includes an accumulation of errors and sins committed by the forces of the Egyptian revolution in addition to, and most importantly, Washington’s premeditated intention to support the Egyptian generals and considering them their allies.
The first cause of the disruption and the revolutionary reaction that occurred in Egypt and the deep roots of today’s Egyptian crisis is the suspicious birth of the Egyptian revolution that was contrary to the logic of all revolutions. The Egyptian revolution was premature. Thus, the guise of a military coup was used since the first day with the excuse that it was working to protect the revolution; however, the true intention was to end it as soon as possible. The military leaders, who throughout Mubarak’s rule became accustomed to a life of luxury and complacency, collected internal and external funds while building political and security relations in the United States, decided with American support to dispose of the head of the regime yet maintain the status quo by keeping and utilizing the same establishment.
The military branch took the initiative of disposing of Hosni Mubarak and orchestrated a ‘seven-star’ trial witnessed by the world. In the name of the people, they took his authority away from him through a farce that has never been seen before in the history of revolutions. Since when does a president deposed by a popular revolution maintain the authority to transfer power to whomever he pleases? This is what happened when Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak’s resignation and the transfer of his authority to the military council!
Thus it appeared that the Egyptian people had gained a seamlessly easy victory over tyranny, because it was believed at the time that their glorious military had sided with the people against the pharaoh. However, effortless revolutions are in fact deceptive because on the surface they appear to be a glorious victory over tyranny with minimal loss of blood and resources. In reality, an easy revolution only disposes of the weakest links and works to the advantage of the deep-rooted stronger links. This is a sure-fire recipe to revive the tyrannical structure when given the chance. This is what happened in Egypt, Mubarak’s family and political party were sacrificed at the advantage of other facets of the former regime such as the army, judiciary, security forces and their affiliated media.
Here we have to draw a distinction between the Egyptian revolution and the military coup, which accompanied the revolution since day one. Unfortunately the military coup won at the expense of the revolution when Hosni Mubarak’s generals overthrew the first president elected in free and democratic elections for the first time in the 7000 years of Egypt’s existence.
The Egyptian revolutionary forces that triggered the revolution of Jan 25th were not capable of assessing what would happen as a result of the swift and effortless collapse of Mubarak’s regime. Mubarak’s collapse resulted in the creation of two camps, the first camp is that of the various revolutionary groups, which include the Muslim, secular and civil groups that joined forces in the uprising against Mubarak. The second camp is the deep-rooted part of the establishment that is affiliated with American influence. The strongest facets of this camp are the military security forces backed up the judiciary system and their affiliated media. The revolutionary forces did not read the roadmap carefully; the rising people and the rest of the Arab masses rushed to celebrate an incomplete revolution and rejoiced in a false victory. Soon enough it appeared to them that this victory was just an illusion and not a reality.
On the second day following Mubarak’s defeat, the Egyptian revolutionaries were in need of someone to remind them of what the martyr Abdel-Qader Hashani told the leaders of the Islamic Front in Algeria the day of their victory. He said: “the dangers of victory are greater than the dangers of defeat”. The fatal mistake that both the Islamic and secular factions of the Egyptian revolution committed was to consider the other an enemy and look for political alliances from the outside. Both camps started refer to the ‘great Egyptian army’ as having no fault and the Egyptian judiciary as ‘pure’ and ‘fair.’ Many of these fabricated rumors were believed to be the inevitable truth and revolutionary forces naively contributed to spreading these false perceptions. Revolutionary forces dealt with the military council and judiciary as their partners in the revolution and failed to consider them remnants of the former regime.
The truth is that the Egyptian army is led by generals who collected their stolen wealth at the expense of the people and from generous American aid. They stopped thinking about their primary role, which is to do whatever it takes to defend their country. The Egyptian judiciary system, no matter how fair and pure it may be, is in actually a branch created by Mubarak himself to justify all the wrongdoings he committed against his own people. When Mubarak fell, these two institutions, the military and judiciary, were the strongest components of a deep rooted and well-planned regime that was waiting for the opportunity to end the revolution.
The worst thing that the Egyptian revolution suffered from, and the main reason that inevitably ended it, is the Egyptian revolutionaries’ lack of respect for democratic principles. The different factions of the Egyptian revolution failed to acknowledge each other’s rights. Yet, fairness requires recognising the inequality between the sins committed by the Muslim Brotherhood and those committed by their opponents. The Brotherhood’s monopoly of decision-making was both an error in judgment and lacking in political wisdom. This was further fuelled by the revolutionary forces’ refusal to cooperate. The Muslim Brotherhood’s monopoly of the decision-making process was not entirely a violation of democratic principles since it was the fairly elected party; however, the reaction carried out by revolutionary forces was a violation of the democratic code built by the Egyptian revolution and it consequently destroyed the pillars of democracy that were capable of including everyone.
The Brotherhood’s former revolutionary partners argued that Mohammad Morsi’s popularity had declined, that he was unable to provide basic services to the citizens of Egypt and failed to reach a consensus during the transitional period. These are all valid points that describe how the Brotherhood failed themselves and the revolution. However, this does not justify the crime committed by the revolutionary forces in their alliance with the anti-revolutionary former regime in its cooperative effort to overthrow the first elected president. Unfortunately, revolutionary forces took on the mindset of “let it destroy my enemies even if it destroys me along with them,” due to their lack of confidence in their own abilities and their lack of commitment to democratic principles.
The Egyptian revolution is not a novelty among revolutions and Egyptian democracy is not a novelty among democracies. All democracies across the world are prone to successes and failures. All democracies have periods of greatness and weakness without the insinuation that they are illegitimate. When elected governments succeed, that does not permit them to extend their term without recourse to elections; when they fail, that failure does not imply their automatic loss of legitimacy. When Egyptian revolutionary forces demanded military intervention to help overthrow Morsi, Morsi’s popularity was ranked much higher than that of French President François Hollande. Yet no one in France would ever think to stage a military coup against Hollande. This shows us the vast difference between a two-year-old democracy and another, which is two-centuries old.
The conceited youth and selfish politicians of Egypt have submitted themselves to the mightiest two institution of Mubarak’s regime, namely the military and the Supreme Court. In so doing, they have converted Tahrir square from a source of inspiration for the entire world a mere two years ago, into a platform to be exploited by tyranny and military dictatorship today. They have once again handed Egypt back to American sponsorship, which stood in support of military dictatorship for forty years. It was indeed good that Mohammad Morsi did not waiver under the blackmail of the military generals and held true to the pact he made before the people.
What happened in Egypt is far more important than a mere exchange of local affairs, hence the comparison with the Turkish example. There are many similarities between the military coup in Egypt and the series of coups that occurred sequentially in Turkey in ten-year intervals. These coups are the coup of 1960, the coup of 1971, and the coup of 1980. The similarities include:
• Falsely presenting a military coup as if it is a response to the will of the people under the principle that the military is saving democracy from a political force that threatens it.
• The army’s use of a civilian front to exercise political authority and imposing itself in political issues and issues of grand strategy. Such that they in fact control those who govern, rather than govern openly themselves.
• The military took power in the form of the collective and not in the form of an individual dictatorship. In Turkey, the Turkish National Security Council became the de facto ruler and in Egypt, the military aspires to the same role.
• The implementation of a coup after the army threatened the civil authority with an ultimatum. We saw the same thing occur in Turkey during the coups of 1960 and 1971. This has been the case in Egypt since the beginning of 2013.
• The use of the constitutional judiciary as an umbrella through which to legislate the army’s rule. The constitutional judiciary that was formed during the Turkish coups greatly resembles the Egyptian constitutional judiciary, especially in its appointment of a general as the interim president of the state.
The reason behind these suspicious similarities between the stereotyped thinking and implementation of political authority carried out by the Egyptian and Turkish armies is that the United States was closely linked to the Turkish coup and is also closely linked to the Egyptian coup today, although this appears to be contrary to the truth. Through this coup, it seeks to maintain control over the direction of Egyptian strategy, leading to the failure of the revolution and consequently disrupt the entire Arab Spring. Both the Egyptian and Turkish military coups come from the same niche, which is to incorporate Turkey and Egypt into the American vision for foreign policy in the region. Some Arab leaders, who are loyal to Washington, would not refrain from making any contribution, whether it is with monetary funds or through media coverage, to the revolutionary reaction in Egypt. They will remain submerged in their attempt to thwart Arab revolutions in other countries and oblivious until an uprising takes place in their own countries.
The Arab people are no longer as easily affected as they were in the past. Today they are actively participating in the outcome of their fate. The West and its supporters will remain keen for our people to stay submissive to the binds of slavery. Yet, the reality of what occurs in the interior is what determines the nature of foreign affairs. The Muslim Brotherhood and the revolutionary forces today must return to revolutionary action and popular mobilization accompanied by patience and consistency. This must be done until the rest of the revolutionary forces return to their senses, learn to respect democratic principles and reclaim their rights from the hands of the former regime and its allies abroad who have no right to hold custody over our country.
Thirteen years after General Evren’s military coup, Turkey made its way towards political freedom, economic prosperity, and social harmony. Thirty years after the said military coup, the legitimate leadership of the Turkish people put General Evren on trial at the age of ninety. This was not done with the intention of sentencing him to the proper punishment he deserves- for his health and old age did not allow it – but to make the General aware of his infringement on the rights of the people. The intention of this trial was to make international powers, who are addicted to enslaving its own people through military leaders, aware that the era of slavery is long gone and will never return. History is ruthless to leaders who do not recognize the will of their people in this era of freedom and it will not leave them without holding them accountable.
The experience of a military coup against an elected authority is bitter in our time. This experience led to the death of nearly 100,000 individuals in Algeria throughout the 1990s and it led to a civil war in western Sudan, to which thousands of people fell victim, and led to the division of the Sudanese state. This experience also led Pakistan to failure. On February 2nd 2012 the Turkish newspaper “Sunday Zaman” wrote that as a result of General Kenan Everen’s rule 650,000 people have been arrested, 230,000 have been put on trial, 517 people have been sentenced to death and 299 people have died due to torture and poor conditions in prisons. This is not the fate that any Egyptian or Arab wishes on Egypt.
It is in the interest of Egypt not to allow the military authority to keep what they have usurped and for Egyptian revolutionary forces – those in support of Morsi and against him – to unite and stand up together and lookout for one another in their moment of confrontation with tyranny. They must understand the mistakes that were made over the last two years and to move forward towards the future with confidence, consistency, and hope. A return to justice is more important than for falsehoods to persist.
Thus, the Egyptian people prove, as they always do, that they are free people that refuse to be subservient to the servants of evil; those whom Al-Motanabi threatened when he said:
“Whenever a devilish follower betrays his master… Egypt shall be the place to start.”
The author is a Mauritanian researcher and writer. This article is a translation of the Arabic text published on Al Jazeera net, 8 July 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.