Shameful reactions to the military coup in Egypt

Army soldiers stand guard in front of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, July 9, 2013.

Let me say it out loud from the very beginning. I am not an expert on Egyptian politics. As an observer and a journalist, of course I have been following the events since the dictator, President Hosni Mubarak, was ousted after the Jan. 25, 2011 revolution in Tahrir Square. Yet I cannot claim to have full command of the domestic dynamics of the country, unlike many others in Turkey.

As in any other case in Turkey, numerous academics, journalists and analysts turned into “Egypt experts” overnight. Prior to that, they were all experts on Syria. The same group of people who frequently appear on TV could also become experts on chemical weapons or North Korea, depending on the issues at the top of the agenda for any given region in the world. Turkey is a country where some people know everything, regardless of the subject!
Ironically though, even the coup that took place on July 3, ousting the first democratically elected president of Egypt, Muhammad Morsi, was analyzed through a prism of Turkish

domestic politics in the country. To be clearer, “observers” took a stance depending on their political tendencies. Turkey's government quickly described the military's intervention as a coup and asked for a return to democracy. Although the majority of people also regarded the military's intervention as an unacceptable anti-democratic move, some experts claimed that the military had no choice but to intervene because Morsi was unable to rule the country any longer, primarily due to extreme polarization and certain groups having been excluded from power.

Many comments implied that the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi deserved such an intervention, although it has been only a year since their rise to power. No reason could justify a military coup, but in the case of Egypt, the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood was not given a fair chance to govern told everyone that it was more about Morsi's identity and his “Islamism” rather than poor performance that led to his removal.

What is worse is that in Turkey, even some members of Parliament, where the will of the nation is vested, drew parallels from the Egyptian example to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in Turkey, implying that polarization leads to such results. Not only Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Birgül Ayman Güler, who openly suggested supporting the coup, but also academics at well-known universities implicitly warned the government to take lessons from Egypt. Clearly, for many what happened in Egypt did not really matter unless it had a useful connection to their political arguments about Turkish domestic politics.

Compared to the leading powers of the world such as the US and the EU, Turkey's principled reaction should be considered a badge of honor. The African Union should also be commended for suspending Egypt's membership due to the military coup. However, the reactions of both the US and the EU were extremely disappointing, since they refrained from calling it a coup. In an equally shameful reaction, former Prime Minister and current Middle East envoy Tony Blair said in an article in the Observer that “the military was confronted with the simple choice of intervening or allowing chaos.” Indeed, his subsequent remark that millions of “open-minded” people need to know that the West is on their side is a clear manifestation of the distinction in the minds of Westerners: the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements are not modern by default while secularists are “like Westerners.”

One does not need to be a Middle East expert to see that the coup in Egypt opened room for the brutal regime in Syria to maneuver and extended the life expectancy of Bashar al-Assad's ability to remain in office as the president. The fact that Saudi Arabia also openly supported the coup that deposed Mubarak turned the Middle East into a more fragmented place and decreased Israel's security concerns. After all, a Middle East ruled by dictators is much more predictable than people's movements and therefore preferable to countries like Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

There is no easy option ahead for Egypt. Although further uncertainly and instability loom for the country, holding elections as early as possible is imperative. It should not be surprising to anyone if the Muslim Brotherhood comes back stronger, as long as they are not involved in violence despite the provocations of the military.
There are obviously lessons to be learned; not for Turkey to take from Egypt, but for Egypt to learn from Turkey's long history of military interventions and painful transition to democracy.

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