Did Egypt Experience a Coup? The West May Not Be Sure, but Turkey Is

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Yuri Kozyrev / Noor for TIME

Egyptian supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi attend a rally in support of the former Islamist leader in Cairo on July 8, 2013

As the U.S. State Department performs all sorts of semantic gymnastics to avoid defining the Egyptian army’s ouster of the country’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi as a coup, politicians in Turkey have not only recognized it as such but also condemned it in the strongest possible terms. In a speech on July 5, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to split hairs, insisting that “no matter where or against whom, coups are damaging and inhuman, and directed against the people, the national will and democracy.” He also took Western countries to task for insisting that Egyptians’ disaffection with Morsi, as well as the sheer scale of the recent protests against him, justified, in some sense, his overthrow. “There is no such a thing as a democratic coup,” Erdogan quipped. “It is as much a paradox as the living dead.” By refusing to call things by their name, he added, the West, and the E.U. in particular, “had once again disregarded its own principles.”

Even before Egypt’s military brass served Morsi with a 48-hour ultimatum — the prelude to their intervention — Turkish officials rushed to the embattled Egyptian President’s defense. In Istanbul, the youth branch of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) called on its followers to attend pro-Morsi rallies. Several of these have since taken place in conservative neighborhoods across the city. For a while — and thanks in no small part to a number of AKP officials who took to Twitter to get out the message — #TurkeyWithMorsi was one of the most trending hashtags in Turkey. Today, with Morsi in detention, and with the specter of civil war hovering over the Arab world’s biggest country, the Turkish government appears to be the only major regional player still loyal to Egypt’s deposed President.

(PHOTOS: Cairo Massacre: Dozens of Pro-Morsi Supporters Killed in Clashes With Egypt’s Military)

Aside from its insistence that a government, once elected, can only be deposed through the ballot box, Ankara has a number of other reasons to stand by Morsi. In January 2011, as Egyptians took to the streets to call for the overthrow of their previous President, Hosni Mubarak and as the West sat on the fence, it was Turkey that fired the first diplomatic salvo by calling on Mubarak to step down. With Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in the driver’s seat as of 2012, Erdogan feted the new President in Ankara during a party convention, promised Morsi’s government $2 billion in loans and encouraged Turkish businessmen to invest in Egypt. In the coming weeks, he was planning to pay a long-anticipated visit to the Gaza Strip, which would have seen him transit through Cairo.

To the AKP and its supporters, Morsi’s 2012 election represented not only the triumph of democracy but also of political Islam, which forms their own party’s ideological backbone. Morsi’s removal a year later at the hands of the army — AKP sympathizers have downplayed the role of mass protests that preceded the military’s intervention — reminds many of them of a dark era in Turkey’s own history, when politicians governed at the mercy of generals.

Last month, Turkey faced its own wave of antigovernment protests, with tens of thousands pouring into Istanbul’s streets, decrying Erdogan’s authoritarian streak. Even if these didn’t compare with the unrest in Egypt, many Turkish officials portrayed them as something tantamount to a failed coup. In addition, a number of AKP bigwigs, including Erdogan himself, have accused Western powers, the international media, plus what the Prime Minister cryptically refers to as the “interest-rate lobby” of stoking the unrest. Just last week, the Deputy Prime Minister, Besir Atalay, pointed to “the Jewish diaspora” as yet another potential culprit. Though his comments were registered on video, Atalay has since denied making them. Meanwhile, sporadic protests in Istanbul and elsewhere continue.

(MORE: Egypt on the Brink: Dozens of Morsi Supporters Killed in Cairo as Crisis Deepens)

Similar rhetoric has surfaced when describing the events in Egypt. While the government is yet to produce any convincing evidence of a foreign hand in the June protests — despite an ongoing investigation into the matter by the national intelligence agency — many of its supporters have been quick to draw parallels between events in Cairo and Istanbul. Progovernment newspapers that likened the anti-Erdogan protests to the Turkish army’s dismantling of an Islamist government in 1997 have since cast the events in Egypt in exactly the same light. Likewise, some have accused outside powers of having a hand in Morsi’s ouster. In a Twitter post, Turkey’s Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek referred to the West as “pro–coup d’état.” At one of the pro-Morsi rallies in Istanbul, a sign read, “They failed in Turkey, now they’re trying to play the same game in Egypt.”

Egypt has also become a rallying point for many of Erdogan’s opponents. To them, post–Arab Spring Egypt — a country where an Islamist party’s attempted to consolidate power across all state institutions, failed to give its political opponents a fair hearing and pursued a religious agenda — mirrors transformations in Turkey, which has been ruled by the Erdogan government since 2002, only at a much faster pace. “As in Egypt, we have a government that has been trying to impose its own constitution and its own outlook on other segments of society, disregarding diversity,” says Semih Idiz, a popular commentator. The recent protests against Erdogan, he adds, “are a direct product of this.” On July 4 the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, drove home the same point by arguing that politicians weren’t entitled to do whatever they pleased simply because they commanded a majority in parliament, and that “democracy wasn’t merely about the ballot box.” A day later, he called Morsi’s fall “a lesson” for Erdogan. “There is no place in democracies for those who use religion as a tool to score political points,” he said. “No one should place himself between man and God.”

(MORE: Erdogan’s Paradox: Turkish Leader Struggles Between Authoritarianism and Democracy)

Of course, many of the comparisons made by either side of the Turkish political spectrum appear wide off the mark. Morsi’s commitment to Islamism is much more radical than Erdogan’s more moderate approach. The Turkish economy has thrived under the AKP, while the Egyptian one has plummeted to new depths amid the political instability that surrounded Morsi’s tenure. In Egypt, the army remains a powerful actor. In Turkey, through a combination of legislative reforms, carefully screened appointments and the arrests of top generals on conspiracy charges, the AKP has brought it to heel under civilian rule. The Turkish military toppled four democratically elected governments since 1960, and there is no appetite for another coup, even among the AKP’s most stalwart opponents. Tellingly, all of the major political parties, even those with no sympathy for Morsi whatsoever, have condemned his removal from power. “A coup, however it comes about, whoever carries it out, is the single most serious obstacle to democracy,” Kilicdaroglu has said. “A coup is a coup.”

Yet the events in Egypt may have given Erdogan some food for thought, figures Idiz. During his Friday speech, the normally unyielding, self-assured Prime Minister made a very uncharacteristic concession. “Every politician is liable to make mistakes,” he said, “myself included.” To Idiz, the acknowledgment, or “political Freudian slip”, as he put it, was a sign that Turkey’s leadership was beginning to chew on one of the key messages to come out of Egypt: “That if you try to impose a majoritarian interpretation on a diverse society, you’ll end up with social strife.” He added, “Egypt is beginning to make people think. After what happened, and once the dust settles, the situation in Turkey won’t be the same either.”

MORE: How Egypt’s Turmoil Echoes Algeria’s Bloody Civil War

106 comments
BinnurTuncel-vanPomeren
BinnurTuncel-vanPomeren

Dear Time, to my surprise, you seem not to have any reporters living in Turkey. Maybe I can suggest you to copy from die Spiegel (a german newsmagazin), if Turkey started to become too dangerous for reporters. Currently, all Turkey,striving for democracy including doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, housewifes, students or just a simple citizen from all age, religious and ethnical fractions took to the street. Under absolutely suppressed media, voicing only how Erdoğan wants his people to recognise his party, there are lots of dangerous lies coming about: Citing his lies, the secular Turks are either going into mosques with beers (could the mufti allow this to happen, let alone how illminded the thought is for Turkey), or  under the so-called interest rate international lobby (as you added in your article too) they are trying to rule out Islam and that they are terrorists. Under the disguise of a big democratic man, he is taking part in all types of unlawful actions: Searching houses of anybody, provoking very religious and uneducated people towards crime against the people who are basically the running economy of the country yet as secular and peaceful as they can be respecting every single notion forming the country and who have no guns but flowers, pancakes, children holding their hands. Doctors have been condemned and put either in custody or sent to prison for helping the wounded in Gezi Park or for Gezi Park cause, lawyers who supported have been sent to jail, without having given any reason for their guilt, policemen who shot or killed people by hitting with the battons were not put to prison and beyond that he supported their actions ''heroic'' (If a child is being killed, en route to buying bread with a gas bomb targeted at his head I would not call this action heroic,or if the police forgets that policing means being there for the civils rather than resorting to force , I can call this equally nonheroic,or bombing the hospitals, breaking the house glasses to throw gas bombs.). One thing is correct though: The prime minister Tayyip Erdogan used blatantly a good economical strategy by reaching more people by re-distributing wealth to once-upon-a-time very poor regions. Even the educated people initially did not see any danger to come. He used the steps of democracy to get the majority of votes and then decided to do all unviable things: Putting people in jails for its fear of another coup, putting journalists into jails for being a part of an organised crime where sofar no evidence has been proved as to their criminality and these people are still in jail, putting people into jails for having insulted the majority of his folk AKP, yet 700 cases were reported about the raped women (60% of them are minor) and the suspects were acquitted under the excuse that ''the women consented to the rape'' or that these men were their ''ex boyfriends''. 

One good thing about the march against AKP govt., secular people woke up and saw that the secularism in our country also did not comply to his origins. If the opposition party (the biggest one being CHP) had showed more tolerance towards simply scarves or veils, and did not prevent the youngsters from attending universities in 1998, this party had never found its roots in Turkey. The incapability of all the opposition parties paved the way for AKP's growth. For more information please visit Diren Gezi Park, Ulusal TV or Halk TV, who are still operating but get fined on daily basis, for showing the aggression of the police and hence of the AKP govt. People started to understand that organising is now the soundest thing to do and even during the forum police is taking people away.


GetReal123
GetReal123

Getting freely elected and then going against the will of citizens is not the way to . . . It's past time for Muslims to stop killing Muslims . . . Get a life and begin cooperation . . Religion of any kind doesn't mix with politics . . . Like oil and water don't mix . . Syria is a pathetic example of this so called peaceful religion

lazarus00000
lazarus00000

The one fact is that every word of this article is, forgive the pun, dribble jibbersih. As long as the Radical Muslims insist on shaira laws, there will never be peace in asociety where Democracy is the cornerstone. The US Constitution put in the first ammendment to keep religion OUT of the laws of government policy.

That is why we are too going to be faced with a severe problem should Islam take hold here in America. The Constitution demands freedom from religion and to swear an oath to defend the constitution. Muslims would never be able to make this pledge because of the severity of their religion.

I can see why the Free Egyptian party is fearful and upset. As to the Brotherhood, well you expect mad dogs to bite. There will be more bloodshed unless the Military sets a firm hand in controlling the radicals. The Interim needs to be openly asking for representatives of the nonradical goups to take part in the process along with the military superiors.

Any nation that wants true democracy needs to read the History of the United States and take a lesson from history. The original 13 colonies took over a decade before a foundation could be laid to complete a document that all could agree to disagree on.

The bottom line though is in order to maintain peace, they need to forcably remove the combatants from the streets.

Keep religion in the homes, church and personal faith, but keep it out of the laws.

Lazarus

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

TURKEY....UNDER FUNDAMENTAL ISLAMIST RULE......OF COURSE.....IS SIDING WITH THE TERRORIST.....ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD......THEIR FRIEND.......BAD GUYS STAY ON THE SAME SIDE.....OF COURSE......

THE TURKEY BUILT BY KEMAL ATTATURK......WHO WANTED A SECULAR EUROPEAN TYPE TURKEY......IS BEING ERODED......BY FUNDAMENTAL ISLAMISTS........SAME IN EGYPT......THE FUNDAMENTAL ISLAMIST "TRICKED......HOODWINKED........LIED.....SCREWED....." THE OTHER EGYPTIANS WHO WERE LED TO BELIEFE THAT THEY WOULD NOT BE DICTATORS.....RAMMING FUNDAMENTAL ISLAM TO EVERYBODY......IN 1 YEAR.......THOUJSANDS OF COPTIC CHRISTIANS MURDERED........TOURISM STOPPED.........PEOPLE COULD NOT MAKE MONEY OR A DECENT LIVING........REVOLTED .....AFTER 1 YEAR !!!

IN AMERICA......WITH ALL THE MILLIONS OF GUNS SUPPOSEDLY IN CIRCULATION........THE POLITICIANS.....DEMOCRATS, OBAMA AND SOME REPLUBLICANS TOO........HAVE BEEN GOVERNING AGAINST THEIR MANDATE......BY ENACTING LAWS AND RULES......VIOLATING THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES......VIOLATING THEIR OATH.......THE PEOPLE SHOUJLD HAVE DRAGGED THEM OUT OF THEIR PLUSH OFFICES.......STOPPED THEIR SALARIES AND ALOWANCES.......AND THROWN THEM IN THE STREETS.......IF STALIN WERE AROUND......HE WHOULD HAVE HAD THEM SHOT BY THE NKVD FRO TREASON AGAINST THE STATE.

WHERE ARE THE AMERICANS WITH BALLS?

VALENTINE, WORLD HISOTIRAN, MILITARY HISTORIAN, POLITICAL HISTORIAN, COMEDIAN, LOL....

Garzhad
Garzhad

Honestly, I would hope our own military would toss the government out on it's ass if it ever went too far. Don't think it likely, though.

GetReal123
GetReal123

Muslim killing Muslim . . .like black on black crime . . . the two groups have no one in their ranks calling for, or demanding that it halt . . .

lambda
lambda

It's no doubt and obviously, at all. Military force fired President..How can it not be a coup?!  

SuhailShafi
SuhailShafi

I don't always agree with everything Mr Erdogan says, but on this point he is right. For a democratically elected government to be overthrown by a military is NEVER encouraging for democratic development.

GetReal123
GetReal123

Muslims killing Muslims . . . How pathetic . . . Elections in US with electronic voting are now easily manipulated . . . China will, but not in my lifetime, be a super power, the one world govt. though will negate much of its impact . . . Time for an American spring, but we are to lazy to stand against the corporate machine . . . Too busy staring at our phones

romano70
romano70

I see a lot of hateful comments against Americans here, in this posting...Yet, allow me to point the obvious:

a) You came to an American publication to get the news, not a publication from YOUR country

b) You are ALLOWED in our system to post your opinion. 

c) When your little countries fall apart, or your economies crumble, who do you call to go to the rescue? If you say the IMF, who do you think gives them the money?

d) If you think that world superiority is easy, or if you think we Americans are dumb or hateful, just hope and PRAY that China does not take the number 1 spot...THEN you will have something to bitch about.

noosken
noosken

One more thing to talk about which is missed here, on last elections there were 2 main candidates one being Mursi, but other candidates which are supported by majority of people like left wing or secular politicians weren't included to the election list so people are "forced" to choose Mursi as Muslim Brotherhood had a larger support among those 2 ,so you can say it was a rigged election, kinda like last election in Turkey AKP won with hidden votes for example in villages people who died but wasn't removed from election list "voted" for Erdogan and AKP and when this got out as news Government and Media tried to cover up, elections in Turkey, Egypt and Russia are rigged for last few years, It is not a coup in Egypt as it wasn't a fair and democratic election last time so people decided to have a fair election and a leader who will represent everyone, personal note religion can not be in politics or society it is a personal matter between a person and god, it must not be used as a way to gain power.

JeffSomerset
JeffSomerset

@TIME @TIMEWorld No Egypt didnt practice a coup, unless you can say there is a coup that was carried out by 33 million people !

eaglesgambit
eaglesgambit

@TIME @TIMEWorld @CNN no Egypt did not experience a coup! By technical definition, a coup has to be initiated by the military. Not so here!

Araik_Sargsyan
Araik_Sargsyan

@TIME Чтобы получить нефть и газ Ирака, России нужно встать в очередь. Араик Саргсян,президент Академии геополитики.lragir.am/index/rus/0/co…

STLAbuBadu
STLAbuBadu

@TIME @TIMEWorld yes of course it did. any media outlets saying no is practicing North Korean style journalism

RYCT2010
RYCT2010

@TIME @TIMEWorld I never saw a Coup backed by 33 Millions in the street, no Cerphue, Flag, celebrating and Dancing every where,..did you??

AmericanMuse
AmericanMuse

Why is the mealymouthed "west" not sure? Egypt surely suffered a military coup d'etat!.

GetReal123
GetReal123

The military is enforcing the will of 22 million signatures calling for new elections

nychappuling
nychappuling

@TIME He is in no place to say anything about the situation in Egypt. This man is absolutely pathological! Needs to be removed immediately 2

GetReal123
GetReal123

Muslims kill each other . . . How pathetic

GetReal123
GetReal123

22 million signatures calling for new elections . . . Why is this not being headlined . . . . . If Morsi is so peaceful why isn't he speaking out for calm . . .

GetReal123
GetReal123

Getting freely elected and then going against the will of citizens is not the way to govern . . . It's past time for Muslims to stop killing Muslims . . . Get a life and begin cooperation . . Religion of any kind doesn't mix with politics . . . Like oil and water don't mix . . Syria is a pathetic example of this so called peaceful religion

wicc
wicc

@lazarus00000 Are you srsly telling nations that if they want a true democracy, they need to read the history of the United States? You haven't had a 'real' democracy in several years (no, choosing between 2 candidates isn't a democracy).

sridhar.sid
sridhar.sid

Erdogan is a smart man. He knows that the Military in Turkey too could do the same. But, he will push his Islamic leanings only so far because swaying too far will cost his power too. These developments in Egypt are a timely reminder to a) Monarchies and Dictatorships that their time is not for ever and b) Islamists that their ideologies will have to parked aside and the betterment of all, must be the focus. Hopefully, Turkey is watching!

me_not_you
me_not_you

@GetReal123 right and there is no such thing as white on white crime... oh they call them world wars.

lambda
lambda

@GetReal123 Yes..To a country,Nothing could compared with PEACE and STABILITY... Look at them... pathetic 

wicc
wicc

@romano70 

a) Time magazine get's published world wide.

b) Then kick us out? Ohwait...you want us here because Time is a capatalistic corporation? 

c) We (the EU) resques each other, look at Greece. Also America had a worse dept then Greece, so who are you guys to save anyone? Any country that America has 'saved' has turned into a dictatorship (including Egypt) with the dictator receiving money of the US to keep the people under control. So do me a favor, don't help us.

d) Superiority?  You get ruled by the corporations and allow it. You aren't a democracy. You have one of the worst statistics for general education, health, ... (the list goes on). What exactly makes you guys superior? The fact that you can bully the world around? Being a bully is a good thing? Also you aren't doing the bullying, the politicians are and they bully you aswell. What makes you think that China is worse then America? 

lambda
lambda

@romano70  Not for american, but also for govt.. sometimes,authority always pretend to be blindness...Its a coup very clearly...

GetReal123
GetReal123

There are many who protest and speak out against war/s