Today marks two months since the Egyptian military intervened to depose Egypt’s first democratically elected President, Muhammad Mursi, and launched a brutal and very bloody crackdown on the country’s largest and most influential socio-political movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since the coup, the Egyptian police and army have launched a series of massacres of unarmed supporters of the deposed President Mursi, killing hundreds of them. Writing these words does not really do any kind of justice to the barbarity of the military’s response to peaceful protests against their takeover. Fortunately, there is plenty of photographic and video evidence of the massacres.
Hundreds of leading Muslim Brotherhood activists have been hunted down and imprisoned. TV stations and other media outlets deemed to be not sufficiently supportive of the military coup d’etat have been summarily shut down.
I think it is worth taking a closer look to examine how the world responded to this violent abortion of Egypt’s democracy by a power-hungry military that had ruled Egypt from 1952 to 2012’s historic free elections.
The United States is frequently referred to by admirers as being the ‘leader of the free world’, yet President Barack Obama has to date failed to describe the Egyptian military’s takeover as a coup d’état. The reason is that US law requires the government to cut off funding to any government that is overthrown by a coup. However, worldwide ridicule of the US’s position appears to have had an impact and two weeks ago signs of a change in the US stance emerged with news that top lawmakers in the USA have quietly suspended most military aid to Egypt.
The deeply repressive Gulf dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE all quickly and loudly proclaimed their support for the military takeover and have backed their support with a colossal $12 billion aid package. The regimes had made clear their unhappiness about the ouster of former President Husni Mubarak and the arrival of democracy and elections in Egypt. Such contagious ideas could not be tolerated.
The Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, responded forcefully to the Egyptian military coup saying:
“It is unacceptable for a government that has come to power through democratic elections to be toppled through illicit means and, even more, a military coup.”
Turkey has suffered repeated military intervention in its own affairs over the years and the current AKP ruling party has fought a long and careful campaign to bring the Turkish army firmly under civilian control.
Here in the UK, our Foreign Minister, William Hague, issued a weak statement saying that Britain did not support military takeovers but would work with the new regime and the head of the Egyptian Army Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. In truth, Hague should not be judged too harshly as the UK has long abandoned any pretence of having an independent foreign policy in the Middle East. As the Daily Telegraph’s award-winning political correspondent Peter Oborne has pointed out, the UK merely follows the US lead in this area.
The satire magazine, Private Eye, managed to make some rather more compelling points than William Hague.
For the final reaction, I will turn to Kamal Helbawy. Helbawy lived in the UK from around 1992 onwards and used to be the Muslim Brotherhood’s spokesperson in the West in the 1990s. I knew him well through The Young Muslims UK and the Islamic Society of Britain who regularly invited him to give talks to their members. It seems that Helbawy has had some kind of dispute with the Muslim Brotherhood in recent times because an appalling interview he gave to a Muslim website , 5pillars, following the army takeover, cannot be otherwise explained. In the interview, he denied that what had taken place was a coup saying, “It wasn’t a military coup, it was the greatest democratic event in our history…The army is a nationalistic institution and they are not out to destroy the country.”
That interview with Helbawy was published on July 16th 2013. I don’t know if Kamal Helbawy has revised his views or apologised for them following the numerous massacres carried out by the Egyptian Army since then.