Crowds protest in Turkish cities at Morsi’s removal from power
Turkey’s opposition to army coup sparks calls for the president’s return
Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan: “We have suffered greatly from military coups . . . We don’t want our Egyptian brothers to suffer as well.” Photograph: Reuters/Osman Orsal
Protests calling for the reinstatement of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi continue across Egypt. But Egypt is not the only country with visible support for its first democratically elected leader.
In Turkey, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against Morsi’s removal last Sunday with a promise of more rallies to come. Leaders of Turkey’s ruling party, the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP), have expressed their outrage at events in Egypt.
“We have suffered greatly from military coups . . . We don’t want our Egyptian brothers to suffer as well,” prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week.
During the 12 months of Morsi’s rule, Ankara invested $2 billion in the Egyptian government. The Muslim Brotherhood and the AKP share similar perspectives on Islam’s compatibility with democracy. To see the Egyptian military end the country’s nascent democratic experiment was difficult to stomach for Erdogan.
Furthermore, a recent history of military coups still haunts the AKP. Turkey’s military last ousted an elected Islamist government in 1997 and, though the AKP has imprisoned many military leaders, the scenes from Cairo have shaken it.
For 10 years, Turkey has attempted to cultivate ties with its Middle Eastern neighbours, but the conflict in Syria, a three-year dispute with Israel and now the ousting of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, have seen Turkey’s allies fall.
Abdullah Ayasun, a columnist with the Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman, said Turkey and Morsi saw eye to eye on Syria, the Palestinian issue and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but now that has all been lost.
“Turkey’s entire southern flank is now surrounded by hostile political regimes,” he said.
At a pro-Morsi rally in Istanbul yesterday, secretary-general of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Ibrahim Munir told a 10,000-strong crowd: “The people of Egypt will continue to stage their resistance without fear and yielding through peaceful demonstrations,” adding that the Brotherhood may boycott future elections in Egypt.
The rally was organised by the Saadet Party – a far-right group with scant political leverage in Turkey though it claims a broad network of grassroots activists and shares a political ideology with the ruling AKP.
Protests were also held in regional cities while crowds gathered outside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.
Fearing the Muslim Brotherhood’s growing regional popularity, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates essentially endorsed the Egyptian military’s recent actions by announcing $12 billion in aid for Egypt.
Turkish media have focused on the killing of 51 Morsi supporters on July 8th in Cairo. A Turkish NGO has taken legal steps to investigate Egypt’s military leaders for crimes against humanity.
Analysts say the Saadet Party’s involvement in pro-Morsi rallies reflects a shared experience of the military.
The most recent military coup against an elected government in Turkey took place in 1997 when the Islamic-leaning Welfare Party – co-founded by Erdogan – was ousted and later banned. The prime minister at that time, Necmettin Erbakan, was twice leader of the Saadet Party during the 2000s.
During its 10 years in power, the AKP has largely eliminated the threat from the military by imprisoning hundreds of Turkish army officers.
Like Egypt, Turkish society is divided into those that favour the Islamist and secular ways.
“But many of Turkey’s liberals and democrats put most of the blame on the Muslim Brotherhood for its fatal mistakes during its one-year governing experience,” says Ayasun.