Foiling the Military Coup in Turkey: The Egyptian Angle

Michael Barak analyzes the reaction in Egyptian social media to the failed Turkish coup of July 2016.

Reactions on Egyptian social networking sites (SNS) to the foiling of the military coup in Turkey, and the “coronation” of President Erdoğan as the hero of the day were mixed. This was reflective of the background of rivalry between the two countries since President al-Sisi ascended to power in a military coup in 2013, overthrowing then-President Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.[1] Opponents of the al-Sisi regime – liberal advocates of democracy, as well as members of the Muslim Brotherhood of whom thousands received political asylum from Erdoğan ‎– expressed joy at the stymied coup and the Turkish people’s willingness to confront the conspirators. Conversely, other users, led by supporters of President al-Sisi, expressed disappointment with the failure of the coup, and stressed that this development plays into the hands of the Turkish president. To their mind, Erdoğan ‎may take advantage of it to settle accounts with his rivals, using various means of oppression, and thus threaten the democratic character of Turkey. Discourse surrounding Turkish coup exposes a sensitive nerve in Egyptian society regarding questions of Egypt’s identity, and whether the country should restore democracy or, alternatively, to continue the rule of military regimes like that of al-Sisi.

The discourse that developed on Egyptian SNS following the dramatic events in Turkey dealt extensively with the reasons behind the coup's failure. There were users who noted that the popularity and legitimacy enjoyed by Erdoğan in Turkey is what brought the people out into the streets. Others stressed that citizens wanted to defend democracy, not Erdoğan, a stance they appreciated: “The Turkish people deserve respect because they never raised the image of a person, but rather the national flag, which they wanted to protect.”[2] Supporters of al-Sisi, however, claimed that it was theatre, carefully staged by Erdoğan, as a distraction from his agreement for normalization with Israel, his apology to Putin, his rapprochement with Assad’s regime, and his pattern of settling accounts with his rivals. One user explained this well: “This is a strong army, one of the ten most powerful armies in the world. How could this coup be halted by citizens? Surely they were actors.” Another user wrote that the coup in Turkey was reminiscent of that directed by former Libyan leader Gaddafi in 1991.[3]

The deep disdain towards Erdoğan that characterized the discourse of al-Sisi’s supporters was expressed in the mocking way that they depicted him. Some users called the Turkish president “Qirdoan,” combining his name with the word for “monkey” (“Qird”). This nickname was spread on SNS in a song titled “The Monkey Skinned the Army,” by Egyptian singer Shaaban Abdel-Rahim (famous for his previous song “I hate Israel”).[4] Users’ aversion increased after Erdoğan gave an interview to Al Jazeera a few days after the coup, in which he again accused al-Sisi of carrying out an illegal military coup. In response, supporters of al-Sisi wrote that what happened in Egypt was a revolution (“thawra”), not a rebellion (“inklab”), because a vast majority of the Egyptian people supported the events that led the Egyptian army to act against Morsi. Many even accused Erdoğan of attempting to destabilize Egypt. Ibrahim Issa, a well-known Egyptian entertainer, tweeted, “Erdoğan is responsible for the blood that flows in Egypt,” because he supports terrorists, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Another user tweeted that Erdoğan also oversaw the plot to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and which ultimately brought the Brotherhood to power. According to a user in Giza, throughout the last decade the Turkish president also helped the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrate state institutions in Turkey and to establish a militia that eventually helped to suppress the revolution.[5] In this light, one Egyptian user declared that the Egyptian people must support the coup.[6]

Considering the results of the coup, there were users who expressed concern about strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region: “The bogus coup in Turkey is the doctor who attended its [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] birth. It was defeated [in Egypt] but now is re-born and is growing in Turkey.” Another user tweeted, “The Brothers in the Arab countries, especially the Gulf States, are excited about the failure of the coup. Thanks to his [Erdoğan’s] support they will be able to rebel against their rulers.”[7]

In Egyptian discourse, some voices, including those of liberal users, wanted to learn from the successful blocking of the military coup in Turkey, in view of the failure of the Egyptians to prevent the military coup in 2013. An Egyptian user noted that the Turks were able to rise above their differences and come together in order to foil the coup: “Huge cheers to the national, secular and liberal Turkish opposition to Erdoğan that lent a shoulder to Erdoğan, unlike in Egypt.”[8] Other users mentioned that contrary to the Turkish people, the Egyptian people are divided.[9] Omar Abdel-Hadi, a founder of Democratic Conscience party went even further, when he tweeted that the Turkish case is an “object lesson for Egyptians about how to bring down a military coup in Egypt.”[10] Islamist users in Egypt noted the important role of Turkish mosques in foiling the coup: “In Turkey the people were summoned by the call to prayer in mosques; in Egypt, the army instills in the minds of soldiers an aversion to the mosque.”[11] In this context, opponents of al-Sisi disseminated the tag “The target: mosque,” in order to demonstrate that the regime denies Islam.[12] Opponents of al-Sisi also protested the Egyptian media’s biased coverage of events in Turkey. They contended that the press rushed to eulogize Erdoğan’s rule and fed readers misinformation.[13] Many users accused the Egyptian artists of throwing sand in the eyes of the public about Erdoğan’s stance toward Egypt, as pointed out by Islamist users: “Erdoğan did not attack Egypt, but the thug who stands at its head.”[14] Egyptian journalists who slandered Erdoğan and called him “The Hitler of Turkey who attacks Egypt,” were criticized and described as court journalists for al-Sisi.[15]

Beyond the deep rivalry that exists between the two countries, discourse on Egypt SNS indicates, beyond a doubt, that the society is deeply divided, with Islamists and secular people alike being unwilling to reconcile themselves to the military coup of al-Sisi. The Turkish people’s behavior is an object of envy and an inspiration for users who are members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but also for democratic groups that oppose al-Sisi. In their view, the Egyptian people failed to adhere to the revolutionary spirit that characterized the Revolution in January 2011, and submissively accepted the military coup of al-Sisi due to the deep political rift that characterizes Egypt today. The discourse also expresses concern among supporters of al-Sisi because of the reinforcement of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, and the support Erdoğan’s victory ostensibly gives to terror against Egypt.


[1] The discourse about the coup was focused around several conspicuous hashtags on Facebook and Twitter, e.g. “Turkey,” “The Turkish people,” “Failed coup,” Turkey, Erdoğan’s word,” “Thanks to the great Turkish people,” “I’m Arab and express solidarity with Turkey,” and others.

#فشل_الانقلاب_العسكري_تركيا; #انقلاب_عسكري_بتركيا; #نعم_الرجل_اردوغان; #تركيا_تنتصر

[2] #فشل_الانقلاب_العسكري_تركيا

[3] #مسرحية_انقلاب_تركيا

[5] #خونة_الامارات_تحتضنهم_تركيا

[6] #خونة_الامارات_تحتضنهم_تركيا

[8] #فشل_الانقلاب_العسكري_تركيا

[12] #فشل_الانقلاب_العسكري_تركيا