Lessons for Brotherhood and why Turkey is still the model for Egypt
Let me start by saying that Turkey needs to believe that the right thing to do is to act together with Israel, and that it must embrace the language of friendship. If Turkey is allied with Israel, the scourges raining down on the region would be resolved in a short period of time. The bloodshed in Syria, the turmoil in Egpt and the general downward spiral would not be continuing in this way for long. The region is devoid of an alliance of democratic, secular and reasonable power houses. So I urge Turkey to resolve the Mavi Marmara crisis rather than prolonging the issue at such a tense time and establish a solid friendship and alliance with Israel right away. While Israel is surrounded by countries demanding its annihilation and promoting the most ruthless anti-Jewish propaganda, it is an absolute necessity for Turkey to show the true spirit of Islam with regards to Jews and Christians, and be a true role model for the Islamic-majority countries in the region.
Just like Egypt, the military was a powerful political player in Turkey and had been the most trustworthy institution, and their engagement had always found support among many, so the July 3rd coup in Egypt is a familiar scene for the Turks. Seeing how similar the rhetoric is, it felt as if Chief of Staff Kenan Evren’s long-ago speech was echoing in Egypt: “We want to prevent a civil war, and we are only interfering to stop clashes between the left and the right.”
Turkey suffered for a long time by having two heads, civilian and military, in the legal system but it has since opened the way in firmly establishing civilian jurisdiction over crimes committed by military personnel since 2009. And now Turkey is about to make another step towards democratization: The Turkish government only a few weeks ago proposed a set of changes to the constitution to eliminate the possibility of the military getting involved in domestic affairs; in other words, this will remove the threat of a future junta. Since 1934 the Turkish military was responsible for “protecting” the Turkish Republic from threats within and abroad. If the change in Article 35 is approved, the military’s responsibility will be limited strictly to threats from abroad.
Considering four coups since 1950 and what the last bloody 1980 coup had brought (650,000 arrests, 50 executions, 171 deaths by torture, tens of thousands of citizens forced to flee abroad,) Turks have had enough. However, democratisation has neither been an easy nor a quick process but it definitely needed uncompromising resoluteness.
Since divisive language has become dominant, the demonizing of the “other” side has become commonplace and since trust has been lost between the political camps in Egypt, a third party — like Turkey — can indeed play a role to facilitate reconciliation. It is not just about Turkey’s experience with coups and democratization efforts but it is about how an Islamic-based party can have a place as a three-time elected government within the democratic arena. Yes, there are serious demands from the Turkish government for a more inclusive style where everyone feels free to express their demands, and they certainly have their critics and so on; and all of this will hopefully progress. Yet despite the recent protests against the AKP government, the model in Turkey can still be a stepping stone for Muslim majority countries like Egypt.
However, since Egypt is going through a historic reform from a dictatorship to democracy, this should be done with a broad-based consultative system made up of all parties, including and reflecting all points of view. Obviously there has to be compromise from all sides for the sake of harmony and unity of Egypt.
The Brotherhood and its political branch, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), however, have many lessons to learn and they indeed have to change themselves a lot. The failure of President Mohamed Morsi was in neglecting very crucial values that have been ignored by almost the whole Muslim world as well. What we have seen in general was a dead, corrupt, bigoted system being espoused and imposed; however, their new goal should be to emphasize the importance of modern, extroverted, loving people and embracing a style that advocates art and science. People are invariably happier with cleanliness, with art, with green spaces, and they seek out music, sculpture, painting, aesthetic architecture and beauty.
Now that this unwanted scenario has happened, the leaders of the Brotherhood should be pioneers for a reform towards a modern understanding of Islam and take a stance against bigotry. They should embrace Jews and Christians in front of cameras; in their speeches they should embrace all people from all walks of life including communists, atheists, etc. They should express the beauties of freedoms, and provide a comfortable atmosphere even for the most vocal critics.
Another crucial emphasis should be for the rights and freedoms of women. They should show their love and respect for women, and bring them to the front, regardless of their style of dress. They should embrace a secular model, as in Turkey, accepting all as equal and first class citizens, and providing religious freedom for all. The Brotherhood being in close coordination with Turkey would be an advantageous way for them to make fast progress.
Finally, the Brotherhood should embrace a policy that will comfort the Israelis and the ones who hold it dear to themselves and they should scrupulously avoid things that could raise tensions. They have to end the anti-Israel rhetoric and show their compassion for Jews and Christians, as a requirement of their belief as well. In point of simple fact, they should not be enemies with anyone, not even with their opponents: This is essential to silence the guns, and to end the division even if it is a one-sided effort. From now on, they should focus on solutions.
I am aware that this is far from what the Brotherhood stands for at the moment, but there could be significant developments through intense educational programs via television and social programs designed to change the fanatical mindset in its administration and social structure, and replace it with a far more inclusive approach.
Sinem Tezyapar is an Executive Producer at a Turkish TV. She is a political and religious commentator, peace activist and is the spokesperson of a prominent international interfaith organization, as well as its coordinator for international relations with political and religious leaders. She is working with interparlimentary and non governmental organizations for the establishment of the United Nations Permanent Forum for a Culture of Peace and Global Ethics. She can be reached via @SinemTezyapar