Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Pakistan that the military overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was "restoring democracy." When the coup happened, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said the "military made a terrible mistake" in ousting Morsi, who won last year in an "honest and fair" election.
In the wake of Kerry's statement, I asked Turkish president Abdullah Gul to comment on the Egyptian situation. He did so on the same day that Turkey's former top general was sentenced to prison for his reputed role in a conspiracy to topple Turkey's government.
I also asked Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali women's rights activist and author of Infidel, as well as Bernard-Henri Levy, the French philosopher who persuaded then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy to take military action against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, to respond directly to Kerry's statement.
Last week, the Egyptian Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail offered his solution to "healing Egypt."
Free Mohamed Morsi!
By Abdullah Gül
Abdullah Gul is the president of Turkey.
ANKARA -- Egypt has always been an engine of progress in its region and beyond. As the inheritor of so many great civilizations, and as the flagship of the Arab world,
Egypt and the Egyptian people have led their region by example, and its achievements, failures and changes of direction have been watched and felt not just across the Middle East and North Africa, but across the whole Islamic world.
After the January Revolution in 2011, Turkey supported the Egyptian people in their quest for freedom, democracy and honor. I was the first head of state to visit Egypt after that great change. Since then, Turkey has spared no effort to help consolidate Egypt's fledgling democracy, and to make sure that its political system embraces all segments of its people. I personally encouraged leaders in Egyptian politics, its military and in civic society to seize this historic opportunity to work together for the good of their nation. I urged moderation, restrain, patience, perseverance and -- most importantly -- inclusiveness.
Unfortunately, the historic step towards democracy in Egypt failed in less than two years. The coup that ousted President Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, was a clear derailment of the country's democratic progress. Perhaps the current political deadlock in Egypt could have been avoided. Maybe this unfortunate situation could have been averted by calling for early elections.
Nevertheless, it is certain that shortcomings should have been corrected through democratic mechanisms. Our own experience has taught us how important it is to keep those mechanisms functioning and to remain committed to open democratic values.
This is not a mantra only for the good times. At moments of peril, it is is more important than ever to stick closely to the democratic path. Egypt is now going through a delicate process which will define not only its own future, but also the fates of young democracies emerging after the Arab Spring.
During this critical time period, every possible step towards either reconciliation or further fragmentation will leave its mark on the future course not just of the country and the region. The significance of constructive and well-articulated steps to be taken now by all the relevant parties, both inside and outside Egypt, is obvious.
The people of Egypt have almost been split into two camps, each of which is dangerously rallying against each other. This situation is worrisome and unsustainable. Already, scores of people have lost their lives during demonstrations on streets and squares.
What we need now in Egypt is not a people divided against themselves, but a nation rallying around its democracy and development. Daunting economic and social problems can only be overcome if Egyptians join their efforts together and not spend their energy on political division.
Egypt's future lies in democracy where the free will of the Egyptian people prevails, constitutional legitimacy is upheld and where rights and freedoms are guaranteed. No other solution will be right for Egypt -- and nothing short of it will bring stability. That is why everyone must do their utmost to win a democratic future for Egypt. Under the current circumstances, Egypt faces a risk of further polarization.
At this juncture, I believe the following steps are vital to put democracy back on track:
First, a quick return to democracy, which was the aim of the revolution, through an inclusive transition process.
Second, all political groups should be allowed to take part in the forthcoming elections. The exclusion of any political party will undermine the success of the ensuing period.
Third, release of Mr Morsi and his fellow politicians would make a tremendous contribution to reconciliation and stability.
Fourth, everyone should exercise restraint to avoid further casualties. Further loss of life could make recovery unattainable, even if the leaders in Egypt act with their best intentions to break the deadlock.
Turkey will do what it can to bolster its relations with Egypt, in light of our strong historical and cultural ties - and to help the Egyptian people keep their country on a democratic path.
AYAAN HIRSI ALI ON JOHN KERRY:
It is a mistake for Secretary of State John Kerry, representing President Obama, to come out with a statement like this. Honestly, when I read it, I thought he must have blurted it out. It seemed like an impulsive, un-thought-through remark.
One consequence of this, in my view, rather foolish endorsement of the military coup in Egypt is that the U.S. confirms what the Brotherhood propagandists have been trying to market: namely, that the U.S. would rather prop up a military dictatorship than accept an elected government if that government is Islamic. I am absolutely no fan of the Brotherhood or Mohamed Morsi, but Kerry just handed the Islamists a huge PR stick, not to mention that the ensuing crisis in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa will now be blamed squarely on the U.S.
The difficult question for any U.S. administration that is committed to "soft power" in its relationship with the Muslim world is: How can the U.S. promote democracy and help those individuals and groups in the region who share America's values, and at the same time avoid being accused of double standards and hostility to Islam?
Before Kerry's words, it appeared hard to pin the usual conspiracy theories on the U.S. Now, every Islamist demagogue will simply replay Kerry's words for a good long time to come.
-- Ayaan Hirsi Ali
BERNARD-HENRI LEVY ON JOHN KERRY:
John Kerry has just blemished his otherwise good record as the new U.S. Secretary of State by committing his first mistake. One may certainly think badly of the Muslim Brotherhood. I personally believe that its past ideology represented an Arab version of fascism and that it never completely dissociated itself from this terrible past. However, a military coup that resulted in 250 casualties in just three weeks most certainly does not qualify as "restoring democracy." Is this simply a matter of semantics? Perhaps, but any leader must choose the accurate words when qualifying current events. Otherwise, he commits a serious political mistake.
-- Bernard-Henri Levy
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