Citizens International

Egyptian Brotherhood hints at election boycott at İstanbul rally

As a swelling crowd numbering near 10,000 chanted “every place is Egypt, every place is resistance,” a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood took to the sun-scorched stage, roaring assurances that “the brotherhood of Turks and Egyptians will endure despite the efforts of foreign powers.”

At a Sunday rally held in İstanbul’s massive Kazlıçeşme square, Senior Brotherhood Member Ibrahim Mounir suggested the group would likely boycott the military’s roadmap for elections in six months in “the absence of a legitimate president.” In comments made to Today’s Zaman after an impassioned speech before the Sunday crowd, Mounir called on the Turkish government to continue its strident opposition to events in Egypt, urging Ankara “to insist on the rights of the Egyptian people at every opportunity with their voices in international community.”

That call has already found firm sympathy in Erdoğan, who earlier this week said he still considered the deposed Mohammed Morsi the rightful president of Egypt. The Sunday rally — which was held by Turkey’s staunchly conservative Felicity Party (SP) and called by one organizer the party’s “biggest and most successful rally in a decade” — served as evidence of how urgently the Brotherhood is working to bolster support among one of the few vocal allies it has abroad, and seemed to demonstrate just how deeply the Egyptian party’s ouster has resonated among Turkey’s staunch conservatives. Sympathy with Morsi was at an impassioned high among Kazlıçeşme’s conservative protesters, who drew on events in Egypt to interpret their own country’s recent civil unrest, which they suggested was a prelude to a coup, and expressed their support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Only weeks before our prime minister stood in this square and warned that the same forces were at work behind the protests here,” said Mustafa Erhan, a protester who had come to Kazlıçeşme with his wife and two daughters. “Now with events in Egypt we see his suspicions have been validated.”

The Sunday demonstration showed just how scarred and suspicious Turkey’s conservatives remain after Turkey’s 1997 coup — the country’s fourth in four decades — which deposed Turkey’s Islamic premier Necmettin Erbakan. His ouster saw Turkey’s Islamists splinter into a reformist camp that became Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the staunchly conservative SP. Party members waved photos of Morsi together with those of Erbakan on Sunday, occasionally including portraits of deposed Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II, who was ousted from the throne by a junta of secular officers in 1909.

In 1997, the AK Party put away vocal accusations of foreign meddling, eventually returned to electoral competition and secured victory on a moderate Islamic, reformist agenda.

On Sunday, however, the AK Party’s dramatic shift toward rhetorical accusations of a “great game” played by a shadowy network foreign powers was on display, with members of the SP affirming Erdoğan’s newly hard-line stance. “Our party has been saying that Turkey needs to stop being deceived by the United States, by Israel, and by Europe for the last decade,” said Buket Başer, head of the Ankara women’s division of the party. “I couldn’t support Erdoğan because he has chosen an alliance with these powers.” Başer said that the prime minister’s harsh rhetoric against the West was “a stand I can be behind.”

Protesters often said developments in Egypt had hardened their support for Erdoğan in a way that Turkey’s own protests — which erupted a month ago over the planned demolition of modest Gezi Park near Taksim Square — had failed to do. “We realize the real face of what is happening. The protests may have been spontaneous here, but now when we see them in the context of Egypt, we can be sure there are powers trying to destroy our government here.”

Pro-Morsi rallies continue across Turkey

Rallies protesting Morsi’s ouster also continued in several Turkish provinces over the weekend, with protesters gathering in front of the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia to protest Saudi Arabia’s support of Egypt’s military. The Kıble Platform staged the rally in front of the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia to protest the nation’s response to the coup. Kıble Platform spokesman Adem Çevik said that Saudi Arabia’s support for the dictatorship goes against Islam and called on Turkey to freeze Saudi Arabia’s financial assets as a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organization that develops policies to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. The spokesperson then left a Quran in front of the consulate as a reminder of the religion’s tenets.

“Saudi Arabia supports the military intervention in a bid to make the dictatorship in Egypt continue, just as it supported Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. For this goal, Saudi Arabia helped the coup in Egypt oust Morsi. We are here to condemn Saudi dictatorship,” Çevik said.

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to welcome the interim government the Egyptian army set up after toppling Morsi. Saudi Arabia approved $5 billion in aid to Egypt on Tuesday in a bid to shore up country’s worsening economy, according to Reuters.