Foiling a revolt: Tale of two approaches
This piece is inspired by an anonymous short Arabic Facebook post on the recent foiled military coup in Turkey as quoted by the Turkish-based exiled former Iraqi Vice President Tariq alHashimi on his Facebook page I translated it into English as hereby quoted “*AlAssad (the embattled Syrian President) and Al-Maliky (former Iraqi Prime Minister) confronted protesting masses with military tanks in their respective countries, whereas Erdogan (Turkish President) confronted **the tanks of revolting army with the masses. Erdogan triumphed whereas AlAssad and Al-Maliky failed”*. Notwithstanding the leaders mentioned in this comparison, I found it very interesting indeed, for it highlights two conflicting approaches to foil a revolt, with, of course, two different outcomes accordingly.
Though even before the beginning of the series of the mass protests that swept across the Middle East and North Africa (MINA) region, starting from 2011, there had been mass protests in a few countries in the region, which were brutally suppressed e.g. the 1982 Hama protest in Syria, which the then Syrian President Hafez AlAssad ruthlessly quelled by massacring forty thousand people according to Syrian Human Rights Committee, the 2011 mass protest phenomenon in the region would remain particularly historic due to its extensive geographical reach and its fundamental, albeit largely counterproductive, sociopolitical outcomes across the region.
In Tunisia where it began, the then country’s unpopular President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country in the face of persistent mass protests.
Likewise, the then increasingly disliked President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt equally succumbed to the unbearable pressure of mass protests against his regime and stepped down having exhausted all his political manoeuvres to cling to power directly or indirectly.
Though both Ben Ali and Mubarak had used considerable force to contain the protests, which resulted in casualties, they never resorted to excessively disproportionate use of military force hence their relatively smooth political transitions that also produced their relatively stable post-revolution elected governments, though in Egypt, the military overthrew the elected government afterward and restored the status quo albeit with new faces.
However, in other countries where their respective leaders were or are hell-bent on clinging to power at any cost, the protesting masses were cruelly confronted with military tanks, and soon the situations escalated into fullscale civil wars. Meanwhile, different regional and international powers and other vested interests flocked to the countries under various pretexts and hiding behind different smokescreens to pursue their different agendas at the cost of the countries’ interests. The situations in the war-torn Libya, Yemen and Syria where fierce civil wars have been raging are the most obvious instances in this regard.
Yet, there have been few instances representing the other way round i.e. when popular leaders proved their popularities by depending on the masses to foil reactionary civilian revolts and even military coups. The 2002 foiled military coup in Venezuela, for instance, would remain one of the remarkable instances in this regard. Some reactionary vested interests within the military and their civilian accomplices allegedly linked to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had taken advantage of industrial action by the country’s federation of trade unions to protest against some appointments made by the then country’s otherwise extraordinarily popular President Hugo Chavez, and staged a military coup against him, and, in fact, captured him.
However, as soon as the masses and the loyal elements within the military realized how some vested interests exploited the industrial action to achieve their self-centered political ambitions, they rose up against it, confronted the military with their sheer will power and determination to peacefully resist the coup. They soon overwhelmed the military, triumphed and eventually brought President Hugo Chavez back to power within 47 hours.
Similar or perhaps even more dramatic incident also happened recently in Turkey where the military had almost succeeded in overthrowing the country’s equally popular President Recep Tayyip *Erdogan. However, while the coup was unfolding, the *President, who had been vacationing in a hotel outside the capital Ankara and was whisked away to safety before the coup plotters arrived the hotel, he subsequently managed to communicate to the Turkish people through a Smartphone application and urged them to resist the coup. The masses* instantaneously* *took to the streets, *confronted the revolting military who killed many civilians and loyal police officers, nevertheless the masses eventually forced them back to their various barracks thereby foiling the coup within a few hours.
Interestingly, in the aftermath of the foiled military coup in Turkey, Aljazeera Arabic’s most popular journalist Dr. Faisal Al-Qasim wrote on his Facebook page that one day late President Hugo Chavez proudly told him that, “*Americans had overthrown me, but the (Venezuelan) masses brought me back to power within 47 hours*.” Dr. Faisal added that, “*I wish he (Mr. Chavez) were there to witness how the Turks brought Erdogan back to power within two hours*.”
Anyway, while this unmistakably clear difference between these two approaches of handling protesting masses or revolting military, and their respective outcomes further prove the vulnerability of governments that seek to cling to power through coercive or deceptive means, they equally further emphasize the fact that the actual dynamics of survival of a government and its resilience potentials in the face of any existential threat depend on the extent of its ability to live up to the expectations of the masses, after all.
However, while the coup was unfolding, the *President, who had been vacationing in a hotel outside the capital Ankara and was whisked away to safety before the coup plotters arrived the hotel, he subsequently managed to communicate to the Turkish people through a Smartphone application and urged them to resist the coup