Excuse me sir, is it a coup?

The question of what to label the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi by a military intervention following massive protests looms in newsrooms. This including Mada Masr’s.

While coup and revolution are the two ends of the nomenclature spectrum, some see that labeling is the wrong exercise.

“Refrain from the use of coup or revolution for the time being, because they’re loaded terms and will explode in your face,” Dina Hussein, opinion editor of Mada Masr, wrote in an email thread with the subject “serious question.”

“Describe, don’t label,” she wrote on, in response to diverse suggestions from other team members.

Many of these suggestions opted for mixing notions of revolution and coup. They included “inqilabution” (inqilab is the Arabic word for coup), “coupolution,” “30 June popular coup,” and “coup within a revolution within a coup;
Coup-ception.” Others more militantly subscribed to labels such as “30 June rebellion,” “Tamarod 30 June,” referring to the nation-wide campaign dubbed Tamarod, Arabic for rebel, to collect signatures demanding Morsi’s ouster. Tamarod’s campaign ignited people’s presence in the streets in the millions on 30 June, which prompted the said military intervention.

But what’s in a label?

Descriptions aside, labels for many are meant to produce both desired and perceived meanings behind events.

In this solicited translation of a Facebook conversation between Egyptian activists, attempts to describe the events as the activists perceived them were suggestive of possible labels.

“I leave [others] to find a name for it according to catalogues and dictionaries. But millions of people took part of this movement, which caused a crisis for the regime and led to the ouster of the Brotherhood by the ruling elites,” wrote Amr Ezzat, a columnist and blogger. “These millions welcomed the ouster without illusions about the future and notions of revolutionary puritanism which was never and will never be there.”

Responding, Nora Younis, a human rights activist, wrote it is a “revolution of state institutions.”

“It is a revolution of state institutions, particularly the army, because of its declining role, gains, cohesion, as well as attempts to Brotherhoodize it. These institutions didn’t take part in this revolution for nationalistic reasons. The security apparatus has contributed to the fascist mobilization of the masses, and so did the private media … People took to the streets in great numbers to celebrate even before the military statement came out. People needed to be happy, hated the Brothers and wanted to be revolutionary.”

While Younis recognizes people’s agency in the recent events, with her logic being “action is a blessing,” she thinks the role of aforementioned institutions is instrumental in understanding what happened.

And for others, names should not reflect desires, as one contributor to the conversation put it. “The fact that you don’t like or support a coup doesn’t stop it from being one. The fact that there was a popular demand for a coup doesn’t stop it from being one. The fact that power was handed by the military to an unelected civilian that no one even knows does not make it less than a coup.”

Meanwhile, to resolve the newspaper dilemma, Hussein thought of using one of the facts marking Morsi’s ouster in the labeling process, namely the Tamarod campaign that reportedly gathered 22 million signatures in the lead up to June 30, calling for the president’s departure.

“If you want a tag, then ‘30 June Tamarod’ is spot on,” she wrote. “In keeping with defiance, we should create our own descriptions in the same way we make our own history.”


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