Coups and revolutions are united in that they oust ruling regimes. They differ however, in that the revolution is driven by the people, or they are at least a main part of it, while a coup is usually led by the military or some of its officers. A revolution does not target politics alone, but a culture and society as well. A coup is meanwhile, limited to a change in authority and often seeks to only remove some figures in power.
This is why a revolution appears proud. It takes place in squares and before the entire world. A coup, in contrast, is orchestrated in dark rooms behind closed doors. It is ashamed of itself and its name. This is why coupists claim that they are revolutionaries. They seek to steer clear from conspiracies against the people and claim to have noble goals. They also liken themselves to the American and French revolutions.
Revolutions compose songs that celebrate the world, while coups compose anthems that threat it.
Revolutions are not always necessarily noble. They sometimes produce regimes that are similar to the ones yielded by coups. They may encourage conspirators to come out into the open and threaten the people. Revolutions in their new civilian and non-violent forms, which were first launched in Central Europe in the late 1980s, and later adopted by the Arab spring, are noble, especially when compared to what they were rising up against.
The truth is that the Arab region was been mired in military coups since the days of their countries’ independence. Today, regardless of their losses and gains, they are embroiled in popular revolutions. The majority of the revolts are today taking place in countries that have witnessed coups. It is as if the people are seeking to cleanse their history from the flaws of the military.
Coups in the Arab world started with Bakr Sidqi in Iraq in 1936. It was followed by a coup by Husni al-Za’im in Syria in 1949. July 23, 1952 was a landmark date in which the Nasserite coup brought in several new figures onto the Arab scene. In Yemen, the military copied the Nasserite example, once with Abdullah al-Sallal in 1962 and Ali Abdullah Saleh in 1978. The Baath party drew from the experiences of Husni al-Za’im, Sami al-Hinnawi and Adib Shishakli to stage a coup in 1963, which later paved the way for others that were crowned with the arrival of Hafez Assad to power in 1970.
In Sudan, coups saw Ibrahim Abboud come to power in 1958, Gaafar Nimeiry in 1969 and Omar al-Bashir in 1989. In Libya, Moammar al-Gaddafi was inspired by developments in the neighboring country to stage a coup in 1969 and added his own exotic twist to it.
The situation in Tunisia and Algeria were more complex. In Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba sought to separate the military from politics, so he did not stage a coup. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali launched a security coup in 1989. In Algeria, the “revolution of a million martyrs” did not lead to a better reality than the one produced by coups. In 1965, Houari Boumédiène rose up against his superior Ahmed Ben Bella.
As for Iraq, it is among the countries that has witnessed the most significant upheaval. A local revolution did not rise up against the coup of 1968, but it took place years later from abroad, a move that was supported by the majority of Iraqis at the time.
Throughout the decades coupists sought to insult, silence and impoverish the people by claiming that they were championing fateful causes and false victories. They replaced the reality with their lies, eventually sparking revolutions that are driven by the people’s concerns, such as freedom, dignity, peace and earning a living. The developments in Sudan and Algeria have seen the oppressed rise up against the coup.