The term “velvet revolution” refers to the uprising that overthrew the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989. The meaning of the original Czech term is explained in its Slovakian equivalent “gentle revolution.” Both terms refer to a non-violent rebellion that effects change in the smoothest and most peaceful way and that involves a gradual shift from one system of governance to another. Although the term “velvet revolution” originally denoted a specific event in a specific country, it later came to be applied to unarmed protests in several parts of the world like the Color Revolutions (the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia), the Singing Revolution in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the Iranian Green Movement (also called “enghelab-e makhmali,” Persian for “velvet revolution”). The names given to all those revolutions/ protest movements are in themselves indicative of their peaceful nature and this, in turn, implies the absence of any kind of military-like action on the part of the revolutionaries and/ or the lack of involvement in the revolution on the part of the state army.

However, the moment you set foot in Egypt, you expect to have history so drastically contradicted, politics so flagrantly subverted, and logic so absurdly challenged. Only in Egypt would a velvet revolution be staged by none other than the army.

In Egypt, the velvet revolution does not only acquire a different meaning because the party that starts it is the furthest from anything peaceful if only by virtue of its possession of all the tools of violence required to effect the most drastic of changes without need for waiting and/or negotiating, but also owing to the stages through which the revolution had gone and which, in fact, makes it the “velvetiest” history has ever witnessed.

When the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces said it was siding with the revolution, it was one of the rare instances in history where you saw an army join the ranks of a peaceful revolution ─ and not stage a coup. Of course everyone knew at the time that the army’s stance was not as purely altruistic as they wanted it to seem at the start simply because all Egyptians were aware of how military leaderships strongly opposed the bequest of power to the president’s son and had countless reservations on the way a bunch of young business moguls was starting to threaten their economic interests. It was a case of mutual gain and that was fine by the revolutionaries as long as the end result would be establishing the democracy for which the revolution started.

Despite several fatal mistakes on its part, using excessive force with peaceful protestors being the most typical example, the army took several steps towards this yearned-for democracy or at least a not-so-bad semblance of it. This started with the referendum on the Constitutional Declaration, designed to temporarily replace the old constitution until a new one is drafted, and seeing the way people got excited about queuing in front of polling stations tell you a lot about how real the change felt for them. But I can always hug you while I thrust my hand into your pocket and you would still enjoy the hug and pretend you had no money on you to start with. Apart from the fact that the actual declaration contained much more articles than the ones on which people voted, this presumably democratic document was the very means for subverting the democratic process later on.

The unexpected rise of Islamists to power through a sweeping victory in parliamentary elections did bother a lot of people, mainly revolutionaries and liberals, not only because the Muslim Brotherhood and other conservative parties were seen to be taking advantage of a revolution they have not really taken part in from the start, but also because their ideology is totally contradictory with one of the revolution’s most crucial demands: a civilian state. But if this is what the people want, so be it.

That was the only consolation at the time and it wasn’t a very effective one for that matter because it required overlooking all the violations those parties committed to manipulate the people into voting for them and later bearing with the MPs’ lousy performance. This did not last for long when it was very obvious how Islamist powers, especially the Brotherhood, were out to have a finger in every cake. Their insistence on excluding liberal factions from the Constituent Assembly and their decision to field a presidential candidate were two big straws that almost broke people’s faith in democracy and made them wish those elections never took place. A similar feeling started taking hold of a larger amount of Egyptians when the presidential elections run-off ended up with the Brotherhood candidate and one of former regime’s strongmen and speculations about whether the devil is not as risky as the deep blue sea became a daily activity.

Two days before the elections, the real bombshell dropped. A court ruling dissolved the parliament citing a loophole in the Constitutional Declaration. Egyptians fed up for long with the Brotherhood could not help but celebrate, not realizing how short-sighted they were and not trying to imagine what they would have felt had this been a parliament that really represented the revolution.

On the same day, a lawsuit contesting the participation of the former regime candidate in the presidential elections was dropped and Egyptians preoccupied with getting rid of Islamist MPs could not help but feel less furious than they actually should have not only because of the man’s background but also owing to speculations about him being the military’s candidate and about the possibility of rigging elections in his favor. Very few people wondered why being the de facto ruler of Egypt, the military council did not stop the elections from the beginning if they violated the declaration and why they waited until people really wished the parliament would go to take such a step like they did with the Salafi candidate who turned out to have an American mother only after people were horrified at the possibility of having him for president. The majority was, however, sure that the former regime candidate is the coming president not only because of the support he was getting from the army and all parties interested in going back to the pre-revolution era, but also because almost all Brotherhood haters, and these were steadily increasing, and almost all opponents of a religious state, and these were quite a lot, were expected to vote for him. Of course, his victory would have started an endless honeymoon between the president and the army and there would have been no better context to killing the revolution as softly as can be.

But ballot boxes are sometimes tricky and democracy is always unpredictable, so what of the Brotherhood candidate makes it? The Brotherhood and the army are not really best of friends and even though the former is willing to strike a deal with the devil in return for some power, it also likes to flex its muscles every now and then to garner popular support and pose as the guardian of the revolution. A gentle clipping of the wings of the new self-proclaimed phoenix the night before election results were out was the best way to handle the situation and nothing could be more perfect than issuing a supplementary constitutional declaration that brings all powers back to the military council and renders the president as dissoluble as the parliament that preceded him. Rigging the votes would have been an unnecessary hassle, wouldn’t it, and issuing another document takes little time and no money and the timing when people were starting to give precedence to their peace of mind over democratic transition could not have been more ideal

Now we are back to square minus one. The army is once more in control like it was right after the toppling of the regime except that there is no influential revolutionary force to counter that as was the case at the time. We are back to some murky zone we have never been to before or after or during the revolution, one that looks and sounds too quiet for the tumult it has been witnessing, one in which you are attacked painlessly, stay bleeding noiselessly, and get buried stealthily.

I do salute the military council for going down in history as the first armed entity to stage the softest of coups and eliminate its adversaries with weapons of velvet destruction and for offering a perfect example of the gentlest counter-revolution that allows no blood on its hands and leaves no crimes in its record.