Numan Kurtulmuş (C), leader of the People’s Voice Party (HSP), speaks at a meeting in Ankara’s Sincan district yesterday to mark the 15th anniversary of ‘Feb 28.’ DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
said the masterminds and supporters of the “February 28 process” or the so-called “post-modern coup” would be never forgiven, as Turkey marked the 15th anniversary of the momentous event yesterday.
Erdoğan described the episode as “a black stain” on the record of Turkish democracy. “Even if a thousand years go by, history will not forgive its architects, or the NGOs and media who were their sub-contractors,” he said.
“We, the victims of February 28, are proudly standing up here today. Many of our brothers and sisters who were victimized have had their rights returned,” he told his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group meeting.
Erdoğan was referring the turbulent process which took its name from the Feb. 28, 1997 meeting of the National Security Council (MGK). In the process, Turkey’s then-omnipotent military imposed a series of tough rulings on Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, aimed mainly at curbing religious schools and Islamic education, in the face of what was perceived at the time as a growing threat to Turkey’s secular system. Erbakan, under pressure from the army and bureaucracy as well as from much of the mainstream media, resigned in June. His Welfare Party (RP) was outlawed several months later.
Mayor of Istanbul and an RP member at the time, Erdoğan himself was sentenced for religious sedition after reciting a poem with Islamist connotations, for which he spent four months in jail. Erbakan’s reformist-minded disciples, including Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül, formed the AKP in 2001.
Opposition parties, however, claim the AKP was the “product” of the “February 28 process” and that the AKP never paid a price.
“The post-modern coup was against Erbakan. But [it was] Erdoğan [who] stabbed him in the back. February 28 was a maneuver to make Erdoğan prime minister, we are sure of that,” the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, said. “The late Erbakan had a nationalist mindset and defended his country’s interest. But Erdoğan is marketing his country.”
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said the main objective of the “February 28 process” was not only to overthrow Erbakan, but also to bring Turkey in line with neo-liberal policies. “The AKP has served to eliminate [Erbakan’s] National View movement. It has implemented neo-liberal economic policies in accordance with the purpose of the February 28 process,” he said.
In similar remarks, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli also branded the AKP a “product” of the turmoil, as he slammed the government for pursuing repressive policies against the opposition.