Trial of Sept 12 coup a success for democracy
A fresh page has been turned in this country’s recent history, and do not take this phrase just as an oft-cited cliché. For the generation that has lived through the last 50 years in expectation of a coup d’état, the scene in the courtroom was unbelievable. The mentality that shattered democracy through a coup, tortured people, and executed youngsters was on trial.
The military used to be a source of pride. It was the country’s best protection, and taught the civilian population the meaning of democracy as well. The institution most trusted by Turkish society was also under its control.
We ought not to forget the newspapers, and the journalists with brassy grins on their faces, who presented eulogies to the generals. Some of them made their appearances on TRT (the state-owned broadcaster), and some in the print media, where they slammed their colleagues with farcical comments.
It must be easier to appreciate what this case signifies to me after taking all this into consideration. It is not merely Evren and Şahinkaya who are on trial here. Rather, it is the pro-coup mindset that is on trial. A mindset that views society as a flock of sheep that needs to be herded, and as an army of ignorant fools, is on trial.
May it take as long as it takes: Regardless of the results, this case represents a success for democracy.
The PKK problem was also a product of Sept 12
The swelling of the scope of the Kurdish problem to its current heft and girth was the gravest legacy of the Sept. 12 coup. That is the result you get if you attempt to solve a problem of this nature with a military mindset.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) did not yet exist in 1980, and Öcalan’s name was unheard of. Some “pro-Apo” brigands in the mountains were all anyone had heard about.
Things began to spin out of control when the Diyarbakır Prison was opened and those eager to pursue Kurdish politics were subjected to torture, with Ahmet Türk and his ilk at the top of the list.
None of us have proper knowledge of what went on at Diyarbakır. Witnesses relate their experiences, but our reason still continues to reject all this. We wonder how such inhumane, savage treatment could have been employed. There is only one thing we know, and that is the fact that the PKK assembled its first membership at Diyarbakır. “If it were not for what went on in the Diyarbakır Prison, we could not have established such a dedicated cadre. They formed the initial core. Turkish troops aided us a great deal in this respect,” Öcalan said during my first interview with him, and laughed. He really was touching upon a very true and important point.
The PKK snowballed in the wake of what people went through at Diyarbakır Prison. The organization went sky high once the Kurds were exiled by the coup’s orchestrators and shipped off to Germany, to begin organizing themselves there.
The role of the U.S.
Those who got their hands dirty on Sept. 12 are not few in number, and Washington is also involved.
A “Military Committee” used to come together during meetings of the NATO Council. I have never forgotten how Alexander Haig, former U.S. chief of staff and secretary of state during the period in question, spoke of the perils of the situation in Turkey and openly gave the green light for an “intervention.”
“Whichever country’s chief of staff I talk to, they ask me where [Turkey] is going,” Evren used to tell us.
All of the NATO countries gave their nod to a coup d’état, led by Washington.
The most striking anecdote of this era is the story of how Paul Henze, then a member of the U.S. National Security Council, broke the news of the Sept. 12 coup to President Jimmy Carter. Carter was reportedly attending a concert at Washington’s Kennedy Center the moment tanks hit the streets in Ankara. Henze leaned over to Carter’s ear and said “Our boys did it.”
Henze told me this, only to deny it later when I wrote about it in the book “Sept. 12 04:00.” He was then forced to admit that it was true, however, when I showed him telling the story on camera.