Over these 17 years, hundreds of thousands of people were arrested and disappeared without trace. According to an official report, there were exactly 3,197 people who were killed for political reasons.
The coup which brought Pinochet to power is still protested by great numbers of Chileans, despite all the years which have passed since it took place. I think these sorts of protests are very important in terms of keeping societal memory fresh. Through protest, the 36-year-old pain was kept alive in the world's memory by those who had been exiled, tortured, as well as the siblings and perhaps even grandchildren of those who had been killed during the Pinochet years.
In the meantime, our own eyes turned to Turkey around the anniversary of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, expecting even larger protests. We anticipated that all the various victims of the Sept. 12 coup would come together hand-in-hand in rallies to protest military coups. The people pouring into the streets to protest the events of Sept. 12 could have been Alevis, Kurds, the families of those killed, and the parents of those who disappeared, all united by the events of that date. But instead, we see today that many of those same victims of the Sept. 12 coup are grouped into their own categories of self-interest. In fact, the vast majority of the lawyers and supporters of the Ergenekon case are also victims of the Sept. 12 coup. In other words, they seem to be thinking, “Whatever benefits me from a coup is legitimate and right.”
Personally, I believe it is the periods directly around coups that are actually more dangerous than the coups themselves. In Turkey, this means that the actual preparing of society for a coup or the actions that use chaos to push a fed-up public into embracing a snake voluntarily. These are events which actually imbalance us even more than the coups themselves.
When viewed from today's perspective, we really understand that in fact the Sept. 12 coup was a complete construct. While Sept. 11 saw rivers of blood flowing throughout Turkey, suddenly, all the guns were silenced on Sept. 12. All the noise and chaos was cut at once, as though by a knife. In the end, it appears the real goal was to be able to carry out a coup, not to bring serenity to Turkey through a coup.
The strongest supporters of Ergenekon today are some of the same people who were victims of coups in the past. Those who opened the doorway to all the various problems that came during the Feb. 28, 1997 period in Turkey never thought about how one day, they would so be reliant on the law. History will always recall these coup supporters with embarrassment. But it appears that, in fact, there will not be a Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) to save them.
It ought not to be forgotten that those who back democracy rather than remaining silent during coups will, in the end, wind up on the side of the victorious. They will always have the masses at their side. On the other hand though, those who remain silent will always be alone.
Today in Turkey, we see that not a single civil society organization is taking action regarding the enormous penalty given to the country's largest media group. There are no protest marches. No sound from the intellectuals of the land, although the truth is, we had no expectations when it came to them. Had they only defended the law up until today, had they only shouldered the duty of teaching democracy, had they only decided to lean on the society at large rather than defend the status quo so horribly, perhaps they would not now be so tongue-tied.
When people gain power, they seem to believe they have entered into paradise and that they will never again lose this power.