We have been talking about Feb. 28. But we must first explain it in a nutshell for the young people of this time. In the 1990s, the pro-coup military officers had not yet staged a coup, while 10 years had passed since the Sept. 12, 1980 coup.
The tradition was to stage a coup every 10 years against Parliament and the government. Yes, 10 years had passed; but they were still unable to stage a coup. What needed to be done was obvious; before every coup, an environment of chaos was prepared to lay the grounds for a coup. This time, the twin threats of terrorism and fundamentalism were picked.
In the early 1990s, terrorism was exacerbated by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which was controlled in the aftermath of Sept. 12. This subsequently alleviated the situation involving the Kurdish issue. The possible danger of a civil war between Turks and Kurds was considered by neighboring countries and powers uncomfortable with Turkey’s rise. Within the military, some servicemen were aware of the danger; they stayed away from the juntas. They favored the resolution of the Kurdish issue through peace and brotherhood. The murder of officers and generals between 1991 and 1995 should be discussed from this perspective as well.
The suspected deaths and murders include the following: Gendarmerie Gen. Hulusi Sayın was one of the commanders who strongly criticized the state’s Kurdish policy. He was murdered on Jan. 30, 1991; the Dev-Sol terrorist organization claimed responsibility. Gen. İsmail Selen, who was known for his opposition to the approaches held by the administrators of the time, was killed on May 23, 1991 after his retirement. Most importantly, Gendarmerie Commander Eşref Bitlis died in a suspicious plane crash on Feb. 17, 1993. In the coming months, seven other top officers who used to work with him were killed. The pro-guardianship actors took control of the situation in the terrorism and Kurdish issue.
Those who were eager for a coup were decisive; all they wanted was an excuse to stage a coup. To achieve this, they relied on strong propaganda of fundamentalism along with the danger associated with separatist terrorism. And for this, the people and society should be polarized into religious and secular camps. The seculars should be intimidated and scared of the approaching danger of fundamentalism. Some steps were taken to spark intimidation. These include the following:
On Jan. 5, 1990, 15 military officers and noncommissioned officers from the air force were expelled from the army for their involvement in fundamentalist activities. On Jan. 31, Muammer Aksoy, chairman of the Turkish Law Association, was assassinated. On March 7, Çetin Emeç, a columnist from the Hürriyet daily, was killed. Writer Turan Dursun was murdered on Sept. 4, Bahriye Üçok from the Socialist People’s Party (SHP) on Oct 6.
On Jan. 24, 1993, Uğur Mumcu, a columnist from the Cumhuriyet daily, died in a car explosion. On July 2, 1993, the Madımak Hotel in Sivas was set on fire in front of the security forces and a gendarmerie unit. Thirty-seven people died in the massacre. Three days later, on July 5, 1993, 33 people in the village of Başbağlar in Erzincan were massacred. During a pogrom on March 12-15, 1995, 17 people died out of clear provocations in İstanbul’s Gazi neighborhood.
In short, everything was ready for a coup when the National Security Council (MGK) convened on Feb. 28, 1997. Aczimendis, Müslüm Gündüz, Ali Kalkancı, Fadime Şahin and Sisi -- all were ordinary figures for the pro-coup figures, who were well-crafted and educated on psychological warfare. The coup makers relied on fabricated excuses and then named their move a “balance adjustment for democracy.” The Refahyol administration was removed from power through decisions made at the MGK meeting on Feb. 28, 1997. In the aftermath, the Welfare Party (RP) was dissolved.
Feb. 28 is a shame for the people and circles in this country that call themselves secular or neo-nationalist. The pro-junta figures were obsessed with staging a coup. But what could be said of those who supported them, the politicians who failed in the test of honor and democracy, the media representatives, the holders of capital, university rectors, the head of the Higher Education Board (YÖK), the members of the judiciary who applauded the military in their headquarters, the so-called civil society organizations, the bars and those who remained silent and indifferent?
I would not say anything to Süleyman Demirel, who served as president at the time.