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April 06, 2012, Friday

Sept. 12: the lawsuit

It is inevitable for countries that need to build a more transparent and democratic state structure to face their past.

 Facing old mistakes allows the nation to better understand what the victims have gone through and also to punish those responsible for these sufferings. That’s why it is significant that Turkey is at last able to judge those who staged a coup to reinforce the military tutelage regime.

Only two of the five generals who perpetrated the Sept. 12, 1980 coup are alive today, and they went on trial 32 years after their actions. One may question why it took so long. The answer, however, is very simple: there is an article in the 1982 constitution, which was introduced by the same generals, making it impossible to bring them to justice. This clause, which granted the generals immunity from prosecution has been overturned thanks to the 2010 constitutional referendum, thus such a trial is possible now. Sending these two generals to trial does not only mean that society wants to punish the two old men for their wrongs, but it also means that carrying out a successful coup is qualified as a crime. Whereas before only those that had failed at a coup attempt were sent to trial.

The 1980 coup was of key importance for several reasons. This coup was part of a series of military interventions that have essentially the same reason: to consolidate the military tutelage regime. The process that led to the coup perfectly demonstrates how the plotters created the perfect political and economic conditions to realize their coup and how they convinced people that the coup was the only possible option. That’s why the years preceding the coup provide perfect examples of provocations used to justify a military coup.

In the years leading up to the coup the society was divided between Alevis and Sunnis, Turks and Kurds, leftists and rightists, secularists and Islamists, liberals and conservatives. All of the groups were provoked to fight with each other. In the 1990s, the same scenario was tried once again, but this time these groups refused to fight with each other. That’s why the military and bureaucratic elites decided to directly attack some of these groups, probably hoping that it would generate an atmosphere violent enough to replicate the 1980 coup.

This trial will allow the questioning of a system which doesn’t trust its people, the divergences and the differences of opinion within society, and the civilian and elected institutions. That’s why more than its verdict, its very existence is a milestone. Nevertheless, the repetitive coups have damaged the political system so much so that fighting against the military tutelage regime does not automatically bring democracy, and politics has turned into a game of settling scores instead of facing the past. Actions stimulated by revenge can bee seen all around us including in Parliament and even in the Turkish Football Federation (TFF).

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