With the transition to a multiparty regime in 1950, democracy and freedoms were able to dominate this country only occasionally and hesitantly. The single-party mentality as the sole dominant force in the country in the pre-1950 era continued to exist and exert its domination over the system through the agency of the judiciary, bureaucracy, media and military. The limited democracy and freedoms enjoyed by the public during only very brief, exceptional periods were downtrodden by catastrophic coups and military interventions. During the post-coup processes, coup perpetrators devised and institutionalized a military tutelage system to permeate and extend their clout and power. This applies even to our time, when democratic sensibilities are on the rise and subversive generals and their collaborators are being held accountable in courts for the first time in the history of the country. In the final analysis, we are still being governed by a constitution prepared by the coup generals of Sept. 12, 1980 and the state model envisaged by this constitution is still alive and standing.
Unfortunately, the institutional and legal bases of coups and the military tutelage system are still in place, albeit partially. Worse, the coup mentality still strongly persists not only in the minds of some former civilian and military figures, but also of certain business circles, media networks and some so-called civil society organizations (CSOs). How the e-memorandum posted by the General Staff on its official website in order to meddle with political processes at a date as early as April 27, 2007 was welcomed and supported by certain groups and media networks is still fresh in our memories. More recently than this, we also witnessed how some military intervention plans -- which sought to subject society to social engineering, as they frequently did in the past, target the democratically elected government and the parliamentary system in an effort to design civilian politics at will and portray certain social groups as enemies and victimize them -- were zealously backed by certain small but noisy and influential political and social groups. We further observed, and continue to observe, how the same groups mobilized their rich resources to discredit several investigation and prosecution processes in the country’s efforts to confront and settle accounts with the bloodthirsty deep state network called Ergenekon, as well as with juntas within the military and the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) and other coup plans.
The fact that Turkey has started to try the past military coups and interventions with ongoing effect does not, unfortunately, mean that Turkey has completely rid itself of the coup disease. The pro-coup and tutelary mentality, as well as activism inspired by this mentality, is still alive not only within the military, but also among media networks, business circles and some sociopolitical groups. The people who in the past labored voluntarily at the behest of subversive generals in complete disregard of democracy, freedoms and fundamental rights and who played roles in the victimization of millions of people as a result of military interventions are today refraining from exhibiting the slightest sign of regret for their deeds. For instance, although they had acted as voluntary soldiers for the post-modern coup of February 28, 1997 and hailed the e-memorandum of April 27, 2007, Uğur Dündar, Emin Çölaşan, Ertuğrul Özkök and many media figures do not sport any trace of repentance and even continue to lend support to the tyrannies and pressures that targeted the majority of society during the military interventions. Their lack of regret for their past sins means nothing other than that they will not hesitate to lend open support to similar military coups and interventions -- may God forbid them -- if they ever happen in future.
I must clearly note that it doesn’t sound fair to me to put all the blame of coups and the coup mentality on the subversive generals as the practitioners of these acts. The groups who encourage and even convince these generals to overthrow democratically elected governments have serious sins in these coups and interventions. Is it fair to say that it was only the coup generals who secured political and economic benefits and power from the postmodern coup of February 28, 1997, after which Turkey lost hundreds of billions of dollars in the acts of corruption and bank siphoning that occurred in the ensuing atmosphere, which lacked democratic supervision? Those who sought to obtain unfair and unjust benefits by lending support to that unfair and unethical coup process, which turned the country into a gigantic prison where millions of people were blacklisted and hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women, were denied their right to education, employment and even their most fundamental human rights, must be held accountable in courts, if just for the benefits they obtained during that process.
I felt the need to write down all these because of a debate triggered by certain groups upon the arrest of several military officers, including former Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Çevik Bir, who was one of the most powerful figures of the February 28 process. These groups argue that lending support to military coups and anti-democratic interventions should be considered as falling within the ambit of freedom of thought and expression and, therefore, the probe into coups and interventions should be restricted only to those military officers who played a role in them. However, unlike conventional coups, the February 28 coup did not employ violence and it was rather characterized by psychological warfare operations, in which media networks, so-called CSOs and some business and academic circles played the main role. Without the voluntary support and cooperation of certain media and business networks, there would be nothing like the postmodern coup of February 28. Accordingly, there is nothing more natural for us than to expect those who shared the benefits and power derived from the February 28 and similar anti-democratic interventions to share the bill the current litigation process will send to them.
In other words, the suggestion that considering coups and coup-supporting as part of freedom of thought and expression can never be treated as a serious suggestion in Turkey, a country which suffered great sorrows and tragedies because of coups and interventions. This suggestion is as unfair and insensitive as to argue that the Holocaust and advocacy of the Holocaust should be treated as part of the freedom of thought and expression in disregard of pains and sorrows of 6 million innocent people. If the deeds of the people and groups who carefully avoid showing regret for the support they lent to coups and interventions and try to pave the way for similar interventions -- despite the fact that millions of victims of the anti-democratic system created via three direct and numerous indirect military interventions are still alive -- are treated as part of the freedom of thought and expression, this will be an insult to authentic critical and free thought. In my opinion, everyone who actively and directly takes part in military interventions must be called to account for their deeds and those who are openly complicit in coups must be tried. And no one should be arrested until the litigation is completed and the court issues its judgment.