The process of the Feb. 28, 1997 coup trial will no doubt have louder reverberations than both the Balyoz and Ergenekon trials. This is because a “postmodern coup” also affected Turkish civilians.
Civilians who stayed behind the curtains during past coups -- with roles limited to simply legitimizing and support the process -- were completely involved and in fact on the front lines of the 1997 coup. But there were other strange aspects to the 1997 coup. Süleyman Demirel, who himself rose to power after a coup and was removed by a subsequent coup, had photographs taken of himself smiling next to coup supporters. The Justice Party’s “Çoban Sülü” (a nickname for Demirel) even jumped onstage at a Presidential Symphony Orchestra concert and declared, “Here is modern Turkey,” triggering a wave of applause. In the end, he perfectly represented the portrait of him painted by the supporters of the 1997 junta.
With so many civilians involved in this coup, voices from Ergenkon cried, “Let’s not let this thing run out of control, don’t act out of desire for revenge, don’t mix the wheat with the chaff…” But we know all about these stances.
Personally, I am all for approaching those who made mistakes with mercy, those who feel regret now and those who -- because of the general atmosphere at the times -- may have done things not befitting of their stature. But the truth is, those factions I mentioned earlier never express anything resembling regret. There is no sign at all that they are embarrassed by their actions. And they have absolutely no intention of apologizing. In fact, quite to the contrary, whatever roles they played in the downfall of the Refah-Yol government were played out again, with the aim of closing down the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). They sought to topple the AK party with the same mentality that they used to bring down the Refah Party: “Shoot it, bring it down, finish it off. And it was this same group that was responsible for attempting to manipulate the 2007 presidential election. They did not shy away once from turning Abdullah Gül’s candidacy into a threat that bandied about the idea that “the final fortress of secularism in Turkey is Çankaya.” And of course, the April 27 e-memorandum received their full support. They were largely responsible for trying to de-legitimize the Ergenekon case. And they were not ashamed for any of their actions, they apologized for none of them, nor did they ever express any regret.
But alright, let there be no reckoning in court over weakness of character, or over the breaking of morals and principles. For those who are truly ashamed, embarrassment is enough of a punishment on its own. But still, the Turkish public does have the right to expect an apology from them; they owe an apology to society itself. And if this apology is not forthcoming, then their cries that this case “should turn into one driven by revenge” are nothing more than their trick of the week.
Let us turn to the issue of “civilians with duties.” What is being scrutinized in the 1997 coup trial are the works of the “Batı Çalışma Grubu,” or the “Western Projects Group (BÇG).” The “Essential Struggle” section of the group’s West Operation Concept document calls for “support to be given to media that supports Ataturk. The document opposes reactionaryism, the ‘guidance’ of press members in Turkey, and the attendance of BÇG members at a psychology operations course, which in itself is the most powerful element in such a struggle.”
So now the question is this: is the BÇG composed only of military members? Does this group have civilian elements to it? And if so, who are these civilians? Were there some in the business world, the political world, or the judiciary. Were there university directors, university professors, civil society organizations, labor unions, members of chambers of commerce, or, most importantly, the media -- who took these psychological operations courses? In other words, any civilians who worked under such ties with the military, and those who had roles in the military, cannot be lumped together with other civilians who simply made mistakes on moral or principal levels.
The powerful general behind the 1997 coup, Çevik Bir, exclaimed his surprise before his trial that he “would experience such things after the age of 73!” But the following words from him were truly incredible: “Reactionary actions were threatening the country in a different way. These threats were independent from the elected government at the time, the Refah Party. In fact, we protected the government in the face of political reactionaries.”
Yes, it’s the season for birds to sing loudly…