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May 27, 2012, Sunday

The 1960 coup: a final test for democracy

While Turkey is doing well in its efforts to investigate coups from 1980 onwards and to bring their perpetrators to court, Sunday, the 52nd anniversary of the first military coup in Turkey’s history, the May 27, 1960 coup d’état, was a day when columnists expressed their revived hopes for settling accounts with the 1960 coup actors. Staged by junta cells nested in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), the May 27 coup paved the way for the military to dominate politics. During the 1960 events, the military junta arrested several leading figures of the Turkish state and military. Among those arrested was Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, who was executed by the military junta around one-and-a-half years after the coup.

Today, people are increasingly supportive of investigations launched against past coups, says Vedat Bilgin from the Bugün daily, adding that today defending a coup is regarded as defending a horrible crime such as a massacre. The reason for that, Bilgin explains, is that the old perception that says coups are indispensible outcomes of politics is now vanishing. And as long as the public support continues, there are no obstacles to trying the May 27 coup as well. Sabah’s Hasan Celal Güzel writes: “Can you even imagine it? In a so-called democratic country some cruel soldiers forcefully staged a coup with the help of an opposition party [the Republican People’s Party (CHP)], and the prime minister of the country [Menderes] was subjected to numerous types of horrible torture, the lightest of which was putting cigarettes out on his body. And when the decision to hang the prime minister was made, the hangman deliberately set the noose around his neck in a wrong way, which caused Menderes to suffer extreme pain before dying. Besides being deprived of democracy, our country was deprived of humanity those days.” Güzel adds that identifying the May 27 coup perpetrators and bringing them to court will not successfully close the coup era for good.

Güzel is hopeful about the parliamentary research commission that was established to investigate Turkey’s past coups and he suggests that the negative outcomes of coups and their effect on democratic development should be addressed in history textbooks and courses and that a strong emphasis should be put on the value of democracy, especially in military academies. “It is not vengeance or anything. It is a perfectly normal thing to use our judiciary fairly to settle with this country’s coup perpetrators. And with our every move against coups, we are celebrating a newly achieved democracy.”

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