This abnormal mental behavior is the result of frequent military coups staged and memorandums issued by the military between 1960 and 2007 on various grounds indicating that the nation's militant secular character is in danger. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) did not necessarily stage military coups just because they perceived that the secular state was in danger posed by what it believed to be Islamic fundamentalism. In 1960, the military staged a coup using the deepening economic crisis as a pretext to intervene that culminated with the hanging of three politicians, including then-Prime Minister Adnan Menderes.
In 1980, the military junta staged another bloody coup on the grounds that the then coalition government was unable to halt violence among leftist and rightist university students. In 1997, the then coalition government was forced to resign by a military junta with the support of its civilian extensions. The Feb. 28, 1997 military intervention, described by its architects as a postmodern coup, was staged on the grounds that the senior partner of the coalition government was accused of pursuing policies to replace the secular state system with one based on religious laws.
In 2007, the TSK issued a memorandum and posted it on its website, warning the current ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) against electing Abdullah Gül as president because his wife wore a headscarf. Gül was elected president by the Parliament established after early elections the same year despite the military's e-memo.
The presidential post has historically been important for the military-led militant secularists to harden some of the reformist laws passed by Parliament to go into effect. Some political parties helped and are still helping the military to prevent Parliament from adopting laws that will improve democratic standards.
But the election of Gül as president in 2007 turned the calculations of the supporters of the status quo upside down. This was because a president having Islamic roots and with a wife wearing a headscarf became president for the first time in Turkish republican history. It is worth noting that Gül, as a former prime minister and a foreign minister from the AK Party, played a significant role in bringing Turkey closer to the democratic standards of the European Union. On the contrary, the TSK and its civilian supporters do not hide their distaste for democratic reforms.
The then TSK top commandership did not hide its displeasure toward President Gül and his headscarved wife by treating both disrespectfully on several occasions.
For the TSK to stage a military coup in retaliation for a Parliament that elected Gül as president was no longer easy thanks to various earlier military reforms that curbed the military's power in politics. In addition, over 250 retired and active officers, including around 68 active generals, are in jail over charges of triggering an armed action to unseat the current government. This legal action also deterred coup lovers from taking military action to interrupt the political process once again.
Against this background, for the first time Turkey will be celebrating Aug. 30, Victory Day, at the presidential palace instead of a military site.
The TSK used to host receptions every year at a military housing complex in Ankara on the occasion of Victory Day as if this important day belonged to the TSK alone.
Those media members subjected to the military's accreditation ban simply because they had criticized the TSK were not invited to the military-organized Victory Day celebrations.
On one occasion, President Gül, breaking the military's monopoly on Victory Day celebrations, hosted an Aug. 30, Victory Day, reception as an alternative to the one the military held on the same day and at the same time.
However, such abnormal military behavior began changing under Gen. Necdet Özel, chief of General Staff, a commander respectful of civilian authority. Özel and his service commanders, for the first time since the AK Party came to power in November 2002, attended this year's April 23, National Sovereignty Day, celebrations held in Parliament. Previous TSK commanders attended neither the April 23 celebrations in Parliament nor those hosted by Gül on the occasion of Oct. 29, the day the Turkish Republic was established in 1923, on the grounds that some of the wives of ruling party members wore headscarves and that generals did not want to shake hands with them.
It was abnormal for the TSK to hold receptions on Victory Days rather than the country's president. It was also abnormal for the military to protest receptions held to celebrate significant national days such as Oct. 29, Republic Day.
Not surprisingly, it was only the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) that boycotted this year's April 23 celebrations held in Parliament, protesting -- though implicitly -- the attendance of women with headscarves.
Turkey continues breaking taboos, but they are not at a desired level because military reforms to bring the TSK under full civilian control have long been halted. It is still a small but positive step that Turkey is leaving behind an abnormal situation that can be described as a state within a state by bringing historic day celebrations to normal standards.