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January 23, 2013, Wednesday

Parliamentary inquiry commission on military coups and memorandums

Turkey has just started its efforts seeking truth and justice. To this end, a remarkable step was taken last year in Parliament on May 2, with the establishment of the Military Coups and Memorandums Inquiry Commission by virtue of motions made by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

The commission has investigated the coups and memorandums of May 27, 1960; March 12, 1971; Sept. 12, 1980; Feb. 28, 1997 and April 27, 2007; the massacres of May 1, 1977 in İstanbul; Maraş; Çorum; Malatya and Sivas as well as political murders of well-known public figures. The commission's 1,420-page report was referred to the parliament speaker last December.

The report is accessible at It contains information and many critical documents that should have made the headlines. This is an immense work that those who would like to know what wounds have been inflicted and what injustices have been committed in this country should read thoroughly.

AK Party deputy Nimet Baş was chair of the commission. In the foreword to the report, she made critical points commensurate with the gravity of the investigated offenses. For instance, she writes: “No coup is national but all coups have been committed by institutions bearing a title starting with ‘national.' The coup-makers staged the coups not for the people but in spite of the people; for this reason, they created institutions like the National Unity Committee, the National Security Council and the National Security Board that would control the people and the state.” (p. 16)

“Coups are not just temporary regimes created when the armed forces rioted, attempted to subdue the people and seized power for a certain period of time. On the contrary, they attempted to make sure that their temporary rule would last through the guardianship institutions as products of a systemic design.” (p. 16)

And this critical statement: “Considering that we have a tradition of coups that is older than our democracy and parliamentary order, the health of our democracy is not undermined by the coup-makers alone. Our state-focused economic order, the capital and business world benefiting from the state, academics and writers affiliated with the state, our media that is unable to remain distant from the state, all deprive Turkey of intellectuals, businessmen and independent media that would tell the truth and point out wrongs when needed.” (p. 29)

The report is extensive and detailed. In addition to witness statements, the cost of the coups to the economy and the economic “endeavors” of generals are noteworthy. Some institutions did not respond to the commission's requests for information and the reasons they dismissed these requests are interesting. The report notes that there are some major issues that should have been investigated but that remained untouched because of hindrances. Its recommendations include, inter alia, the abolishment of the National Security Council and the restoration of citizenship rights to coup victims.

A 200-page report which includes critical information on the Special Warfare Unit referred to the commission by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) is particularly noteworthy. Paramilitary forces composed of 100,000 civilians, hidden arsenals, connections to the murders of Hrant Dink, Father Santoro and three protestant missionaries -- all this information has now begun to be revealed thanks to the commission.

The most disturbing impression I get from the report is that the commission was actually not allowed to have access to everything. It admits that documents not protected by the “state secret” seal have been investigated but that the entire truth cannot be known without a thorough review of the notion of a state secret. Unfortunately this could not be done in view of the recent law (June 2012) requiring the protection of documents, information and records identified as state secrets by a board of four ministers and headed by the prime minister.

Turkey has just started its process of demilitarization and eliminating various guardianships. But at the same time, it is failing to take all the necessary steps to do this properly.

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