Speaking to the Taraf daily on Monday, Baran called for an unprecedented dialogue between the rightists and leftists who brought the city of Çorum to a state of “civil war” between the months of May and July in 1980. “We cannot bring the truth to light with a single perspective,” he stated of the conflict, which saw the abduction and death of his brother at the hands of leftists in June 1980.
Regarding the spate of violence that would take 57 lives and become emblematic of the wider violence between the murky rightist and leftist organizations of Turkey in the late 1970s, Baran says he now believes that the military armed rightists and leftists alike as it sought a pretext for the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. The oft stated but difficult to substantiate claim, says Baran, may seem less like fiction if rightists and leftists come together to share their narratives about Çorum.
Political tensions in Çorum erupted on the May 27, 1980, with the assassination of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Gün Sazak, an event which was followed by rightist mob violence and the building of barricades between the rightist Sunni and leftist Alevi quarters of town. Soon afterward, says Baran, he and other rightists met with “[gendarme] officers who introduced themselves to us as rightists. They gave us weapons and explosives.” What Baran says he did not know at the time was that the leftists were also being supplied by the military. “Years later, we learned that there were officers who had introduced themselves to the leftists as ‘revolutionist-socialists,’ also arming the leftists with weapons and explosives.”
Next, Baran says, gendarme security forces in Çorum stood by while political and ethnic tensions, stoked by Sazak’s killing, led the city to descent into violence. “If the security forces had intervened during the first incidents, there would have been no loss of life or perhaps it would have ceased with only a few losses of life. There would be no such thing as ‘the Çorum incidents’ in history.”
In July 1980, the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) even broadcasted wild rumors that the Alaaddin Mosque had been bombed by Alevi leftists, a rumor which proved to be false but prompted enraged mobs to lynch dozens of Alevis. Daily killings of rightists and leftists paralyzed the community. Baran insists the government knew his identity and other those of other agitators despite its professed inability to find those responsible. “They knew who we were. After the 1980 coup, they immediately arrested us,” Baran said.
The former nationalist gang member now believes that his account and the narratives of others may help both to uncover a military plan to use Çorum as a pretext for the 1980 coup and, perhaps more importantly, to begin the long road to reconciliation over a conflict that has divided his community for decades. “We were all part of the plan; we all have blood on our hands. We are all victims. Let’s discuss Çorum together and reveal the truth.”