Known for their fresh and witty contributions to the political dialogue and as one of the leading, anti-coup civil society groups in Turkey, Young Civilians hung a sign reading “Democracy Island” at the sports hall where former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was tried and then executed.
Democracy supporters consider Menderes' execution on Yassıada one of the nation's darkest chapters.
Former Constitutional Court Rapporteur Osman Can and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy and member of the May 27 Research Commission Cengiz Yavilioğlu, supporting the action of the Young Civilians, also participated in the symbolic event.
Can, in an address en route to Yassıada, said: “Turkey needs a new constitution. We must draft a new constitution to leave the old order behind.
“What is this thing we have to leave behind? To find out we must look at what happened on May 27. The place to look if we want to know why and what we need to leave behind is the May 27, 1960 coup,” he continued.
Elaborating on the events leading up to and following the 1960 coup, Can said the coup mentality was placed under protection together with the 1961 Constitution and the iron fist of military tutelage.
Yavilioğlu said a large part of Turkey's laws are ideological and must be civilianized. “As a commission, we are conducting research on what happened before and after the coups,” he said.
Journalist Turgay Oğur said the campaign to change the name of Yassıada to Democracy Island has gone on for six years. With this symbolic gesture, Oğur said, they were placing this demand back on the national agenda.
Academic Bekir Berat Özipek, stressing that Turkey's dark chapters of oppression must be explained to future generations, said: “Today, though symbolic, we strike the first nail. The public needs to know its past.”
Menderes' son, Aydın Menderes, supported the initiative to change the name of Yassıada to Democracy Island in 2009 as a tribute to the coup victims, including his father and Democrat Party (DP) members Hasan Polatkan and Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, who were also executed on the island. Prior to the 2011 general elections, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had also called for the renaming of Yassıada to Democracy Island.
The 1960 military coup toppled the DP government led by Prime Minister Menderes. The junta took control of the administration, alleging that the state's secular character was at risk. The Council of Supreme Justice ruled in favor of the execution of 15 leading actors of the toppled civil administration in Yassıada. Three of the executions were carried out: Menderes, Foreign Affairs Minister Zorlu and Finance Minister Polatkan.