The ultranationalist MHP has taken a stance against the referendum, seen as a contradictory move by many observers. Many in the party’s support base are reacting negatively to this, and Birsel Duracık, whose son was killed by coup leaders for his involvement in ultranationalist groups, says the MHP’s move is unacceptable. She is unable to make sense of the lack of support for justice for the 1980 coup amongst some of those whom were struck the hardest by the military takeover, the ultranationalists. She says she will vote yes on the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) reform package that would amend the 1982 Constitution -- drafted by those self-same 1980 coup-stagers – and that that would enable prosecutors for the first time to hold those responsible for the coup and the atrocities that resulted accountable for their actions.
The son of Yugoslavian immigrants, Selçuk Duracık was 22 years old. He lived with his family in Manisa’s Turgutlu district and worked as a traveling salesman. Before the Sept. 12, 1980 coup he had gone to jail a few times on charges related to being involved with the “Idealists.” After the coup, he was wanted by police for various crimes he had committed. Before going to do his mandatory military service he was turned in to the Sept. 12 military authorities by his father. He never came home; he was executed.
Despite the passage of 30 years, 70-year-old Birsel Duracık has never forgotten her son. Even while talking about those far-off days, she cries as if the pain she suffered was just yesterday. She asks why such bad things had to happen to her and says with certainty that those responsible will one day be called to account.
Duracık believes her son was innocent of the charges against him. She explains that as she and her husband, Emrullah Duracık, believed in their son’s innocence, they had no qualms about turning him over to the coup authorities. For one-and-a-half years after the date he went to jail, Selçuk Duracık was not seen by any of his family members, she says. The family was worried over the frequency of the execution of Idealist group members, the mother recalls, talking about the first and final meeting they would have with their son after he was imprisoned.
“I didn’t recognize my son Selçuk when I saw him after such a long time. They had tortured my son. He was thinner; there were deep wounds all over his face. He had no energy, he couldn’t even stand. When he saw us he couldn’t take it any more and began crying. He hugged us. We talked a bit,” Duracık recalled.
During the conversation that day, Selçuk’s mother says she and her husband were shocked by the things he told them and notes that she will never forget the words he said to her before he was killed: “Mom, I don’t know which crime we’re being tried for. But they’re trying to get us the death penalty. But, there’s no need to worry about them hanging us right now because Ramadan is about to start. After that, only God knows.”
The parents were a bit comforted by their son’s words and believed that he would not be executed and went home. But after a few days later, the mother received word while she was working in the fields that her son was to be executed. “I was in the field working. I was harvesting squash, but I just had this strange feeling of distress within me. Then the police came, and they told me my son was to be hung. It was a huge shock. We went to Buca Prison immediately. We’d thought that they would hang our son after we met with him. But when we arrived we found that they’d hung him in the morning,” she said.
Duracık says she’ll never forget how she felt at that moment and recalls the words her husband said to her after seeing their son’s dead body. “Did I bring my son to the authorities so he could be hanged? If I’d known you would hang him I’d have escaped with him to the other end of the earth. The healthy son I delivered to Turkish justice you returned to me as a lifeless body,” he had said.
Duracık explained that she and her husband buried their son themselves and says her husband passed on soon after the death due to an illness resulting from grief. “Those days that I experienced are like poison to me; I say, ‘O Lord, if only you had taken my life so I wouldn’t have to live through these things.’ My son was only 22 years old. Okay, he could have committed a crime. Every person can make mistakes; but did the punishment for this have to be hanging? Whatever the punishment, he should have just been jailed and then released. With his coup [Gen.] Kenan Evren ruined our lives. He himself lives on. As for myself, I am in the depths of depression with every breath I take,” she said.
Birsel Duracık says that after what she has been through, she will never forgive the instigators of the Sept. 12 coup, in this life or the next. “Evren says that if the law is changed, he’ll commit suicide. Why didn’t he think about that when hanging young children? The AK Party is changing the Constitution in order for Kenan Evren to be tried. I’m going to say, ‘Try the very bones of these people so that there will be no more coups in this country and mothers like me don’t have to weep.’ And in the afterlife, my two hands will be around their necks,” she said.
Recalling that her son was tried and hanged for charges related to being an “Idealist,” Duracık says she cannot understand why the MHP opposes the constitutional reform package. “Idealists should not forget that the coup destroyed many of their homes, tried their parents [and] conducted torture. There’s not a single thing that they wouldn’t do inside those prisons,” she says, asserting that it is now time for Evren to be tried. She says that even if Evren and the other coup generals aren’t sentenced, their trial alone is of great importance.
“For this reason Idealists must say ‘yes’ to the reform package, in order to settle accounts for what was done to them. Devlet Bahçeli and the others in his party don’t understand, because they didn’t fall victim to torture in prison, they didn’t have their babies hanged like ours were; they don’t understand what we’ve been through,” she said, adding, “I’m sending a message to all Idealists: If you say no to that package, I’ll hold it against you. But you know best what you should do.”