While politicians quarrel over whether or not to pave the way for a settling of accounts with the perpetrators of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, some civil society organizations and municipalities have sped up efforts to confront the coup organizers and military personnel who used varying forms of excessive force against people during the coup.

Van’s Özalp Municipality, run by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), has announced that it plans to construct a memorial for 33 people killed by the order of one Gen. Mustafa Muğlalı in 1943. The memorial museum will be constructed opposite the military base that carries the name of the killer, Muğlalı. Özalp Mayor Murat Dönmez says that construction of the museum will begin after the necessary permission is received from the Özalp district governorate.

Known as the “Muğlalı incident” or “33 bullets,” the event remains a deep scar in Turkish history and is still a subject of discussion. During World War II, several gangs were benefiting from border smuggling — allegedly with the involvement of certain state officials — when one day, some people from the Turkish side of the Turkey-Iran border crossed into Iran and stole a herd of sheep. The Iranians were angered by this act and subsequently raided and stole all the animals from Özalp.

In the end, 34 Kurdish villagers from Özalp were arrested and condemned to death by firing squad on the orders of Gen. Muğlalı — without receiving a trial. One of the Kurds survived and escaped to Iran and the other 33 were killed. Later, Muğlalı was tried at a military court and sentenced to death, but because of his age this was commuted to 20 years in prison; he died in prison in 1951. In his defense, Muğlalı declared that it was impossible to solve the problems created by the Kurds within the bounds of conventional laws.

After several years, Muğlalı’s body was transferred to a martyrs’ cemetery, a statue of him was erected and the gendarmerie barracks near Özalp were named in his honor. A group of Özalp locals filed a lawsuit against the barracks being given his name. The case is currently pending at the Council of State. The Defense Ministry has argued in defense of the naming, saying that the blaming cannot go on forever.

Meanwhile, the efforts of the ’78ers Foundation, founded by a group of people who suffered as a result of the Sep. 12 coup with the aim of working toward the trial of the coup’s leaders, to erase the names of the coup perpetrators from schools, streets and city quarters continues on.

Within this framework, the foundation prepared lists of the public places in Turkey that bear the names of the coup perpetrators. According to the list, there are 33 schools across Turkey named after figures like Kenan Evran or other commanders involved in the coup. The foundation began its efforts in Adana two years ago, appealing to the municipality to change the name of Kenan Evren Boulevard to Democracy Boulevard — but the municipality refused to do so.