Although 13 years have passed since the postmodern coup, in which the military overthrew the coalition government led by Necmettin Erbakan of the now-defunct Welfare Party (RP), the coup era seems to have maintained its grip on Turkey, and almost all decisions made then by the National Security Council (MGK) are still in effect in the country.
The biggest protest to condemn the postmodern coup was co-hosted by the 70 Million Steps Coalition and the Civil Solidarity Platform yesterday in Istanbul with the attendance in the thousands. The group staged a march beginning in Beyoglu’s Tünel district and ending in Taksim Square, where statements were read and a protest rally was held.
Protesters carried hundreds of banners reading “Civilian Resistance to the Coup” and “Never Again.” A massive group yelled “Coup-lover Bar” in unison as they passed the Istanbul Bar Association, which is known for its scandalous statements backing the defendants in the Ergenekon case, who are charged with plotting to topple the democratically elected government. Those at the front of the group of marchers held a sign saying, “Early finale: the end of 1,000 years,” a reference to the words of Gen. Hüseyin Kivrikoglu.
The 70 Million Steps Coalition describes the coup d’état as “the world’s most shameful postmodern coup, realized through the cooperation of the military, media, high courts and so-called NGOs, which actually have links to the military.”
“To those who say Feb. 28 will last 1,000 years, to those who plant bombs under the ground to be detonated in the midst of citizens in order for it to last 1,000 years, to those who prepare subversive plans for it to last 1,000 years, to those who disregard the last remnants of the law and conduct judicial coups so it can last 1,000 years, to those who even steal points from students on university admissions exams so it can last 1,000 years: it is time to say that Feb. 28 will not last 1,000 years! Sorry, but we will no longer take this insanity of yours,” the group said in the leaflets it distributed.
The biggest protest to condemn the postmodern coup was co-hosted by the 70 Million Steps Coalition and the Civil Solidarity Platform yesterday in Istanbul.
The Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) also staged a demonstration on Güniz Street in Ankara, on which Süleyman Demirel, who was the president during the Feb. 28 period, resides. A group from the association carried banners reading, “We will never forget Feb. 28.” Demirel is also severely criticized by many for his stance during the postmodern coup period.
Uneasy with the existence of a conservative party — RP — in government, the General Staff began briefing members of the judiciary, university rectors and journalists on religious fundamentalism at its headquarters in early 1997. The MGK made several decisions during a meeting on Feb. 28 and presented them to then-Prime Minister Erbakan for approval. Erbakan was forced to sign the decisions. He subsequently resigned, handing over the Prime Ministry to his coalition partner, Tansu Çiller. The coup introduced a series of harsh restrictions on religious life, with an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of the Islamic headscarf. The military was purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups, a tradition still widely observed today. In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down after the coup based on an MGK decision that required the monitoring of press organs that were suspected of fomenting hatred against the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). The MGK decisions, 18 in total, are still largely under implementation, and Turkey is prevented from taking any steps that could go against them, which is in line with what former Chief of General Staff Gen. Kivrikoglu once said: “Feb. 28 will last a thousand years!”
The biggest protest to condemn the postmodern coup was co-hosted by the 70 Million Steps Coalition and the Civil Solidarity Platform yesterday in Istanbul.
However, Turkey marked this year’s Feb. 28 anniversary in an atmosphere that is undoubtedly different from previous years as the country has accelerated its efforts to fight with all antidemocratic networks and coup plotters through historic investigations. In addition to the ongoing probes to settle accounts with past coup plotters, a strong anti-coup will seems to have emerged in society.
The Freedom Association (Özgür-Der) also staged a demonstration yesterday at Beyazit Square to protest against the effects of the Feb. 28 period. Complaining that Turkey has yet to settle its accounts with masterminds and leaders of Feb. 28 despite 13 years having passed, the group said in its statement to the press that Feb. 28 is still an inspiration for pro-coup circles in Turkey.
MAZLUM-DER also made a statement to the press yesterday in the Black Sea province of Trabzon to denounce the unarmed military intervention. The chairman of the association, Ahmet Faruk Ünsal, said practices brought about by Feb. 28 have led to frequent violations of a number of fundamental rights and freedoms, mostly those related to the freedom of religion. Stating that he condemns all coup instigators due to the past and ongoing human rights violations they have caused, Ünsal called for a new just and civilian constitution that will guarantee everybody’s rights and freedoms.
In another demonstration staged in the Aegean province of Afyonkarahisar, the Afyonkarahisar Rights and Freedoms Platform said “Stop!” to all blows dealt to the public’s free will. The demonstration was also supported by the Konya Faith and Freedoms Platform. Speaking on behalf of the group, Fatma Durgu, a member of the Afyonkarahisar Rights and Freedoms Platform, said the doors of the public sphere have been closed to headscarved women since Feb. 28, 1997.
A controversial headscarf ban, which was entrenched during the Feb. 28 period, is in place in Turkey and applies to university students as well as those working in the public sector.
Durgu said the headscarf ban should be lifted in order to prevent the postmodern coup from continuing for “a thousand years.”
Gov’t officials think Feb. 28 has ended
Responding to reporters’ questions on Saturday as he left for an official visit to Syria, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said although officials then said the Feb. 28 period would last a thousand years, it did not even last 10.
Agreeing with Arinç, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek also said on Saturday that the Feb. 28 period is over. “Fortunately, it’s over. There is no turning back for Turkey. Turkey has taken giant steps in terms of democracy although there are still deficiencies. The EU harmonization process is far away for Turkey as long as this exists,” he added, referring to the 1982 Constitution prepared by the leaders of the 1980 coup d’état.
Erbakan, the former leader of the now-defunct RP, spoke at a conference on Feb. 28 yesterday, saying that Feb. 28, which targeted Turkey’s national and spiritual values, could not be successful.