Amid the debate concerning the first hearing of the lawsuit brought against the Sept. 12 coup generals came the operation on Thursday against 31 military officers, overseen by the Ankara specially authorized deputy prosecutor as part of the probe into the Feb. 28 postmodern coup. This operation specifically targeted the West Study Group (BÇG), which had served as the command center during the aforementioned coup, and 28 retired military officers, including Çevik Bir, who was the deputy chief of General Staff at the time.
As for the above-mentioned matter of a lack of opposition in Turkey...
During the early hours of the operation against the coup perpetrators, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu commented on the operation during a meeting with his party’s parliamentary group:
“You cannot seek justice when desiring revenge. If justice is served for the purpose of revenge, it is no longer justice. Justice is a glorious concept, and it represents the conscience of society. Justice implies that any decision given should be accepted by the social conscience. If a decision is not accepted by the social conscience, it is not justice. You launch operations against people and take them into custody and make them stand for hours and prepare indictments and issue secret court decisions about the accused’s defenses, and judges won’t give them to lawyers, and then you seek justice. That is not justice. Where there is no justice, you cannot find a sound justice system.”
As I said above, the operation had just started when Kılıçdaroğlu was speaking. Everything was being conducted properly. For instance, the police did not raid the houses of the suspects early in the morning, say at 3:00 a.m. The prosecutor had summoned most of them to testify under the investigation, but they had opted not to testify.
On the other hand, unlike what Kılıçdaroğlu had said, in a distortion of the facts, the investigation into the Feb. 28 coup started after numerous people filed official complaints about it in the wake of the constitutional amendments approved in the referendum of Sept. 12. In other words, the investigation was launched upon the application of citizens claiming to have been victimized by the coup, and after one year of preparations, the prosecutor gave the green light to the operation against the coup’s center. It is the social conscience that wants Feb. 28 to be investigated.
What is the Feb. 28 coup, then?
The BÇG, the brainchild of Çevik Bir and Çetin Doğan, who is the number-one defendant in the case against the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) coup plan, had blacklisted 6 million people, labeling everyone ranging from deputies to meatball sellers “Islamists,” “National View supporters” (Milli Görüşçü), “dissidents,” “liberals,” etc. They even included civil society organizations (CSOs), trade unions, commerce chambers, provincial council members, mayors, municipal council members, etc.
Now, hang on to your hat! CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu, too, was among the blacklisted victims.
Journalists were blacklisted. The General Staff illegally altered the testimony of Şemdin Sakık, a prominent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader who was under arrest at the time, adding the names of some dissident figures to the list of “traitors who aided the PKK.” Isn’t that scandalous? Then, they made this testimony public using pro-coup journalists. Nazlı Ilıcak, Cengiz Çandar, Mehmet Ali Birand and Akın Birdal were among the dissident figures. Soon after this smear campaign, Birdal was heavily wounded in an armed attack. His body took a number of bullets. He luckily survived this terrifying attack. These were part of the preparations for a coup.
To overthrow the democratically elected coalition government of the Welfare Party (RP) and True Path Party (DYP) -- known as the Refah-Yol government -- they marketed false religious leaders, and with great help from the pro-junta media, a great illusion was created. TV programs such as Arena, hosted by Uğur Dündar, a famous newscaster, pumped up the false threat of Sharia. To overthrow the coalition government, DYP deputies were pressured, and the party’s parliamentary seats were reduced by one-third by blackmailing or persuading several deputies. Many dissident journalists were fired by their bosses, who were voluntarily cooperating with the military. Worst of all, the National Security Council (MGK) convened on Feb. 28, 1997 -- hence, the name of the coup -- and issued a number of decisions, which included the introduction of the “eight-year uninterrupted education” system, which was devised to effectively prevent thousands of students at imam-hatip schools -- a type of secondary school that uses a religious curriculum along with the standard curriculum -- from attending universities and confine headscarved girls to their houses. Coup perpetrators were so reckless that just to block imam-hatip schools, they also blocked all vocational schools, thereby multiplying the number of victims severalfold.
The impact of the Feb. 28 coup was no less destructive than conventional coups. Thousands of military officers, bureaucrats and academics lost their jobs because they were pious.
So, what was the real reason for the coup, as there was no real reactionaryism threat and coup perpetrators created various scenarios to lay the groundwork for a coup? They did not overthrow the government without a reason.
Of course, every coup has its own economic climate. The 1990s were the years when the Cold War had ended and the irresistible effects of a free market economy started to change Turkey’s socioeconomic structure. Privileged nationalist Kemalist capitalists, who always kept close ties with the military, were very uneasy about the rise of a rival rural bourgeoisie in Anatolia. They targeted these Anatolian capitalists, who would later serve as the dynamos of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), and labeled them the “green capitalists” -- here, “green” means “Islamist.” The real reason for the Feb. 28 coup was that “white Turkish” capitalists wanted to continue to abuse the country’s resources as they had done in the past. Indeed, in the wake of the Feb. 28 coup, many banks’ accounts were cleared out, and some $200 billion was stolen from public funds. Then, the financial crisis of 2000 hit. As you might guess, every bank that had been cleared out and eventually went bankrupt had a subversive general within its management.
Such was the disaster of Feb. 28. And today, Kılıçdaroğlu, who had been blacklisted by the Feb. 28 coup perpetrators, describes a legitimate and much-needed operation against the heart of the coup as “revenge.” And when does he do this?
Just one day after all of the parliamentary parties, including the CHP, unanimously decided to set up a parliamentary commission to investigate all of the coups of the last 50 years...
So what we’ve got is a main opposition party and its leader that cannot keep their promise, not even for a day, and cannot confront their own past and cannot break with the Feb. 28 mentality.
And today, Turkey’s gravest problem is an opposition that lacks foresight and is inadequate. Believe me, this is a more challenging problem than coming to terms with a history of coups.