Those dominant during the 1990s probably never thought they would be held accountable for their actions. Surely, former generals Kenan Evren and Tahsin Şahinkaya, who led the 1980 coup, could never have dreamed that they would be called upon to testify in court.
One by one, Turkey is starting to confront the many wrongdoings and anomalies in its political history. The problem is that there are so many of them. There have been numerous political assassinations and so many undemocratic and authoritarian political actions that have led to injustices that one does wonder when we will ever come to terms with ourselves and our violent past.
While it is necessary to tackle them one by one, this situation also invites a sense of constant negativity because of the sequence of traumatizing events, which inevitably impact us. We have just begun to deal with the more recent traumas such as the coups of Feb. 28 and Sept. 12. What about the trauma experienced by our Kurdish citizens, and what to do with the damage caused by the 1915-1916 Armenian controversy? Will we ever be capable of dealing with the anguish unleashed by the disintegration and fall of the Ottoman Empire? Simply reading and educating yourself about these events is so painful.
What do those who have actually experienced the traumatizing events or are descendants of those who experienced them feel? Could the wounds of what happened at Diyarbakır Prison ever heal? Is it even within the realm of possibility? How can we make normal citizens out of those whose fathers or brothers were taken away from their homes at dusk, and then disappeared, leaving their loved ones in a perennial trauma? How can the daughter of a fallen Turkish soldier heal her wounds vis-à-vis the ongoing war between the state and the PKK? To whom could she complain about her stolen years with her deceased father? How could her mother cope with the loss of a stolen marriage? The violence that has been breeding in this region has created a social fabric that is very much traumatized, and although our society tries to cope with it by forgetting, the ghosts of the past are still haunting us.
This Republic we founded has bred so many animosities, so much injustice and so many victims it is difficult to see how we can ever reconcile them. The greatest victim of course is ourselves. We have to live with this, grapple with it and if you have a little bit of conscience it is thoroughly painful. The faces of our intelligentsia are revealing. I see painful faces plagued by the heavy weight of knowing and understanding what has happened in our country. The last two hundred years of our history is marked by pain and trauma, a struggle to adapt and catch up with modernity and a painful internal conflict to have a normal political order.
During the last decade we have been comforting ourselves with the immense economic growth and phenomenal changes taking place at the political level. However, the task at hand is still daunting. The quest for a normal political order inevitably necessitates confronting the past. Be it the coup of 1997 or the events of 1915-1916, there is at least a century of events whose weight and gravity continues to weigh on our shoulders and hopefully in our hearts and minds. There are days when I am hopeful that we will be able to do it. There are days when I am afraid I will not be able to see it. The uncertainty about this is painful in itself…