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Turkey's 1980 coup more significant than reform poll, expert says

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by MziziMkavu, Sep 12, 2010.

  1. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

    Sep 12, 2010
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    Saturday, September 11, 2010
    ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

    This file photo shows members of the military sitting in the Turkish Parliament as Kenan Evren, the leader of the 1980 coup, speaks six months later. AA photo
    Compared to the changes in Turkish mentality and in the way politics have been conducted since the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, a “yes” or “no” in Sunday’s referendum will bear no great significance, according to a political science expert.
    “Turkey suffered heavy damage after the Sept. 12 coup,” said Maya Arakon, assistant professor from Yeditepe University. For her, the post-1980 denialist mentality of the state was nothing less than fascism. “The coup brought the standardization of minds, the destruction of thought, the transforming of a thinking person into one who obeys, the cancellation of philosophy classes at schools and the establishment of mandatory religion classes instead.”
    The referendum falling on the 30th anniversary of the 1980 coup was not intentional, but the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has used the coincidence to highlight the symbolism of the date, saying this is a chance to empower the civilian elements of the state by reforming the junta-made Constitution.
    Arakon told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that she thought it was ironic that contemporary secular circles believe the AKP will transform Turkey into a theocratic state and are now looking to the military as their champion. “It was the military itself that brought the Turk-Islam Synthesis with Sept. 12,” she said, referring to the general mentality that the attributes of Turkish ethnicity and Sunni Islam dovetailed with one another. She said the “synthesis” was a conservative ideological construct that sought to make people obey the state and was considered as an antidote to leftist radicalism and Islamic extremism.
    Creating cookie-cutter Turks in the post-coup era
    “Our social memory is weak; we should remember [coup leader Gen. Kenan] Evren legitimized the coup by reading verses from the Quran,” she said.
    The militarist mentality that has been present since Turkey’s founding went to extremes after the coup and granted “holiness” to the state, the military and its every institution, Arakon said. “In democracies, the state serves the people. In Turkey, the people serve the state.”
    Being a “standard Turk” was the norm. “I have always tried to tell people I am not a ‘gavur’ [non-Muslim or foreigner] because my name is uncommon,” she said.
    “[Murdered Armenian-Turkish journalist] Hrant Dink was an important person for me. He was the son of these lands but nobody perceived him so, why? Because he was Armenian,” she said.
    The foundation of the Supreme Board of Education, or YÖK, was a great blow to academia, she said, adding that dozens of professors and hundreds of academic staff were forced to resign from posts for their leftist beliefs.
    In the 1980s, meanwhile, “children grew up learning just national values, not universal ones. The apolitical generation of the 1980s is now holding jobs.”
    Moreover, a small-minded society that cannot feel empathy for anyone was produced because they have been taught nothing but “the glorious history of Turks,” she said.
    ‘Mountain Turks,’ assimilation and the PKK
    “Sept. 12 completely finished off the left, but the gravest damage done was to the legal awakening of Kurds.”
    The official policy of the coup era was that there was no such people as the Kurds – those who defined themselves as such were merely “mountain Turks” according to the nationalist logic, which also suspended reality in arguing that the word “Kurd” was simply the onomatopoeia of the crunching sound one makes when walking in the snow.
    This policy of total denial and assimilation laid the groundwork for the lasting influence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, Arakon said. “Even today, we have politicians and a large mass of people who say there is no such thing as a Kurdish problem.”
    Toward Islamism in the 1990s and 2000s
    The 10-percent election barrier brought by the 1980 coup was “an anti-democratic practice” sought to ensure a one-party government in power and prevent Kurdish political participation, Arakon said.
    “You push a movement toward violence when you marginalize it – this is one of the first things you learn in political science,” she said.
    In the 1990s, right-wing parties like the Motherland Party, or ANAP, and the True Path Party, or DYP, as well as the left-wing parties like the Social Democratic People’s Party, or SHP, and the Democratic Left Party, or DSP, were important players on the political stage, but the largest political event during the decade was the rise of political Islam.
    “The seed of the Turk-Islam Synthesis was planted in the 1980s and over time it grew, especially with the rise of the Islamist Welfare Party [RP].”
    Later, in the 2002 elections, the AKP came to power and was only joined in Parliament by the Republican People’s party, or CHP, which had failed to clear the election hurdle during the previous election.
    “A party that considered Islam as its identity came into power [on its own] for the first time,” she said, adding that the AKP’s success could not have happened beforehand due to the secularist military, but was made possible in 2002 thanks to the strength of the pious Anatolian bourgeoisie.
    “The metropolitan Kemalist bourgeoisie was removed from power” when this happened, she said.
    “The Kurdish party [BDP] is a change from the past, [however],” she said, noting the lack of previous Kurdish political participation.
    Ultimately, however, there is little prospect for a new or radical movement emerging to change the general political atmosphere in the short term, Arakon said.
    ‘The referendum is not that important’
    “Whoever wins, our daily lives will not be that different,” said Arakon, “If it is a ‘yes,’ Turkey will be a bit more democratic, which is a good thing, but if it is a ‘no,’ well, this is the Constitution we have been living with for all those years already.”
    Ultimately, the present constitutional reform referendum is not as important as it is being promoted, Arakon said, adding that it was anti-democratic to include so many articles together in a single package.
    “We will not be governed by Shariah if it is a ‘yes’ – if it were so, it would have happened in 2002,” Arakon said in reference to a common secularist fear that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, secretly harbors an Islamist agenda.
    “The threat is authoritarianism and standardization. Turkey is becoming more civilian because the military is being questioned now, but it is not becoming more democratic,” she said.
    “Every democratization requires demilitarization, but not every demilitarization means democratization,” she said.

    Source: Turkey's 1980 coup more significant than reform poll, expert says - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review