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One step forward, two steps back.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- The Sept. 12, 1980 military coup stands as the bloodiest military intervention in Turkish politics ever, having left thousands dead while killing any existing -- though limited -- principles of a democratic governance.

Fifty people, including people under 18, were executed, 300 people were killed in prisons and more than half a million were arrested following the coup, the bloodiest out of the five incidents of military intervention in Turkish politics that took place between 1960 and 2007. I do not mention the long list of other atrocities that the military junta committed following the 1980 coup such as burning millions of books in the streets to deter the public from reading mainly leftist intellectuals such as Marx and Engels, whose ideas it deemed dangerous to society.

Still, the Turkish Constitution in place since 1982 is the product of the junta mentality. Barely one-third of this military-dictated constitution has been amended since then, displaying Turkish distaste towards a quicker transition to democracy.

The fact that two former generals of the junta -- the remaining three are dead -- stood trial in Ankara on April 4, 32 years after the coup, is another example of the extremely slow process of Turkish normalization.

Kenan Evren, 94, the then-chief of General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), and Tahsin E[currency]ahinkaya, 86, then-Air Forces commander, stood trial -- though in absentia -- for their roles in Turkey's violent 1980 military coup, facing charges of staging a coup to overthrow the civilian government.

It will, meanwhile, be unfair if we do not mention that Turkey, at least, if only recently, has begun settling scores with its illegal deep-state elements as over 400 people, half of whom are active and retired officers including generals, have been standing trial on charges of fomenting a coup to unseat the current ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

Wednesday, Sept. 12, was the 32nd anniversary of this bloody coup d'etat, during which nongovernmental organizations released statements denouncing the military's actions. But denunciations of such grave events are, of course, not adequate in the absence of real action and a will to democratize the country and to introduce a brand new democratic constitution. A parliamentary commission, composed of the four political parties represented in Parliament, has been drafting a new constitution since the beginning of this year in line with the pledge they all made during the election campaign prior to the June 12 general elections last year. However, the commission has so far failed to make a quick move in drafting the new charter though the deadline to produce the draft text is to expire by the end of this year. This is because none of the parties have so far found common ground in agreeing on basic principles of freedom of expression, the rule of law and the Kurdish question as well as on ending the military tutelage system. There is a need, for example, to amend Article 66 of the constitution that emphasizes Turkishness, to embrace the Turkish Kurds as citizens equal with Turks.

While the parliamentary commission has so far been engulfed in ideological differences that have prevented them from drafting the new constitution in a timely manner, the existing military-authored one retains some critical articles that hamper Turkish moves toward democratic standards. This is despite the fact that partial amendments were made to this charter. Still, a military judiciary is in place instead of ending the dual character of Turkish judicial system, and the provision for the Higher Education Board (YEuK), which restricted freedom of universities as a means to retain the status quo, as well as Article 35 of the military's Internal Service Law, which the military used as a pretext to stage military coups on the grounds that the country's secular character was in danger, have not been lifted.

The constitution retains the sanctification of the state and the principle that citizens should be the ones obeying the state -- and not the other way around -- at the expense of serious restrictions imposed on basic rights and freedoms.

Turkey's moves to turn itself into a democratic society are in the form of one step forward, two steps back. This country has a lot to gain from faster military and civil reforms.

LALE KEMAL (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Sep 13, 2012
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