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Hard to tell, but it is true

by Ekrem Dumanlı, Today's Zaman on . Posted in Columns

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Everyone is looking at Feb. 28 from their own perspective and standpoint. And when they do so, everyone is right because they say what they saw from their own window.

But because everyone is putting only part of the issue under the spotlight, something always remains missing. In fact, all should adopt a comprehensive approach without disregarding the criteria of politeness. Otherwise, other injustices are done.

There is no legitimate reason for intervention in democracy.

Feb. 28 was a direct intervention in democracy, and it was a crime. Like other coups, there was no legitimate pretext for the Feb. 28 intervention. Those who offer such a justification are wrong because wrong actions cannot be fixed in democracies under the shadow of the military. The people elect and change administrations; any other action is illegitimate and unjustifiable. The stagers of Feb. 28 acted relentlessly considering that the outcomes of their actions would last 1,000 years. Justice and legality were ignored; all sorts of psychological warfare were employed. Extreme propaganda that the state is slipping away and that the regime is under threat cannot justify coup attempts.

Politicians should have acted more prudently and wisely

Unfortunately, the political figures of the time (not only the coalition parties in the administration but the opposition parties as well) committed a big mistake and facilitated the coup stagers' job. What the coup stagers did was not legitimate. However, the process was mismanaged by the politicians. For instance, there was no need to visit Libya and be humiliated in Gaddafi's tent. Even though it done in good faith, it was not proper to organize a fast-breaking dinner at Turkey's prime ministry building. The event held in Sincan facilitated the job of the provocateurs. It was wrong not to take care of a military officer who, in front of cameras, humiliated the prime minister. It was wrong to sign a decision by which more than 160 military officers were expelled from the army based on fabricated reasons. The government of the time made serious mistakes. I wish they had not. These mistakes do not make the military intervention right; however, there is no need to cover up some truths and realities when discussing Feb. 28.

Appeal to the people to teach lesson to junta

If the government made consecutive mistakes and handed control over to the junta, what should the intellectuals have recommended to this government? Obviously, these guys were coming out of their military barracks, and those whose responsibility was verified in the Susurluk incident, a 1996 car accident which revealed the state's ties with the mafia, denied their part irresponsibly. The members of a government with Islamic leanings had to sign the decisions made at the eight-hour long National Security Council (MGK) meeting. Things were out of hand; the political figures failed to stand against the interventions and be decisive; what should the intellectuals who loved their country have recommended back then?

When the military actors made the government unworkable by slowly intervening in democracy, the politicians should have said: “Dear people! We were doing our best to represent you, but they are not letting us do our job. We will appeal to you again; if you think what we were subjected to was wrong, support us.” And then, you would have become heroes. The move that would abort a military intervention would be to call for early elections. If [executed Prime Minister Adnan] Menderes had decided to hold early elections [before the 1960 coup], those who killed him would have been defeated. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which stood decisively vis-à-vis the April 27 memo, preserved its dignity as well as the honor of democracy. The government appealed to the people when it realized that it could not resolve the 367 parliamentary quorum problem for presidential elections in 2007. The military would not have gone back to their barracks if the AK Party had not won a landslide victory in the elections.

The recommendations of Fethullah Gülen should be properly understood

Some intellectuals who realized that some pro-junta figures would get what they wanted gave serious warnings. The warning by Fethullah Gülen was not in support of the antidemocratic forces; it was to act in a timely manner and abort their vicious plans. This warning by Gülen has been interpreted by some as support for or cooperation with the military. Quite the contrary, the warning issued was to ensure that democracy would survive. If that warning had been taken into consideration back then, the coup stagers would not have attained their goals. However, some circles failed to understand this recommendation, or maybe they did not want to. But the consequences of silence and reluctance were obvious; if the government had acted wisely and appealed to the people, the people would have taught a lesson to the pro-junta players. In addition, they would not have been forced to undersign the wrong decisions.

It is wrong to reduce media's role to one person

The Feb. 28 coup was an operation performed to intimidate the people through psychological warfare tactics. For this reason, the visible actor in this process was the media. The judiciary of the time and the so-called civil society organizations submitted to the military and paid the price for being hostages. The junta took some media outlets that were influential at that time hostage. The generals drafted the headlines of the papers, and part of the media was taken hostage. It is natural to question the role of the media in Feb. 28. However, the sins of the media are attributed to only a few names. For instance, the Doğan Group figures made a lot of mistakes. However, it is equally wrong to hold only Aydın Doğan responsible for this. Interestingly, Aydın Doğan sometimes resisted. For instance, when the mighty general of the time briefed the columnists working at the Doğan Group, some of them praised the military. Now their names are not mentioned in the current discussions. However, it was Aydın Doğan who extended full support for a thinker that made a just comment back then. The names of the journalists who argued that modern-looking fundamentalists were more dangerous than individuals wearing Islamic attire like Müslüm Gündüz are not mentioned in the current discussions. Why is that?

Civil society was harmed most

Feb. 28 was not an illegitimate intervention that victimized political parties alone. Civil society groups (particularly the Islamic movements) were harmed by the horrible psychological warfare of the time. It is not proper to focus on political victimizations alone as if nobody else was affected by the process. There is no need to leave false notes in history.

Some institutions and groups were not able to resurrect themselves after this process. Religious schools were closed. Some Koran-training schools were shut down. Inspectors paid more frequent visits to educational institutions. Teachers, students and even parents faced external threats and pressures. The headscarf ban was strictly enforced. Of course, the coup stagers were directly responsible for these injustices, but we should also criticize the unwise politicians of the time for their failed policies. Proper moves should have been made, and sufficient courage should have been shown. This was how the April 27 memo was aborted. The government should stand firm and decisive against coup-lovers so that civil society groups can take part in the government.

There are many other truths to tell, but I think this is enough, at least for now.