It is 41 years since Kenan Evren’s military coup on 12 September 1980. The coup changed Turkey completely, and following the coup 650,000 people were detained and 230,000 people were tried in 210,000 cases heard by the State Security Court (DGM). The death penalty was demanded for 7,000 people, 517 were were sentenced to death and 50 were executed.
Three hundred people died in suspicious circumstances, and 171 were documented as having been “tortured to death”. The number of those blacklisted was 1,683,000, while 30,000 were fired as “undesirables”, 14,000 were stripped of their citizenship, and 30,000 became political refugees, most of them in Europe.
The constitution was drafted and put to the public vote on 7 November 1982. The 1982 constitution and Kenan Evren’s presidency were adopted with an overwhelming 91.37% of the vote.
Witnesses of the 1980 military coup of 12 September speak to Mesopotamia Agency about what they experienced 41 years ago, as well as evaluating the Turkey of today.
Abdullah Öztüre was tortured in the 1980 military coup. He said he was injured during his arrest, and was taken to a military hospital on the fourth day of his detention. He believes that people who wanted change were punished after the coup.
“It was a period in which people who wanted equality were stopped in their tracks, and society was silenced by the coup, which created a new order that has brought us through to today, and forms the infrastructure for the mechanism we have in Turkey today.”
Fikret Melih Çolakoğulleri, another contemporary witness, said he was detained two months after the coup, and imprisoned for four years. He said that he had been engaged in revolutionary activities with the group Kurtuluş (Liberation) before the coup.
“The coup of 12 September was physical violence and it displayed this violence in every aspect of life. The AKP [Justice and Development Party] is the product of the constitution of 12 September” he states.
Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK) Press Union (Basın-İş) Chair Faruk Eren, who was also a witness to the period and now works as a journalist, said that the media was monopolised by supporters of the state following the 1980 military coup and, noted the increasing pressures on the press and freedom of expression in the last 41 years.
“There was a strong left-wing movement those days, all of that was annihilated, all the newspapers there were supported the military junta,” he said.
He also said that the pressures on the press in general in those days turned into attacks on the Kurdish press in particular in the 1990s.
“People from the Kurdish press were tried, as were those in the publications like Özgür Gündem and Özgür Ülke, but the journalistic resistance displayed in publications like Özgür Gündem and Özgür Ülke give us hope.”