Turkey's seventh President and former Chief of General Staff, Kenan Evren, who masterminded Turkey's "most orderly" and "most classic" coup d'état of Sept. 12, 1980, died at the age of 98 on Saturday night. Evren was a dictator in the fullest sense of the word. He ruled everything in the country by suspending the government and Parliament, seizing executive and legislative powers and forming a five-man "National Security Council." He banned associations and outlawed political parties. Furthermore, he attempted to take control of almost all aspects of daily life, so much so that the National Security Council (MGK) even ordered the painting of sidewalks, whereupon all sidewalks across the country were painted simultaneously.
The Sept. 12 regime resulted in many death sentences, unlawful executions and cases of prison torture. Despite this dreadful picture, Evren had a sympathetic image in the eyes of some segments of society. Despite what they have written following Evren's death, those segments, who were not directly victimized by the Sept. 12 regime, did not nurture considerable enmity toward Evren, instead they loved him. This atmosphere has emerged recently when Turkey began to question the official ideology during the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) rule and it is no longer regarded as an offense to confront our sins. Thanks to this atmosphere, Sept. 12 was brought before the court and the coup period was judged. Before that, Evren was deemed a hero who could not be criticized by the media and was granted the Atatürk International Peace Prize in 1990 by the state (the same prize would be given to Nelson Mandela, but when he rejected it, Daily Hürriyet wrote a headline about him, labeling the statesman an "Ugly African").
Evren achieved his image because he had an active manner in foreign policy and frequently appeared on TV. This was also because truth and reality were obscured in the country where press freedom was restricted. Unfortunately, the media embraced and supported a dictator who took 650,000 people into custody, blacklisted 1.6 million people, judged 230,000 people in martial law courts, denationalized 14,000 people, had 50 people executed and handed out capital punishment to 420 people. In the wake of the military coup, any newspapers that either made the slightest criticism of the coup or did not praise it were immediately closed or threatened with closure. Although the tension has eased since, the mainstream media failed to have a clear and severe reaction to Evren.
It has been only during the AK Party rule that a great majority of mainstream media outlets have called Sept. 12 "a coup" and have agreed that the military cannot enter politics. Comments that have been raised today show that the spirit of the time has dramatically changed and a considerable majority of journalists formed their ideas in line with the spirit of the time, rather than serving as opinion leaders. In order to understand that Turkey was hypnotized with an official lie for many years, it would be worth taking a look at how often the name of Kenan Evren was used after 1980, how the image of "Evren Pasha" gained its place and the portraits of such a dictator were hung on the walls of houses. Even comments calling Evren a "dictator and tyrant," which were made after his death, show how much distance Turkey has covered. I wonder what those people who were named after Evren and were born after 1980 felt when they heard the realities about the environment that they grew up in. What was their reaction when Evren was degraded with his verdict?
Over the past five years, this country has begun to talk about the realities. Although we have still a long way to go, this has been achieved only recently and does not have a precedent in the past. They are striving to hush it up while a society, which a dictator called a hero, is loosening its straitjacket.
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