A desperately needed signal

When you live in Turkey for some time and follow the news, you could get used to the considerable power the military still has in this country. They interfere in politics all the time on all sorts of issues, from the Kurdish question and relations with Armenia to matters of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. It’s a Turkish reality, but of course it’s not normal in a country that calls itself a democracy and wants to become more democratic. But now it seems that gradually things are once again changing a little for the army. In short: they will have to take responsibility for their actions.

One of the discussions going on is about the 1980 coup. The participants were never brought to trial due to a constitutional stumbling block. Now even the opposition party CHP says the law needs to be amended so that for example coup leader Kenan Evren can be brought to court. Evren reacted in a not very mature way, one could say: he threatened to commit suicide if he is brought to trial. Still, bringing the people behind the 1980coup to trial is exactly what is needed to put an end to the way the army continually gets away with mingling in politics. After 1980 there have been other coups, although not involving tanks: in 1997 the military forced the government of (Islamic) Prime Minister Necmattin Erbakan to step down because they were allegedly a threat to the secular principles of the state. And only a few years ago, in 2007, the army threatened governing party AKP when they wanted to appoint Abdullah Gül as president. The people were not impressed and in the general elections a few months later voted for AKP overwhelmingly anyway, but still, the army tried to interfere again.

And now there is ongoing tension about the plans to topple the AKP government and the Gülen movement, which were (apparently) signed by an army colonel, Dursun Çiçek. These sorts of blatant interference in politics can only stop if the impunity of the army comes to an end.
A step is now being taken in that direction: a few days ago, the parliament introduced a law that makes it possible to try military personnel in civilian courts for crimes committed in peacetime, including plotting against a government and planning a coup. To be honest, I’m a bit afraid the law will never be passed. Opposition party CHP has already called on president Gül to veto the law because in their eyes it’s against the constitution. If Gül approves the law anyway (which is expected), CHP might take it to the Constitutional Court (like they often do), which would probably throw the law into the rubbish bin. That would be a shame. But maybe, maybe the CHP will keep its word and actually back the AKP when it wants to amend the constitution to take the 1980 coup plotters to court. That would show that, in the end, the army can’t keep on getting away with playing politics. A signal that is desperately needed.

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