ISTANBUL – General Kenan Evren, the leader of the military coup in Turkey in 1980, was not present in the court when his trial started on Tuesday. But how he feels about his actions of thirty years ago is clear: he always said he didn’t want to do it, but had no choice.
Evren was born in July 1917 in the West-Turkish town of Alasehir. He fought with the Turkish troops in the Korean War. Later he was commander of the Turkish branch of ‘Gladio’, a clandestine NATO operation against advancing communism. In 1978 he became the chief of general staff.
On 12 September 1980 Evren closed down the Parliament and the constitution.The army took over the country. He had no choice, Evren has always said. Turkey was polarized at the end of the seventies. Left and right fought with each other and many people were killed. The government of PM Suleyman Demirel wasn’t capable of turning the tide. In general, it is assumed that the army played a role behind the scenes to increase the unrest.
The military coup was meant to stabilize the country, but the opposite happened. The regime took some 650,000 people into custody. Torture was widespread, dozens of people were hanged, all political parties and hundreds of other organisations were forbidden and papers were taken out of publication. About 30,000 people fled the country.
In 1983 Parliament was re-installed, but that was by no means the start of democracy: Evren remained as president for seven years. With a new constitution, accepted in 1982, he assured that the perpetrators of the coup could never be put on trial. Only in 2010 could the constitution be amended on that point. Parliamant is currently working on the replacement of Evren’s constitution with a totally new one.