Category 1

Turkey’s Democracy Journey and Anti-Coup Development from the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on Oct. 29, 1923, until the Occupying Terrorist FETÖ July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt.

Journey For Democracy In Turkey And Oppositon To Military Coups


Key words: Military coup, Turkey, history, democracy, opposition to military coups

Democracy as a word dates back to ancient Greeks in the sixth century and is defined as a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.1 Aristotle’s distinction of government2 categorizes democracy as deviant because he claims that smart people come together and make governors better, which is the base of Condorcet’s jury theorem3 related to relative chance of various individuals reaching a correct judgment.

As of the abolishment of the Ottoman state, effective reforms began to be put into practice regarding Turkey’s journey of democracy such that a Republican constitution created the Grand National Assembly, which declared Turkey a republic and assigned Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as the president.4

Turkey’s democracy journey began quite late and the country has experienced six coup attempts; four of them were successful in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997, and the other two were not in 1962 and 1963.5 The military never stopped seeing itself as the guardian of Turkish democracy.6 Soldiers acting as terrorists who had been installed in Turkish Armed Forces, dependent on terrorist Fetullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, U.S., intervened in a seventh coup attempt on July 15, 2016. It was so surprise because of the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) success decreasing the Turkish military’s political influence.7 This piece will analyze the journey of democracy and opposition to military coups in Turkey from 1923 to 2016 by a terrorist organization in the military dependent on Gülen.

1959 was a year of conflict between the ruling Democrat Party (DP) and opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). This conflict was reflected in public such with student fights in Ankara about one month before the military coup. Some military personnel took courage from the speech of then CHP Chairman İsmet İnönü that “our young people and military have the courage to take down tyrants.”8 On May 27, 1960, the military declared a coup and curfew over the radio. This was the first hit the journey of democracy took in Turkey. A majority of people could not find a chance to go out and fight for democracy at that time due to the lack of communication tools such as televisions, the internet. This general lack of technology and a bureaucracy under the command of the CHP went along with missing elites who supported the DP. Only a few people went out to the streets and were killed by the military forces.9 If people had gone out, maybe coup would have been unsuccessful because it was not within the chain of command. If it had played out this way, the history of military coups in the Republic of Turkey might have never started. Opposition to this military coup was soon seen in the 1961 elections in which the combined DP and the Justice Party (AP) took 62 percent of the vote and assumed control of the government.

Opposition to the government started in the military in 1962 and 1963 right after the AP won the election, Colonel Talat Aydemir staged a coup attempt. He couldn’t accomplish it because there was neither support in the bureaucracy nor in military.

Turkey experienced a coup through a military memorandum issued on March 12, 1971. The government of Süleyman Demirel was pushed to resign with an ultimatum after the military sent tanks into the streets. There was a chaos in Turkey at that time and the military suppressed the violence and implemented many reforms in social and economic areas, not by taking control of government, but by guiding the government. This military intervention did not solve problems because kidnapping and chaos increased after the military coup.10 People did not go out to the streets or protest this coup because the government was ready to give up its place, Parliament was not dissolved, political parties were not abolished and the constitution was not changed.

Turkey continued to become an unstable country after the 1971 coup. There were 11 governments in the 1970s and the chaos carried over. Another coup that happened in 1980 still affects the current political situation. It was the third military interruption of democracy in the country. People were against this coup as well, but there was also a large amount of support for the coup from the military and the government was ready to resign. Moreover, many young people were slaughtered to prevent protests against the coup even though courts rejected sentencing them to death.11

The February 28, 1997 coup was the fourth intervention in Turkey’s democracy. The military and bureaucracy had tried to tyrannize with a reactionary pretext in the time of Necmettin Erbakan and Tansu Çiller’s governments by means of National Security Council (MGK) decisions. It is referred to as the “post-modern coup.” Some organizations were established in order to track the implementations of the MGK decisions. Both the government and the public protested the decisions, but the coup was successful due to support in the media and bureaucracy. To illustrate, then President Demirel defended that the February 28 was not a coup.12

Turkey went through a process of reforms after the AK Party won the 2002 election. In economy, health, democracy and freedom, many innovations were made. The AK Party boosted its self-confidence after winning subsequent elections and stability replaced instability.13 Even though some attempts were made to abolish democracy such as the 2007 memorandum coup attempt, the 2008 party closure case, the 2013 Gezi Park protests and the 2013 parallel state intervention, the AK Party tried to increase democracy more and people started to turn against military intervention in government and democracy. Nevertheless, on the night of July 15, 2016, soldiers acting as terrorists who had been installed in the Turkish Armed Forces and who were dependent on the terrorist Gülen staged a coup attempt. People were happy in the country and a great majority was against the coup, believing that military coups are not good for countries. In accordance with this, people went out on the declaration from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan without being scared to die for their country. The soldier who acted as a hero, Ömer Halisdemir, killed one of the coup commanders, risking his own life. Many people lied down under tanks and fought with the soldiers in order to prevent coup attempt from succeeding. From young to old, elites to bureaucrats, members of the media, parliamentarians and much of the military personnel, such as 1st Army Commander Ümit Dündar, were against the coup attempt, which was suppressed at the cost of even though 249 civilian lives. As one woman said: “Our father cried for Menderes, we cried for Özal, our children will not cry for Erdoğan.”14 The fifth attempt to interrupt the country’s democracy was not fully realized. In my opinion, the history of military coups in Turkey has ended and the country’s democracy will be eternal.

From 1960 to now, there has been a large and an active development of opposition to military coups in Turkey. Almost everybody reacted against the July 15 coup attempt and solidarity was ensured between people again with this attempt. July 15 was a new milestone for Turkey and its journey of democracy. That night will be remembered as a heroic saga.

1. Demoracy definition of Merriam Webster Dictionary
2. Reeve, C. D. C. “Aristotle: Politics.” Indianapolis: Hackett (1998)
3. Berg, Sven. “Condorcet’s jury theorem, dependency among jurors.” Social Choice and Welfare 10.1 (1993): 87-95.
4. Atillasoy, Yuksel, ed. Ataturk: First President and Founder of the Turkish Republic. Landmark Management of New York, 2002.
5. Esen, Berk, and Sebnem Gumuscu. “Turkey: How the Coup Failed.” Journal of Democracy 28.1 (2017): 59-73.
6. Erken, Baki. “Merkez Sağ İdeolojisi Çerçevesinde Süleyman Demirel ve Askerî Müdahaleler.” Abant İzzet Baysal Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi (2012).
7. Kuru, Ahmet T. “The rise and fall of military tutelage in Turkey: fears of Islamism, Kurdism, and communism.” Insight Turkey 14.2 (2012): 37.
8. Kösoğlu, Nevzat. Şehit Enver Paşa. Ötüken Neşriyat AŞ, 2015. 40 (January 2012): 168–90.
9. Sözer, Ercan. “Askeri Darbeler ve Toplumsal Etkileri: 1960, 1971 ve 1980 Darbeleri.” (2010).
10. Akinci, Abdulvahap. “Türkiye’nin Darbe Geleneği: 1960 ve 1971 Müdahaleleri.” Eskişehir Osmangazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Dergisi 9.1 (2014).
11. Koğacıoğlu, Dicle. “Hukukçu Otobiyografileri ile 12 Eylül Yasallığının Dinamiklerini Düşünmek.” European Journal of Turkish Studies. Social Sciences on Contemporary Turkey 15 (2012).
12. Gursoy, İdris. Medyadaki Darbe Geni. Işık Yayıncılık Ticaret, 2014.
13. Justice and Development Party website
14. Muezzin Fatma Zehra, Quotation

Category 1

Turkey’s Democracy Journey and Anti-Coup Development from the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on Oct. 29, 1923, until the Occupying Terrorist FETÖ July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt.

1. Fatma Nur HÜKÜM

Resisting A Coup: Lessons From Turkey's July 15 Coup Attempt

2. Mehmet TURGUT

Journey For Democracy In Turkey And Oppositon To Military Coups

3. Musab Talha AKPINAR

Turkish Democracy And Challenges To It