By Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Today's Zaman
Twenty-seven years have passed since the Sept. 12, 1980, military coup. At the time, my generation was either close to graduating from university or just beginning their careers. The anarchic incidents between the leftist and rightist students culminating in the 1980 military coup had a significant impact on my generation in every area of their lives.
Some spent the precious years of their young adulthood in prison for simply expressing their opinions; others were stripped of their duties at universities, ending their academic careers. Many were injured or died during student clashes.
At the time, I was in my second year as a journalist at the Anatolia news agency foreign desk. My superiors were all very well educated, but they were leftists in the real sense. Thus, on the morning of the coup, the majority of them were sent to jail simply because they had been defending the virtues of democracy. I would describe the 1980 coup as the worst among the five military interventions. The most recent one took place on April 27 when the Turkish General Staff released a late-night memorandum on its Web site.
Due to the restrictive nature of the Constitution, we have been striving since its inception to implement drastic changes. Yet, 25 years have passed since the adoption of the military-dictated 1982 Constitution, and only one-third of the document has been amended. This is a strong indication of how slow Turkey has been in moving toward the adoption of a completely new constitution that aims to remove all obstacles hindering major development in the political, economic and the social arenas. State Minister for Economy Mehmet Şimşek said constitutional changes would also pave the way for the Turkish economy to be able to compete at the global level (Hürriyet, Sept. 9, 2007).
Currently, the government has been working on a new constitution to replace the remnants of the 1982 Constitution, and a stormy debate has developed mainly over whether the state's secular character will be maintained. Debating on a new constitution is healthy if it is not distorted by those circles which have been fighting fiercely to maintain the status quo which has only helped their well being at the expense of the majority of the people.
Professor Ergun Özbudun, heading the team of professors preparing a draft constitution on which the final touches will be made by the political authority, said in a weekend interview that Cumhuriyet daily has been making grave distortions in their coverage of the details of the new constitution (Radikal, Sept. 9, 2007). "Contrary to claims, secularism is much more strengthened in the civilian [new] constitution. For example, we suggested a change in the constitution that lifts compulsory religious education and thus we maintained the idea that secularism should also protect those who do not have religious beliefs," said Professor Özbudun.
We are entering the 27th year of the 1980 military coup with a stormy debate taking place in the country on a new constitution. Anti-coup demonstrators have once again taken to the streets, carrying photos of those who died during the events leading to the Sept. 12 coup while shouting slogans for the trial of the junta. However, the new constitution is hinted to be avoiding a change in a related article that would pave the way for the trial of the generals who staged the coup.
My main concern is whether the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which has pioneered major military and civilian reforms, will backpedal from making courageous changes in the constitution in the face of mounting pressure from the pro-status quo groups who continue their vigorous efforts to derail the country from its democratic path.
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