By Ramazan Dogan and Omer Faruk Cebeci
KUTAHYA/SAKARYA (AA) - The victims of Turkey’s 1997 'postmodern' coup have said they are still awaiting justice over the tragedies they suffered 21 years ago.
In February 1997, the military was involved in the collapse of late Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan’s administration amid concerns expressed by generals about the government’s alleged Islamist program.
His government was forced to step down on Feb. 28, 1997, after a meeting of the National Security Council; his Welfare Party was later also outlawed. A new civilian government then took over from Erbakan in a move that became known as Turkey’s postmodern coup.
The new administration enforced the council’s orders.
Private schools or foundations with suspected links to religious or conservative groups were shut down and the roles of openly religious people in public institutions and life -- whether it involved politics, universities, the civil service, judiciary or military -- were restricted.
- Women most affected
The ban on the headscarf was the most obvious manifestation of such policies.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency in a series of interviews, the victims said the military memorandum had triggered wide range of reactions across Turkish society, especially for women who acted against the headscarf ban.
Saliha Aydin is only one of the thousands of women who were either suspended or dismissed from their public or academic posts under the state of emergency decrees after the military intervention.
Many people were even jailed.
Aydin, who was studying mathematics at Dumlupinar University in Turkey's western province of Kutahya, recalled that she was suspended from school over her refusal to remove her headscarf.
She graduated from university in her 40s after 2011 under student amnesty -- allowing those who had been excluded from university to return to their studies -- and later started teaching in her hometown.
"I cannot forget those times. I could barely get involved in social life. They destroyed my dreams," Aydin said.
- Waiting for justice
Another victim Tansel Cavit Kulak -- who was a senior navy lieutenant in that period, but was forced to retire on the pretext of “reactionary activities” by the administration at that time -- said he wants justice for all victims.
"This [obligatory retirement] was one of the tragic events of my life. How can I do reactionary activities while at sea? Can you imagine such cruelty? You are accused of treason and hanged out to dry," Kulak said.
Kulak said he came from a military family, and, sadly, lost his brother Adnan Mucahid Kulak in a helicopter crash on Dec. 7, 1989.
"I was just one of all those victims, who had been dismissed or suspended from the army," he said.
"I was granted restoration of honor, but it is not enough to repair the damage and let my resentment go."
Referring to an ongoing trial in which over 100 suspects were facing life imprisonment on charges of "participating in forcibly toppling the government of Turkish Republic" on Feb. 28, 1997, Kulak said the perpetrators should be given the punishment they deserved.