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1997 - Postmodern Coup

The Islamist Refah or Welfare Party polled the most votes in the 1995 national election and came to power in July 1996 as head of a coalition government. Some Refah actions provoked the military, which labeled what it called ?reactionaryism? or fundamentalism one of the two main threats to the state. (The other is separatism.) On February 28, 1997, the military-dominated National Security Council issued a series of recommendations or ultimatums to the government on actions needed to protect secularism. The military succeeded in forcing the Refah-led government from power later that year and Refah was banned in 1998, but it was succeeded by the Fazilet or Virtue Party.

The name 'postmodern coup' was given to the clash between the army and the political leadership on Feb. 28, 1997 in which the military overthrew the coalition government led by Necmettin Erbakan of the now-defunct Welfare Party (RP). The military again helped engineer the ouster - popularly dubbed a "postmodern coup" - of the then Islamic-oriented government. The military demanded that Erbakan stop or reverse policies seen as promoting Islam in government affairs. It increasingly applied overt pressure on Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan of the conservative Islamic Welfare (Refah) Party. At a meeting of the NSC on 28 February 1997, Top Commanders issued an 18-point declaration, asking the government to take measures to curb the growing Islamist activities.

Enough members of the junior coalition partner defected to cause the Erbakan government to fall and force Erbakan to step down. The overall effect of this experience was to show that Refah cannot change Turkish foreign policy and to harden non-Islamist opposition to Refah. In all of these coups, the majority of the Turkish public accepted the military's actions because they felt they were necessary for the well being of the state and because the military did not seek to impose permanent military governance.

The conventional belief in the Turkish media seems to be that the US did indeed support the February 28 decisions of 1997, the so-called "postmodern coup d'etat" of the time.

The Islamism of the National Outlook Movement (Milli GrSHareketi), led by Necmettin Erbakan, embraced an anti-Western/European stanceand championed an orthodox conception of Islam from the 1970s to the 1990s. Although the prominent founders of the AKP emerged from this pro-Islamic movement, they learned the "limitation of Islamic politics" from the military's intervention during the February 28 postmodern coup. Subsequently, they departed from the National Outlook Movement, referring to themselves as the "innovators" and by embracing a liberal conception of Islam instead.

One of the National Security Council's February 28, 1997 "recommendations" to the government stated, "practices in contravention of the law on attire that could give Turkey a backward appearance should be obstructed and laws in this regard should be enforced especially in public institutions." For some women, the wearing of a head scarf or hijab soon became a symbol of defiance of the military and other secularists in addition to an expression of religious belief. On the other side of the issue, secular women saw the head scarf as a symbolic Islamist challenge to the improved status they had achieved since the Republic was founded.

The National Security Council?s February 28, 1997 ultimatums included some requirements that critics interpreted as restrictions on religious freedoms. For example, the Council recommended that "an eight-year uninterrupted education should be enforced to protect the young against "influence" and ensure their love of Ataturk ideals." The government subsequently mandated eight years of compulsory state education. This action eventually resulted in the closing of imam-hatip private religious schools that operate through the eighth grade. (Those already enrolled at the time the law was passed will be allowed to complete their studies.) Individuals still may elect to attend religious schools after completing their compulsory education. Likewise, the Council sought to outlaw practices that benefit Islamist religious foundations financially, such as the donation of the hides of sheep used in religious sacrifices. The ultimatum defined the issue thus, "Collection of sacrifice hides by anti-regime organizations for the purpose of securing financial resources should be prevented." The Council did not recommend banning animal sacrifice for religious purposes.

The Protocol on Cooperation for Security and Public Order (EMASYA), which has been harshly criticized for allowing the military to conduct operations and intelligence gathering in cities without the approval of the civilian administration, was signed after the Feb. 28 [1997] postmodern coup between the General Staff and the Interior Ministry. It enabled the armed forces to intervene in social incidents without a directive from a governor's office. It contradicts both the Law on Provincial Administrations and related legislation. The controversial protocol was signed by the General Staff and the Interior Ministry on July 7, 1997 and empowered the military to intervene in social incidents on its own initiative. EMASYA gave the military the authority to gather intelligence against internal threats. Although the protocol has been severely criticized by politicians and analysts over the years, it remained in force until 2010.

Debate over EMASYA flared in 2010 after a retired general confessed to having drafted a plan to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in accordance with the protocol. The plan, titled the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) Security Operation Plan, includes a subversive TSK plot to take control of the country through a series of violent acts.





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