The Turkish Armed Forces intervened on 12 September 1980 to take over the administration of the country in accordance with its Internal Service Act which assigns to them the responsibility of ’’safeguarding and protecting the Turkish Republic”.
What sort of conditions prevailed in the country to prompt them to assume the running of the state, despite the fact that their great leader, Kemal Ataturk, had always shown the greatest concern that the Armed Forces should keep above, and stay out of, politics ?
From the ordinary conscripts to the highest-ranking commanders, the Turkish Armed Forces as a whole have always remained loyal to Kemalism, to Ataturk, to all his teachings and principles, and have never deviated from the path Ataturk set out. Further, they have been the most loyal and effective defenders and protectors of Ataturk’s revolution and precepts, as well as the welfare of the Turkish Republic.
The Armed Forces of the Republic are, remaining wholly and deeply loyal to the directives issued by their eternal and superb Commander—in—Chief, have always been meticulous in keeping out of politics’. Still fresh in their memories is the disastrous defeat of the Ottoman Army during the 1911 Balkan War, and they are fully aware how an army, which is involved in politics, can rapidly be divided and disintegrate.
It is incorrect to interpret the Armed Forces’ take-over of the state administration on 12 September 1980 as their entry into the political arena. This action was carried through as an obligation, for there was no other way of preventing the breakdown and destruction of the nation and the state. The whole operation, however, was conducted within the framework of the existing chain of command, based on the principle of absolute obedience, to ensure that the Armed Forces themselves did not get stuck in the quagmire of politics.
I believe that this practical concept is definitive and clear enough. It is inconceivable that the Turkish Armed Forces will ever deviate from the basic principles handed down to them by their founder and great leader, Ataturk.
I would, like to stress again this belief of mine: the Turkish Armed Forces have never nursed political ambitions and have never aspired to be a political force. For they are fully conscious that their paramount duty is'solely to defend the homeland.
Another point, worth emphasising, with proper pride, is this: in no other country have the armed forces been so loyal to, and respectful of, the basic principles of the ’’democratic order”, or been so active in defending and protecting the ’’democratic system.” Whenever the Turkish Armed Forces have been faced with the necessity of ’’safeguarding the Turkish Republic.” they have undertaken this task unhesitatingly and for the sole purpose of preserving the happiness and welfare of the Turkish nation and the integrity of the country. They have always, in the most faithful fashion, worked for the re—establishment of a democratic order, for the fundamental principles of Ataturk and Kemalism, and for a political structure which best suits the Turkish nation and they have always done their utmost to facilitate the introduction of new arrangements to restore the ’’democratic system." And, when they have completed their mission, they have returned to barracks, leaving power in the hands of a civilian administration, in total accordance with the rules of a democratic society.
This same aim lies at the root of the operation of 12 September 1980. In less than a year, the first fruits of the efforts to set up a coherent, forward-looking and consistent ’’democratic syslam" were becoming manifest throughout the nation.
In Turkey, the ’’democratic and parliamentary system” has been operative for over 30 years, since the early 1950s. From time to time, it has run into difficulties and impasses, and in 1980 it was finally paralysed by a combination of political negligence and treason that could have led to the destruction of the nation. The phenomena of this period should be very carefully examined and correctly interpreted, and the appropriate conclusions should be drawn, for future studies of such problems.
I should like to repeat, once again, this basic message to the politicians of yesterday and tomorrow, to those who want to have say in the administration of the country, to the officials of those institutions, which are integral elements of any democratic order, to the whole Turkish youth, and to the dear Turkish nation:
The Kemalist pattern of thought, and the proper pride in being a Turk, lie at the heart of the 'Turkish Republic. The principles of Ataturk are the cornerstone of this structure. When these basic principles were strayed from, fratricidal and separatist movements began to emerge in the country. If Ataturk’s principles are not followed faithfully and conscientiously, and if these are not accepted as the basic pillars of the Turkish Republic, it will be impossible for a modem, civilised, healthy, consistent, humane and stable state administration to function.
It leas tile grave deviations from the path that I have described that necessitated the implementation of the 12 September 1980 operation throughout the country.
This book sets forth, in an unbiased manner, the real reason for the 12 September operation by adducing documents and recounting events, in evidence. It is not an “apologia” of the 12 September administration. It is a brief impartial and documentary description of the struggle of our country and our people, from 1919 to the 1980s, to establish an independent and honourable parliamentary democratic republic. Furthermore, this book will also be a reference—book for future generations, to prevent the repetition of the chaotic days, which the nation has recently experienced.
I have no doubt that our great nation will march even faster, along the path of sound modern and progressive achievements, in the direction shown by our superb leader, Ataturk. 1 am also fully confident that the Turkish Armed Forces, the indivisible and essential element of the nation, will continue to fulfil the honourable tasks befalling them tomorrow, just as they are doing today, under Ataturk’s inspiration.
I am proud, to dedicate this book to the heroic Armed Forces of Turkey, who are always at the service of this great nation, imbued with a real spirit of self—sacrifice, loyalty and patriotism.
General Head of State
Chairman of the National Security Council
Chief of General Staff
The Birth of the Turkish Republic
At the beginning of 1919 the Ottoman Empire was breaking apart at the seams as a result of the tremendous blows it had received in the First World War. The army, heavily defeated, was bereft of arms and ammunition, and the whole nation was exhausted and impoveris hed. Those who had dragged the country into the conflict had fled abroad to save their lives and aggressive forces which wanted to enslave the Turkish nation had invaded parts of Anatolia. The minorities, who had lived together with the mass of the nation for centuries, were attempting to undermine the state, by both over and covert means.
The moribund Ottoman state had already been dismembered. What was left of a once great empire was a piece of the "Fatherland" inhabited by a relatively small number of Turks, and forces with malevolent designs on the Turkish nation were engaged in attempts to carve up this piece of territory as well. The Ottoman state and Independence, the Sultan, the Caliph, the Government... all these terms and concepts had lost their meaning.
For the Turkish people, who had lived an independence throughout history, this was an ineluctable issue of honour.
But during this period a new national hero and saviour emerged from the heart of the nation to enter the annals of history Mustafa Kemal. The new leader devoted himself to the liberation of his follow— countrymen, proclaiming that the only solution was to wage a struggle to "form a new independent Turkish state based on national sovereignty." He explained the fundamental principles of this struggle in the following terms:
"The main objective is the survival of the Turkish people as an honourable and dignified nation. This can only be achieved through absolute independence. Any nation deprived of its independence, no matter how rich and prosperous it may be, is destined to become the servant of civilised humanity. But the Turks honour and capabilities are extremely great... a nation with such virtues would prefer to die than to live in enslavement. Thus, freedom or death..."