Books: Erol Ozkoray Takes on Turkish Military Regime


By Daphne Abeel

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

Turkey: The Permanent Putsch byErol Ozkoray, with a preface by Nikos Lygeros. Translated from the French by Aram Arkun.   Institute Chobanian. Paris. 2011. 55 pp. $9.95. ISBN: 978-2- 917329-22-1

This small pamphlet packs a powerful punch. In his introduction, Nikos Lygeros compares Erol Ozkoray’s Turkey: The Permanent Putsch to an earlier salvo by the French writer, Emile Zola, who in 1898, accused the highest levels of the French army of corruption and anti- Semitism, regarding the prosecution of the French officer, Alfred Dreyfus for alleged espionage.

The author, Ozkoray, a journalist-writer-activist, was arrested by the army general staff in Turkey in 2000 for criticizing the Turkish military. He was cleared of all 15 cases against him, and now resides in Paris, where in 2010, he published this short work in French, recently translated into English, under the auspices of the Chobanian Institute (a sister organization of Baikar), and with the financial support of the Armenian Rights Council of America. Major contributors are Hagop Vartivarian of New York and Arsen Demerjian of Chicago.

The pamphlet presents a broad-brush attack on the Turkish military, often known as “the Deep State” or Ergenekon. Ozkoray argues that the question of membership in the European Union has aroused an especially virulent and — to some extent hidden — form of fascism and totalitarianism practiced by the military.

Ozkoray traces the roots of this totalitarianism to the military coup of 1980, which resulted in a constitution, written in 1982, that placed excessive power in the hands of the military.

He is savage in his criticism of the government. “…true power always remains in the hands of the military. Those elected by the people and the government can only run the current affairs of the country. However, the ‘duality of the executive’ (!) does not prevent the civil government sometimes from politically colluding with the army. This hypocritical situation is profoundly schizophrenic because in contrast to elected officials, it is the appointed ones who possess power.”

He points to the National Security Council (NSC) as the true seat of power, which includes the head of the general staff, and the four heads of the armies (land, marine, air and gendarmerie).”

He quotes a survey conducted in 2008 by Reporters sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders) which lists Turkey as 103rd in the world ranking of freedom of the press.

And the press comes in for a brisk shellacking by Ozkoray. He singles out in particular, the media conglomerate, Dogan, which is an umbrella organization for several newspapers, including Milliyet, and television stations. According to Ozkoray, “The press disseminates very nationalist and fascist ideas, follows an active policy of support for the army and completely defeats public opinion concerning policy vis-a-vis the European Union.”

Ozkoray sees two factors that will poison the political future of Turkey.

They are, “…the obstinacy of the military in defending ‘for eternity,’ in their words, the principle of the nation-state, and on the part of the Islamists, persistence in turning Sunnism into a state religion despite the secularism which will remain vigorous.” Ozkoray points out, that in a country of 72 million, several millions of people who comprise minorities, the Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Greeks and Jews, are victims of discrimination.

Ozkoray ends his argument by saying only the European Union and Turkey’s acceptance into the European Union can turn Turkey into a “genuine, civilian democracy.” There is no question where Ozkoray stands, but he may stand a little too stiffly. Especially in his criticism of the press, he overlooks journalists such as Senim Neder, a reporter for Milliyet, who has been charged under Article 301 for questioning the government’s handling into the investigation of the murder of Agos editor, Hrant Dink. He also takes no account of Milliyet columnist Hassan Camal, the grandson of Talaat Pasha, who has recognized the Armenian Genocide.

The pamphlet is available in the United States through the Baikar Association, 755 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02472. Baikar may also be reached by e-mail, [email protected].