The Middle East Channel

Trial begins against former generals who led the 1980 Turkish coup

Trial begins against former generals who led the 1980 Turkish coup

The trial of the two surviving leaders of the 1980 coup that set Turkey on a 30-year course of military-dominated politics begins on Wednesday. Former military chief of staff, General Kenan Evren, who led the coup and subsequently the country from 1982 to 1989, and the former chief of the air force, General Tahsin Sahinkaya, are being tried for crimes against the state for their campaign of repression, during which hundreds of thousand of people were detained, hundreds died from torture, and 49 people were executed. According to Evren, the coup restored order amid political violence and chaos, and maintained the secular nature of the government at a time when they were concerned about a rising Islamist threat after the Iranian revolution. Current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has similarly come under criticism by secularist conservatives who fear he is attempting to establish an Islamist government in his moves to reduce military influence, reform the judiciary, and rewrite the constitution, and was subject to a recent coup plot. A 2010 constitutional amendment lifted the former generals’ immunity making the trial possible.


The Syrian government has yet to begin implementation of an agreed upon peace plan presented by United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. According to activists, security forces have been deployed in the cities of Idlib and Daraa as well as Hama and Homs where there have also been reports of heavy shelling. Amnesty International reported 232 deaths since President Bashar al-Assad accepted Annan’s proposal on March 27, and noted: "The evidence shows that Assad’s supposed agreement to the Annan plan is having no impact on the ground." Russia has meanwhile criticized the United States and the "Friends of Syria" for undermining the Annan plan by imposing new sanctions and arming the opposition. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remarked that the Syrian opposition will never win against the Syrian government even if it was "armed to the teeth" and said: "Instead, there will be slaughter for many, many years — mutual destruction." A team of officials from the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations is planning to arrive in Damascus within two days to discuss the possible deployment of an observer mission to monitor a ceasefire that would take place by April 10 if the Syrian government and opposition adhere to the Annan plan.


  • France has continued its crackdown on al Qaeda-linked Islamists, detaining 10 suspected militants.
  • At least 22 people were killed on Tuesday in fierce clashes between rival militias in western Libya.
  • After a secret meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials, Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the stalled peace process.
  • Israeli security forces began evicting settlers who had taken over a building in the West Bank city of Hebron despite Netanyahu’s original block of the eviction order.

Arguments & Analysis

‘Egypt’s muddy waters’ (Nathan J. Brown, National Interest)

"Long accustomed to being a social movement with a broad agenda, ambiguous legal status, and oppositional pose, the Brotherhood is having to turn itself into a governing political party. The best minds in the movement have shifted from the Muslim Brotherhood organization to the movement’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. The nomination of al-Shater forced his resignation from the top decision-making bureau of the Brotherhood, but it also makes him the most prominent Brotherhood figure (possibly eclipsing the more bashful Mohammed Badie, the formal leader). Offered the opportunity to participate, the Brotherhood seems to be shifting the logic of its decision making-from a former focus on religious values and long-term transformation of Egyptian society to new short-term political tactics." 

‘Iraqi universities reach a crossroads’ (Ursula Lindsey, Chronicle for Higher Education)

"Iraqi universities remain highly centralized, politicized, and in need of systemic reform. The country is ruled by parties representing Iraq’s Shiite majority, which was discriminated against under Saddam Hussein. But today, Sunnis and secular Shiites worry that academic standards and freedoms are still threatened by sectarianism and religious and political ideology-just in reverse. They complain of discrimination and say that university appointments are being made on the basis of religious affiliation and political connections rather than academic qualifications. "Before, the Baath Party was controlling all universities, and you had to be a high party official to be university president or dean," says Nadje Al-Ali, a professor of gender studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, who has worked on several efforts to connect Iraqi academics with their counterparts in the region. "Now each political party controls a university-the only pluralism is the plurality of dictatorial parties that are using the same methods to exert control."" 

‘Wary in Cairo’ (Sarah A. Topol, Latitude — New York Times)

"For all the gains Egyptians have made in the last year, the Feb. 2011 revolution has unleashed many of the country’s longstanding underlying tensions – sectarianism, heightened economic desperation and a growing xenophobia that results in harassment. A visit to Egypt is less appealing than it used to be. That’s a shame for a country on the cusp of a full blown economic meltdown. Egypt could use the money. According to the latest government figures, from 2007, tourism accounted for 11.3 percent of G.D.P. and 19.3 percent of foreign-currency revenues. Five years ago, those figures were projected to grow substantially. But since January 2011, wary travelers have canceled plans. Local media reported the number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped by one-third last year, sending the tourism sector into a desperate scramble."

–Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey