Dawn, silence and the military

Dawn comes slowly to this valley, creeping over the hills like a villain in a cheap cowboy film, waiting to spring upon all us unsuspecting settlers waiting below. The quiet is deafening, I unplug the speakers on my computer because even though they are turned off, the hum of juice through them is too loud to tolerate like the drip of a leaky faucet at one in the morning which reverberates through your skull until you are ready to tear out the offending appliance with your bare hands. The refrigerator sounds like a small truck cruising through the kitchen every time it awakens and the noisy click of the laptop keys when I press them is so loud I am afraid I will disturb my sleeping wife in the next room. Yeh, our village gets downright quiet before the dawn lightens up the sky with its promise of a day of warmth and sun.

On a normal day, we get from three to five cars coming down the path which passes for a road in front of our house. The roar of this traffic when it comes is always a bit of a shock because of the quiet. When a bird whistles or calls, when our local owl hoots or when a neighbor’s donkey brays; the sounds are crisp and clear like the outline of an ink drawing on elegant stationery paper.

In contrast…
During the late 1950’s strife and dissent started to spiral out of control on the streets of most of the large cities in Turkey. This resulted in an ever-increasing inability of the government to control the brutality and killing and the frequent clashes between the left including communists and Alevi Muslims who consider themselves to be part of the wider Shi`a movement, meaning those who revere Ali (Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law) and the Twelve Imams of his house as opposed to the Sunni Muslims who hold themselves as the followers of the Sunna (practice) of the prophet Muhammad as related by his companions. Sunnis are the majority in Turkey.

Many Alevis are on the left and have experienced frequent and recurring clashes with the right and other ultra nationalists and fundamentalists, thugs and conservative Sunni Muslims since early Ottoman times.

On May 27, 1960 the military stepped in with a military coup to stop the violence and restore order.

The Armed Forces Coup and Interim Rule, 1960-61
Turkish army units, under the direction of the chief of General Staff, Cemal Gürsel, seized the principal government buildings and communications centers and arrested President Bayar, Prime Minister Menderes, and most of the DP representatives in the Grand National Assembly, as well as a large number of other public officials. Those arrested were charged with abrogating the constitution and instituting a dictatorship.They dissolved the government and eventually imprisoned, tried and hanged the Prime Minister, Adnan Menderes who was blamed for the collapse of law and order and because it seemed he was trying to move the country increasingly toward a more religious (sharia) type of government.

The Turkish military has long been viewed as the last bastion of protection from fundamentalist Islam and upholders of Kemalism or secular civilian government and those who would turn the country into another Iran or Saudi Arabia. When anyone in the civilian government started to move in that direction, the military gave very stern warnings that there was a line these people should not cross. Those who did were removed or “asked” to resign.

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