“Everyone speaks of national unity, but

unfortunately, everyone fails to bring it about.”

–General Kenan Evren, Turkey’s chief of staff, Monday, Sep. 22, 1980.


For months, Turkey’s generals had warned politicians to stop feuding and start working together to help end the country’s surging factional violence. But the bickering continued, and the death toll from leftist and rightist terrorism mounted from an average of six a day in January to 18 a day so far in September, and to the point where there was talk of imminent civil war. After one particularly bloody stretch, General Kenan Evren, Turkey’s chief of staff at the time uttered these very words. Finally the military took matters into its own hands. Shortly after midnight last Friday, tanks, armored personnel carriers and ground troops fanned out through Turkey’s capital city, surrounding government buildings and setting up roadblocks. In a bloodless coup, a National Security Council, composed of six generals, replaced the democratically elected government of Premier Süleyman Demirel. Evren, 62, a political moderate who heads the junta, said in a radio announcement that the army had moved to prevent “followers of fascist and Communist ideologies, as well as religious fanatics, from destroying the Turkish Republic.” In doing so the Turkish military has stayed true to its secular beliefs since Attaturk’s regime.