13 Mayıs 2014 Salı

OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE

ENGLISH
Türkçe için bkz.: "Eski Askerler", 13 Mayıs 2014.

"Old soldiers never die- they just fade away."- Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur .[1]

Nahit Özgür, 1920-2014
(Image from family album.)

It has been a long while since I last wrote in this blog. I felt burned out by the squabble between the rival factions not only opposing the state, but within the state itself. I felt genuinely angry at not being able to concentrate on the work I do best and enjoy the most, which is animation. At the time of writing this, the English version of my last article is still incomplete.

My father, a retired officer, seemed also burned out. So vocal for so long in his criticism of the government, he did not even go to vote in the recent local elections of March 30th 2014, claiming he felt too weak. The outcome of the elections did nothing to bolster his strength or his morale. My father's apparent disinterest moved me to spend more time at my animation disc, neglecting this blog![2] But it's not growing apathy that was ailing the kindly old man, it was deep sorrow and despair. "My time is approaching" he said more and more frequently; adding that the charm had gone out of everything anyway. On the evening of April 11th we had to take him to hosptial. I spent the night with him in the emergency ward of the Istanbul branch of GATA, the Gülhane Military Medical Academy hospital.[3] He was admitted into the hospital the next day, given a comfortable private room because he had retired with a high rank and the hospital was a military hospital. He was too weak to move, so he couldn't make much use of the space, nor the private bathroom, but my mother, who was accompanying him, had an easier time of it. He received the care and respect due to his rank, but the flesh was weak and the soul perhaps no more so willing. He was moved to intensive care on April 16th. 

Meanwhile, navy captain Murat Özenalp, one of the many officers convicted to 16 years in the "Sledgehammer frame-up, collapsed while seeing his visiting family at Mamak Prison, Ankara, on April 26th, 2014. He was suffering from cerebral embolism (blockage of a vein in the brain). He was taken, unconscious, to the intensive care unit of the Ankara branch of GATA.  

Naval Capt. Murat Özenalp
with wife Sema, son Batu and daughter Duru.
(Image from the media.)

The "Sledgehammer" case was one of several based on fabricated evidence, employing the services of corrupt prosecutors and judges to discredit and dismantle the armed forces. It was concluded on September 12th, 2012, with hundreds of convictions. The Court of Appeals (Yargıtay) reversed 88 of the verdicts on October 9th, 2013, ratifying the remaining 237 convictions.



Yeni Akit, October 10th, 2013.
This pro-AKP newspaper
gleefully announces that
the generals convicted
in the "Sledgehammer" case
will be "stripped of their ranks".
The enthusiastic headline reads
"Now they are not even corporals."
 


Most articles in this blog make reference in one way or another to the "Sledgehammer" (Balyoz) coup plot allegations; see "The Sledgehammer", 6 September-Eylül 2012, "Sledgehammer Verdicts", 22 September-Eylül 2012, "Reacting to the Sledgehammer Verdicts", 26 September-Eylül 2012, "Hammering the Sledgehammer", 5 February-Şubat 2013, "A Not-So-Silent Scream", 3 January-Ocak 2014, "To Err is Human", 26 January-Ocak 2014.

I visited my father every day, seeing him through a window for a few minutes only each time. Most of the time he was asleep. The last time I saw him conscious was on April 23rd, the "Children's Holiday", my favorite of the holidays of Ataturk's Republic, so loved by my father, so threatened by Erdoğan's AKP and Fethullah Gülen's Cemaat. April 23rd commemorates the founding of the parliament in 1920, in the middle of the War of Independence. My wife and I had been so active that day last year. See: "April 23rd and the National Center", 2 May-Mayıs 2013. This year my mind was full of my father's waning life, my mother's despair, and little else. That day, my father saw me waving and waved back; he couldn't tell who I was until an attendant told him, then I saw his face register surprise. That wave, that eye contact, was his "Children's Holiday" gift to his son. When I went there again, he was unconscious and they were administering artificial respiration. April 23rd was our goodbye!

Both capt. Özenalp and my father died on May 1st, 2014. I received the phone call at around seven in the morning of a beautiful spring day. The official time on the death certificate is 6:40. According to the press, Capt. Özenalp died at 11:00 the same morning.

We were indeed very sad; my father has always been such a heroic figure for me, proud, patriotic, and uncorruptable. He was a hard example to live up to, a tough act to follow! 

My father's active service to the Turkish Armed Forces had lasted until August 1975, he was retired at the rank of Full-General, his last assignment being General Secretary of the National Security Committee (MGK, Milli Güvenlik Kurulu).  My father served his country for a further eight years as ambassador to Romania. That ended in 1984, exactly thirty years ago. My father tried remained active for several years through his membership in the national  and, in connection to that, the World Veterans' Association, as well as various national societies and groups for intellectual political discussion.[4] But joining these groups with no real power did little to console his sense of impotence before the practices of the AKP Government. Those practices included the unfair treatment of officers in the Ergenekon, "Sledgehammer", Espionage and other allegations that were pretexts for massive witchhunts aimed at clearing the way for the dismantling and transformation of the Turkish Republic. Year by year he slipped into melancholy. He felt betrayed by the Turkish people, in whom he had so much confidence, betrayed by the large numbers so ready to forget Ataturk's principles in favor of the AKP's and Fethullah Gülen's neo-Ottoman fundamentalism. Having served for so many years in NATO during the cold-war years, in course of which sincere friendships were cultivated with US officers and their families, he felt betrayed by the US as well.[5]  


Not a frame from a war flick: four dapper Turkish pilots receiving training at Blackland Army Airfield in Waco, Texas in 1943. From left to right, my father Capt. Nahit Özgür, Capt. Baki Gegin, Lieut. Nusret Şenkan and Lieut. Zaim Ertan. Days of positive relations and mutual trust even before the NATO era, almost embarassing today in view of the machiavellian intricacies of the Greater Middle East Project for which the US has been stabbing its ally in the back! 
Not long after  this picture was taken, my father (extreme left) and Lt. Ertan (extreme right) crashed during their last training flight on a B-25 Mitchell. Lieut. Ertan pulled my father out of the flamng wreckage. Today, his widow and daughter are giving us strong support in our grief.
(Image from family album)

My father was never arrested in the witchunts, though some members of his groups were, and the groups were often targeted by the "collaborationist" press, as the
pro-government and pro-Gülen press is known.[6] 

My father leaving
the meeting of
one of his groups 
(Encümen-i Daniş)
in January 2009.
He was 89 years old at the time.
(Image from the media.)

But the AKP state must have had its eyes on him as well; we received a letter from the State Prosecutor dated May 31st 2013 informing my father that his phone had been tapped by court order on suspicion of "membership in a terrorist organization"- probably meaning Ergenekon, invented to create an excuse for the roundup of patriots. The prosecutor's order for the tapping was dated December 28th 2007. According to the document, they could find nothing incriminating and had resolved to terminate the tapping and destroy the data. Apparently, the state had eavesdropped on my father for over 5 years. He was 87 years of age at the start of the tapping, and going on 93 when they decided to call it off. I imagine the fact that my father had grown old and frail and was hard of hearing had something to do with the fact that they did not press on.

State prosecutor's letter to my father, saying the state had eavesdropped on him on suspicion of "membership in a terrorist organization" for over 5 years. For some reason the prosecutors' office added an extra name "Ahmet" to my father's name. (I blotted out the phone number to avoid unpleasant phone calls to my family.)

The government and various factions had been gearing up for a confrontation on Mayday; the main bone of contention was the right to use Taksim Square for the demonstration, rather than what they were demonstrating for. The various Turkish governments have never been happy with demonstrations at the very central Taksim square, but the AKP has developed total paranoia after the Gezi uprising. See: "Taksim Promenade Park", 31 May-Mayıs 2013,  "Everywhere is Taksim", 2 June-Haziran 2013, "Promenade Park Uprising Continued", 5 June-Haziran 2013, and  "Closing the Gezi Year", 23 December-Aralık 2013. As before, the Governor of Istanbul declared Taksim out of bounds for demonstrations. The government and the resisting groups had been getting ready for a showdown for weeks. It was promising to be as explosive as last year's Mayday, well before the Gezi uprising carried the name of Taksim square to the world. (see: "Mayday Today", 1 May-Mayıs 2013). Many groups chose to challenge the government's decision.[7] Interestingly, the Labor Party (İşçi Partisi) chose not to challenge the government on this, obtaining official permission to hold its rally in Kadıköy.[8] 

My father had died that morning and I had to go to the hospital for the formalities. As my cousin's husband drove me to the hospital, we found the roads leading to GATA blocked by crowds of Mayday demonstrators on their way to Kadıköy. He dropped me off, and I had to wind my way through the crowds, feeling strangely distanced from the events. My father was gone, and nothing seemed to matter.

The demonstrations in Kadıköy went peacefully, but there was the expected pushing, shoving, gas and pressurized water in Taksim square, Beşiktaş, Şişli and Çağlayan in Istanbul, as well as various places in other cities. There were 90 wounded by the end of the day, and well over a hundred arrests. Such was my country the day my father departed!

Girl hit by gas cartridge, Okmeydanı, Istanbul.
(Image from the media.) 

 The Gezi Park steps, Taksim, Istanbul.
(Image from the media.) 
Şişli, İstanbul.
(Image from the media.)

Kızılay, Ankara.
(Image from the media.)

Basmane, İzmir.
(Image from the media.)
The day my father passed away: Mayday confrontations in Istanbul and elsewhere..

My father spent that night in the morgue of GATA in Istanbul. Capt. Murat Özenalp, father of two, spent that night in the morgue of GATA in Ankara. We were grieving because we knew how much we would miss my father. The family of the captain was grieving for similar reasons, but on top of that Capt. Özenalp was still young (he was 49, my father 94) and had left his two children fatherless and his wife a widow far too early. The were also angry and indignant because of the injustice done to him.

The obituary notices appeared in papers headlining the Mayday clashes and and confrontations.


Page one of Sözcü, May 2nd 2014, showing close-ups of children being administered lemon on their eyes against the effects of gas. The photos were taken in the Beşiktaş area of Istanbul- not even the contested Taksim! Below there is a smaller photo of a boy in Ankara who has received a gas cartridge in the head.

 Page 14 of the same issue of Sözcü (May 2nd).
Brothers in arms generations apart meet on their final journey.

Capt. Özenalp's body was taken from GATA, Ankara, with a preliminary military ceremony at 11:00. 

My father's body was taken from GATA, Istanbul, with similar military ceremony at 14:00.

The ceremony for Capt. Özenalp started  at 14:15 at the Kocatepe mosque, Ankara, the normal venue for state funerals. In spite of his conviction, the Armed Forces did not fail to honor one of its own, providing the normal military honors. 

Captain Murat Özenalp's family, relatives and friends at the funeral at Kocatepe mosque, Ankara on May 2nd, 2014. The long haired boy in the suit wearing a cap is his son Batu Özenalp; the cap bears the name and number of the ship on which his father had served (TCG Gökova, F-496). The crying little girl in the front is the captain's daughter Duru, who had always been told his father was on a "secret mission".  The captain's wife, Sema Özenalp, is next to her son's right shoulder, hiding her face. Next to Batu's right shoulder with her hand on her heart, is Saniye Özenalp, the mother of the deceased.
(Image from the media.)

Admiral Bülent Bostanoğlu, Commander-in-Chief of the 
Navy, was there personally. This could be interpreted as the Armed Forces finally making a stand for one of its own, against the supposed justice of the state, but for the attending crowds it was too little too late. Admiral Bostanoğlu and his staff were greeted with jeers, challenged to abandon their posts. The crowds chanted the usual slogans "we are Mustafa Kemal's Soldiers", "the day will come, the table will turn, the AKP will account to the people", and more daringly "Erdoğan the murderer". If the armed forces was making a daring statement in so honoring an officer convicted by the AKP-Cemaat justice, the crowds were making an even bolder statement, in the heart of the capital, by demanding even more backbone. Such unequivocal and vocal support for military personnel entangled in the Ergenekon, "Sledgehammer", Espionage and related and similar witchhunts was virtually confined to the genteel "Silent Scream" demonstrations organized by tha captive officers' wives and families and the crowds gathering before Silivri prison compound outside Istanbul during important court hearings.[9] The crowds vocally protesting the military top brass in the heart of the capital for not standing up to the AKP government's underhanded chicanery is something new. The "Silent Scream" demonstrations of the following day, May 3rd, had for its theme Capt. Özenalp's captivity and death, and the demonstrators demanded a just retrial of all victims of the "Sledgehammer" allegations. At the close of the activities, the usually polite, genteel non-militant "Silent Scream" demonstrators in Beşiktaş, Istanbul, went so far as to block the traffic of the busy Barbaros boulevard for minutes, chanting "Freedom! Freedom"!

The ceremony for my father started two hours after the one for the captain, at 16:15. The lieu was the impressive Selimiye Barracks, such an imposing portion of the silhouette of the Asian side of Istanbul. Though his soul had burned in distress for his country and the unjustly accused and incarcerated officers, the old soldier was not a media figure. The Armed Forces gave him a ceremony that did justice to his distinguished career, his patriotism, his integrity. The grand exit with guard of honor and military band helped us accept our loss.


My father had great confidence in the Turkish Armed Forces, and the Forces honored him as he merited.
(Images taken by military photographers.)

During the ceremony, my father's flag-draped coffin was placed on a catafalque before a relief of military scenes with Ataturk's outsized face staring out from the center. My mother told us later that she fixed her gaze on that face to keep from breaking down, "it was as if he was telling me to stand strong" she said.[10]

 My mother says she drew her strength from the gaze of Atatürk's sculpted face, right across from where we were standing.
(Image taken by a military photographer.)

Capt. Özenalp was buried at Karşıyaka Cemetary, Ankara. My father, Ret. Gen. Nahit Özgür, was buried, as he had requested, next to his comrade Ret. Gen. Reşat Mater, at the Air Force Cemetary at Edirnekapı, Istanbul. The monument facing the entrance gate is nearby and the eagle above it is the eternal sentinel of my father's tomb. The airplanes landing in and taking off from Istanbul's Ataturk airport fly almost directly overhead at low altitude, providing an almost continuous and most fitting requiem.

 Monument at the entrance of the Air Force Cemetary at Edirnekapı, Istanbul. If you are standing at this point, you only have to look right to see the final resting places of Gen. Reşat Mater and right next to it, my father, Gen. Nahit Özgür. But I know he does not lie there- he flies! 
(Image from my own camera.)

 The tomb of Gen. Reşat Mater.
The little mound with flowers right next to it
is where the mortal remains of my father were laid to rest.
(Image from my own camera.)

See also: Esin Desen, "It's Always Too Soon",  24 May-Mayıs 2014.

[1] From Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur's  farewell speech, April 19th, 1951, after president Truman  relieved him from his position as supreme commander of allied forces in Korea. He was really quoting an old barracks song:
 “Old soldiers never die, 
       Never die, never die, 
       Old soldiers never die —
       They simply fade away. 
    
   Old soldiers never die, 
       Never die, never die,
       Old soldiers never die —
       Young ones wish they would.”
 
[2] To see what I was working on then, click here.

[3] Gülhane Askeri Tıp Akademisi. 

[4] Such as Encümen-i Daniş and Mustafa Kemal Derneği, attended by retired politicians, diplomats, officers, and assorted intellectuals. 

[5] The US plan for a new and improved Middle East in accordance with the "Greater Middle East Project", and the enlistment of Fethullah Gülen, the "Imam of Pennsylvania" on the one hand, and the AKP, prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan, and president Abdullah Gül on the other, is not even a conspiracy theory anymore. See. "Ergenekon Trials and Tribulations", 30 Ağustos-August 2013.

[6] The "collaborationist press" (yandaş basın), with allegiances to the AKP or Fethullah Gülen's "community" (Cemaat) presented a united front until the two grups fell out with each other, their differences flaring up with the "corruption and bribery" operations starting on December 17th 2013. See the last paragraphs ("Epilogue for 2013") of "Closing the 'Gezi' Year", 23 December- Aralık 2013.

[7] The challengers of Taksim included DİSK (Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları Konfederasyonu, the "Confederation of  Revolutionary Workers' Unions") and , as well as the TTB (Türk Tabipler Birliği, the "Turkish Union of Doctors") KESK (Kamu Emekçileri Sendikaları Konfederasyonu- "Confederation of Unions of Public Workers"), TMMOB (Türk Mühendis ve Mimar Odaları Birliği- "Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects"), the opposition CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, the "Republican People's Party") as well as the more radical HKP (Halkın Kurtuluşu Partisi, the "Party of the Liberation of the People") and the Kurdish-seperatist HDP (Halkların Demokrasi Partisi "The the "Democracy Party of the Peoples"). Some of these groups were concentrated outside Taksim, such as the CHP in Beşiktaş, but were exposed to gas and pressurized water anyway.


[8] Joining the Labor Party in the Kadıköy rally were, among others, Kamu-Sen  and Türk-İş,  nationalist alternatives to the more revolutionary KESK and DISK, , the TGB (Türkiye Gençlik Birliği, the "Union of Turkish Youth"). 

[9]  For the"Silent Scream" demonstrations see: "Now It's Our Shift", 6 November-Kasım 2012,
"Hammering the Sledgehammer", 5 February-Şubat 2013, "Makes You Want to Scream", 12 February-Şubat 2013, "Devouring his Own Children", 19 February-Şubat 2013, "A Voice from the Silent Scream", 30 September-Eylül 2013, "A Not-So-Silent Scream", 3 January-Ocak 2014. For the crowds gathering before the Silivri prison compound see: "Silivri", 18 December-Aralık 2012, "Silivri, 18-02-2013", 25 February-Şubat 2013, "To Silivri Again", 29 March-Mart 2013, "Provocation: Silivri", 13 April-Nisan 2013, "A Hot Monday Coming Up at Silivri", 3 August-Ağustos 2013,  "Ergenekon Trials and Tribulations", 30 August-Ağustos 2013.

[10] You can see my mother sharing some memories about Ataturk in "My Mother Shares a Memory on Occasion of Nov. 10th", November 8th, 2012.

1 yorum:

  1. I’m glad that you are writing on your blog again , though I am sorry to read of the occasion that brought you back to blogging . My condolences to you on the loss of your father.

    I hope you will continue to post on the blog . Your chronicling of the monumental events taking place in your country is important . This is not something that we (in the U.S.A.) are being informed about in our mainstream press. What is happening with the political and cultural dissolution in both our countries is tragic. (for my part I am truly sorry for the ill effects of my governments’ misguided foreign policy on the situation in Turkey)



    Here is something happier from days gone past — - - Sandro Cleuzo posted this on YouTube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1T1KN7MjuI

    Nice to see you at 0:16 - 0:20 and again at 6:42 - 6:45 .

    YanıtlaSil