To the Editors:

We would like to call the attention of your readers to the ubiquitous practice among responsible journalists of offering sympathy to Turkey’s reluctant and hard-pressed generals, in carrying out their imposing task of restoring order to the polity and solvency to the economy.* Unfortunately, their sympathy, like freedom in Turkey itself, seems rather limited. Having granted it to the generals and to the rich and powerful, there is none left over for the rest of the populace. This is a pity, for they badly need it. A few examples will show why:

—“General Evren announced that Parliament would be dissolved…and the constitution would be suspended.” (New York Times, September 12, 1980)

—“Turkey’s military leaders decreed that any decisions made by them automatically override the constitution’ and existing laws and that decrees of the recently appointed military-civilian cabinet are not subject to appeal.” (Washington Post, October 29, 1980)

—“No legal action can now be taken against decisions of the martial law commanders.” (New York Times, November 16, 1980)

—“The US section of Amnesty International said today that at least eight people had died in custody in Turkey since the military coup of September 12, amid indications that torture of political detainees was widespread.” (Amnesty International—USA, Nov. 27, 1980)

—“Other specific limitations on the right of defense listed by the lawyers were the new 90-day detention period, ‘giving broad opportunity for torture’; restrictions on the right of appeal; limited time for preparation of the defense; increased penalties in martial law court cases, and a lack of privacy in meetings between lawyers and prisoners.” (New York Times, December 7, 1980)

—“Turkish martial law authorities have detained the president and nine professors of the Academy of Economic and Commercial Sciences in Adana.” (New York Times, January 3, 1981)

However terrible the civil strife that preceded it, this is not a regime that deserves “sympathy” or “understanding.” It is a military dictatorship that has destroyed democratic freedoms, suspended civil liberties, and is in the process of imposing a draconic economic repression on the poorer and weaker segments of the community, in order to pay off debts to US and Western European banks. These things ought to be called by their proper names.

Stanley Diamond

Edward J. Nell

Anwar M. Shaikh

New York City

This Issue

April 2, 1981