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HomeHeadlineThe Genesis of Turkey's Single-Party Era: Echoes of Authoritarianism Past and Present

The Genesis of Turkey’s Single-Party Era: Echoes of Authoritarianism Past and Present

Idris Gursoy*


The Sheikh Said incident in 1925 in Turkey, marks the first rebellion movement in the history of the Turkish Republic. The Rebellion of Restoration Law (Law of Maintaining Peace) was enacted using a rebellion, which could have been suppressed with just a battalion of soldiers, as an excuse. With the Independence Courts, all opposition was silenced, and the transition to a single-party regime was made.

The Republic was proclaimed in 1923. Within the Parliament, the Progressive Republican Party was fiercely oppositional. The Istanbul press was also critical of some of the government’s actions.

A Regime Plan Without Opposition In 1925, some stirrings began in the east. Ankara was closely monitoring these. Prime Minister Ali Fethi Okyar took the necessary precautions and initially proposed a law to the Parliament declaring a state of emergency in the eastern provinces. The intelligence received by Okyar suggested that the incident was minor and local. During Parliament discussions and Çankaya summits, he reported on the developments in the region: “I asked all governors of eastern provinces, gendarmerie regiment commanders, and police chiefs, through encrypted messages, whether there was any rebellion in their areas. All the responses I received indicated that there were no signs or traces of rebellion in any of the provinces, districts, and villages. This rebellion is solely the rebellion of Sheikh Said and the people of Çapakçur. I called up ten classes of reserves from Çukuroca. We will send them to Çapakçur and suppress the rebels.”

However, there was another movement outside the government in Ankara. At the Çankaya mansion, Mustafa Kemal, İsmet İnönü, who had just returned from Lausanne, and some military and civilian officials were holding meeting after meeting. M. Kemal and İnönü wanted the rebellion to be suppressed with harsher measures. Justice Minister Esat Mahmut Bozkurt agreed with this view.

Prime Minister Okyar rejected the plan for extraordinary measures. He did not change his stance even after hours of debate within the People’s Party. Okyar said, “This rebellion is so insignificant that the people in Harput overpowered them. It’s a matter of a few battalions.” İsmet İnönü, however, insisted, “This rebellion is comprehensive and organized.”

Fethi Okyar: You Have Another Purpose! Fethi Okyar responded to İnönü, “Your purpose is different. You want to use this as an excuse to enact terror, to hang and slash people, to create peace through bloodshed, to secure your positions through blood. I cannot commit such a great sin. I cannot unjustly stain my hands with blood against God, history, and the nation.”

Okyar insisted that martial law measures should only be applied in the region, not expanded nationwide. He argued that the rebellion could be suppressed within the framework of democracy and law. However, he could not overcome M. Kemal, İnönü, Bozkurt, and Peker. He was left alone in the votes in Parliament.

M. Kemal asked for Okyar’s resignation. The task of forming the government was given to İnönü. The İsmet Pasha Cabinet included Recep Peker as the Minister of National Defence and Mahmut Esad Bozkurt as the Minister of Justice.

The new government’s first act was to enact the Law of Restoration of Order. Any ‘religious movement’ was considered treason. Under this law, special Independence Courts were established in eastern provinces and Ankara. The decisions of the Independence Court in the rebellion region would be implemented immediately.

A new ‘single party’ era was being constructed in Turkey The plans for destruction were pre-made. Thousands of people, who had nothing to do with the incidents, were detained from all over the country, many were executed, and thousands more were exiled. All opposition newspapers were shut down. The Progressive Republican Party was locked up. Members of Parliament were subjected to investigation.

This is how the single-party era began and continued until 1950.

It is beneficial to look at the extraordinary developments following July 15 and beyond with this perspective in mind. A controversial coup attempt is being used as an excuse to build a new era without opposition. With the same methods…

*Idris Gursoy is a journalist and writer focusing on Turkish Politics.

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