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Kenan Evren

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Kenan Evren
Evren in 1988
7th President of Turkey
In office
12 September 1980 – 9 November 1989
Prime MinisterBülend Ulusu
Turgut Özal
Preceded byİhsan Sabri Çağlayangil (acting)
Succeeded byTurgut Özal
Chief of the General Staff of Turkey
In office
7 March 1978 – 1 July 1983
Preceded bySemih Sancar
Succeeded byNurettin Ersin
Commander of the Turkish Army
In office
5 September 1977 – 6 March 1978
Preceded bySemih Sancar
Succeeded byNurettin Ersin
Personal details
Born(1917-07-17)17 July 1917
Alaşehir, Ottoman Empire
Died9 May 2015(2015-05-09) (aged 97)
Ankara, Turkey
Resting placeTurkish State Cemetery
(m. 1944; died 1982)
ChildrenA child
Şenay Evren
Gülay Evren
Miray Evren
Military service
Allegiance Turkey
Branch/service Turkish Land Forces
Years of service1938–1983

Ahmet Kenan Evren (Turkish: [ˈce.nan ˈev.ɾɛn]; 17 July 1917 – 9 May 2015) was a Turkish politician and military officer who served as the seventh President of Turkey from 1980 to 1989. He assumed the post by leading the 1980 military coup.

On 18 June 2014, a Turkish court sentenced him to life imprisonment and demotion of his military rank, (down to private from army general) for leading the military coup in 1980. He was found guilty of obstructing democracy by deposing the prime minister Süleyman Demirel and of abolishing the parliament, senate and the constitution. This sentence was under appeal at the time of his death.[1]


Ahmet Kenan Evren was born in Alaşehir, Manisa Province.[2] His father, who was an imam,[3] was of Albanian origins.[4][5] He was originally from the town of Preševo and immigrated to Turkey to live with his uncle, who was in Istanbul.[6] Kenan Evren's mother was from a Turkish Bulgarian background.[7] After going to elementary school and middle school in Manisa, Balıkesir and Istanbul, he attended military high school in Maltepe, Ankara. In 1938, he graduated from army school and in 1949 from military academy as a staff officer.[2]

From 1958 to 1959, he served in the Turkish Brigade in Korea. In 1964, he was promoted to general. Evren served at various posts as Army Chief. He was the commander of Operation Gladio's Turkish branch; the Counter-Guerrilla. The Counter-Guerrilla was an anti-communist "stay-behind" guerrilla force set up with the support of NATO.[8] He became Chief of General Staff in March 1978.[2] He was selected by then Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit for not being a member of any political group inside the Turkish Military

1980 military coup d'état[edit]

The years leading to the coup were characterized as a fierce struggle between the far-right and the far-left. Hoping to see a communist revolution, the leftist militants rioted in the streets; on the other hand, the right-wing nationalist militants fought back the left-wing revolutionaries and provoked religious arousal. Universities had taken sides and each became headquarters for either the leftists or the rightists. The chaotic situation created by far-left and far-right groups had destroyed public security in the country. Communist and neo-fascist groups tried to keep even the streets under their control, beating or killing anyone who was not one of them. Finally, an anti-secularist rally organised by Islamists in Konya on 6 September 1980 was the last straw.

With the coup came the National Security Council as the ruling body. The council of 1980 was composed of the commanders Kenan Evren, the Chief of Staff and President of the State. The parliament was dissolved. On a speech in Muş in 1984, about the execution of Erdal Eren, a communist militant alleged 17-year-old but according to official records born in 1961 who was accused of killing a Turkish soldier, he said "Now, after I catch him, I will put him on trial, and then I will not execute him, I will take care of him for life. I will feed that traitor who took a gun to these Mehmetçiks who shed their blood for this homeland for years. Would you agree to that?!"[9][10]

President of Turkey[edit]

Kenan Evren and his daughter Şenay Evren with President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, June 1988

After the coup, Kenan Evren was elected as President of Turkey on 7 November 1982 with the 91.37% approval of the new constitution that was submitted to a controversial referendum, replacing the older constitution which, according to him, had liberties too "luxurious" for Turkey.[11]

Evren suspended many forms of civil liberties and human rights on the grounds that it was necessary to establish stability. He professed great admiration for the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Kenan Evren despite being a staunch defender of Kemalism used a religious rhetoric in his speeches to make his remarks more relatable.[12]

Evren took strong measures to ensure that the division between the political left and right would not turn into violence again; the new constitution limited the rights and depoliticized the youth.

Kenan Evren's junta regime stressed the importance of family planning and passed more liberal laws on abortion.[13]

According to a report on the Susurluk scandal of 1996, prepared by Prime Ministry Inspection Board Deputy Chairman Kutlu Savaş, quoted by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, "Fascists had been released from prison in return for 'finishing some jobs' under Evren's rule after 12 September 1980".[14]

Concerning Kurds, he denied their existence and claimed the word Kurd comes from the noise that is heard when walking in the snow.[15] Referring to Kurds he used the term Mountain Turk.[15]

Evren was also the last Turkish president to have been born in the Ottoman Empire.


After his retirement, he moved to the Turkish Mediterranean resort town of Armutalan, Marmaris, and took up painting.[16]

On 2 August 2006, a reported plan for assassinating Evren was thwarted when two men were apprehended and arrested in Muğla.[17]

A previous attempt in 1996 had already been tracked down when two members of the assassination team spoke on a cellphone eavesdropped by the police, and the Islamic call to prayer (adhan) could be heard during their conversation. Since the timing of the adhan was 4–5 minutes after Istanbul, a point slightly more to the west by that time margin was sought and the team members were caught in Marmaris itself.[18]

In 2004, he revealed that his daughter, Şenay Gürvit, and son-in-law, Erkan Gürvit, are members of the National Intelligence Organization. His daughter presided over the reprisal operations against the militant Armenian organization ASALA.[19]

After Bülent Ecevit's death, he expressed remorse over the arrest of political leaders after the 1980 coup,[16] but defended the coup itself and the 35 executions.[20]

Civilian resentment exists, and there were demands for his being called to account following the Ergenekon investigation.[21][22]

Trial and conviction[edit]

On 10 January 2012, Turkish courts decided to press charges against General Kenan Evren and General Tahsin Şahinkaya, former Commander of the Turkish Air Force, for their role in the 1980 coup. Prosecutors sought life sentences against them.[23] The first court hearing of the case was scheduled for 4 April 2012.[24] Both were sentenced to life imprisonment on 18 June 2014 by a court in Ankara.[25] In accordance with Article 30 of the Military Penal Code, Evren and Şahinkaya were demoted to the lowest rank of private; as the decision was appealed and Evren died before the final decision of the court of appeals, the demotion was not final. On his gravestone he is commemorated as the seventh President of Turkey.

Personal life[edit]

Evren married Sekine Evren in 1944. They had a child that died in infancy and three daughters, Şenay, Gülay and Miray. Sekine died in 1982.[26] In 1990, he was awarded the Atatürk International Peace Prize.[27] He was also fluent in English.

Illness and death[edit]

Funeral of Kenan Evren held on 12 May 2015

Evren was hospitalized for massive gastrointestinal bleeding on 3 August 2009, in Yalıkavak, Bodrum, where his summer house is located.[28] A temporary artificial pacemaker was applied to Evren while in intensive care due to bradycardia.[29] His large intestine was removed a week later at the Gülhane Military Medical Academy (GATA) in Haydarpaşa, Istanbul where he was transferred.[30] He was discharged on 24 September 2009.

Evren died at a military hospital in Ankara on 9 May 2015, aged 97.[31] On 12 May, he was buried in the Turkish State Cemetery in Ankara following the funeral service held at Ahmet Hamdi Akseki Mosque. The funeral was attended by his close relatives and military personnel. In protest, political parties sent no representatives to the former president's funeral. A number of people protested during the religious service in the mosque's courtyard.[32]


  1. ^ "Kenan Evren ve Tahsin Şahinkaya hakkındaki dosya 6 aydır Yargıtay'a gönderilmedi". Hürriyet. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Biography, Presidency of the Republic of Turkey
  3. ^ Jenkins, Gareth (2008). Political Islam in Turkey: Running West, Heading East?. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 142.
  4. ^ Balkan Türkleri Sempozyumu, 7 Haziran 1992: tebliğler (in Turkish). Erciyes Üniversitesi. 1992.
  5. ^ Behmoaras, Lizi (1993). Türkiye'de aydınların gözüyle Yahudiler (in Turkish). Gözlem Gazetecilik Basın ve Yayın. ISBN 978-975-7304-00-5.
  6. ^ Evren, Kenan (1990). Kenan Evren'in anıları (in Turkish). Millet Yayınları. p. 25. ISBN 9755060774.
  7. ^ "Misyon, Balkan göçmenleri ve Kenan Evren, Üç kuşak önce Rumeli denilirdi, şimdi Balkanlar yer adlandırmasını tercih ediyoruz. 26 Mart 2017". Archived from the original on 31 October 2019. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  8. ^ "NATO's Secret Armies: Chronology". Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security (PHP). ETH Zurich. Archived from the original on 12 December 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  9. ^ Oran, Baskın; Evren, Kenan (1989). Kenan Evren'in yazılmamış anıları (in Turkish). Bilgi Yayınevi. p. 189. ISBN 975-494-095-9. Retrieved 5 July 2008. Şimdi ben, bunu yakaladıktan sonra mahkemeye vereceğim ve ondan sonra da idam etmeyeceğim, ömür boyu ona bakacağım. Bu vatan için kanını akıtan bu Mehmetçiklere silah çeken o haini ben senelerce besleyeceğim. Buna siz razı olur musunuz? (3 October 1984 speech at Muş)
  10. ^ "Evren, bu zalimliği yaptı mı?". www.sozcu.com.tr (in Turkish). 5 December 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  11. ^ Güçlü, Abbas (25 September 2003). "61 Anayasası Türkiye'ye büyük geldi". Milliyet (in Turkish). Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  12. ^ "Seçimler öncesi Kur'an-ı Kerim polemiği siyasetin gündeminde". 6 May 2015.
  13. ^ "'12 Eylül ürünü kürtaj tartışılsın!'". 31 May 2012.
  14. ^ 1998 Report Archived 3 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), chapter II, "SUSURLUK SCANDAL: Counter-guerilla Affairs", p.39-86 (see p.47)
  15. ^ a b Jones, Gareth (2 March 2007). "Turkey's ex-president Evren probed for Kurd remarks". Reuters. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  16. ^ a b Sarıipek, Mustafa (6 November 2006). "Evren: Tutukladığım için üzgünüm". Hürriyet (in Turkish). Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  17. ^ "Kenan Evren'e Suikast Yapacaklardı". Aktif Haber (in Turkish). 2 August 2006. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  18. ^ "Kenan Evren'i Olumden Ezan Kurtardi". Haber Vitrini (in Turkish). 25 May 2004. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  19. ^ "Evren: Kızım MİT'te çalışıyordu". Sabah (in Turkish). 8 September 2004. Archived from the original on 16 June 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  20. ^ "Evren: Pişman değilim". Radikal (in Turkish). Anadolu Agency, Dogan News Agency. 3 March 2006. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2008.
  21. ^ "Evren de yargılansın netekim!". Taraf (in Turkish). 28 July 2008. Archived from the original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2008.
  22. ^ Timur, Şafak (12 September 2008). "Debating justice for coup generals". Turkish Daily News. Archived from the original on 14 September 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  23. ^ BBC News Turkish ex-president Kenan Evren faces coup charge, 10 January 2012.
  24. ^ Habib Güler (2 April 2012). "Turkish gov't, parties becoming co-plaintiffs in Sept. 12 coup case". Today's Zaman. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  25. ^ Suzan Fraser (18 June 2014). "1980 Coup Leaders Given Life Sentences in Turkey". ABC news. Associated Press. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  26. ^ "Kenan Evren dies at 97; Turkish general led 1980 coup and became president". Washington Post. 9 May 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  27. ^ "Atatürk Uluslararası Barış Ödülü – AYK". www.ayk.gov.tr. 3 July 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  28. ^ "Kenan Evren Hastaneye Kaldırıldı (Kenan Evren Hospitalized)". haberler.com quoting Ankara Haber Ajansı (in Turkish). 3 August 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  29. ^ "Kenan Evren'e Geçici Kalp Pili Takıldı". haberler.com quoting Cihan Haber Ajansı (in Turkish). 3 August 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  30. ^ "Kalınbağırsağı Alındı, Durumu İyi". haberler.com (in Turkish). 14 August 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  31. ^ "Former Turkish president Evren dies aged 97", Reuters, 9 May 2015.
  32. ^ "No blessing' to Kenan Evren at funeral". Doğan News Agency. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Commander of the Turkish Army
5 September 1977 – 6 March 1978
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief of the General Staff of Turkey
7 March 1978 – 1 July 1983
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President of Turkey
12 September 1980 – 9 November 1989
Succeeded by