In 1996 a 28-part series, “Action Teaches”, was published in Turkish. It sought to educate revolutionaries about the armed struggle and the political struggle. Concrete examples of past actions were described and examined in detail. Selections from these are being published in the English-language Devrimci Sol. In the previous issue, the lessons of an ambush carried out against a police bus in 1992 were examined.
In this issue, the 1980 punishment of Nihat Erim is described. He was prime minister of Turkey following the 1971 military coup which was a response to the revolutionary upsurge at that time. The crackdown which claimed the lives of many revolutionaries happened during his tenure in office. Revenge was not immediate, but eventually Nihat Erim could not escape it.
THE PUNISHMENT OF NIHAT ERIM, PRIME MINISTER OF THE MARCH 12 COUP
In the summer of 1980 the information that Nihat Erim was staying in Dragos reached the movement. After some research and observation the information proved to be correct. So the movement ordered observation to be stepped up. To do this the responsible comrade together with a female comrade observed the flat of Nihat Erim for the space of a week. The female comrade was there for camouflage and only got a hint that there was some general research to be done in this area. To be inconspicious the comrades wore beach clothes and acted like a married couple.
There was no place opposite Erim’s villa where it was possible to stay for a couple of hours, so the comrades had to promenade up and down the street. Observation showed that Nihat Erim lived in this house together with his wife and a female servant, and he left the villa on very few occasions. The villa was very large and situated in quiet surroundings. To leave the municipal district Erim had a chauffeur who was also his bodyguard. He always drove the same way, via Cevizli railway station, to the municipal district. To get to Maltepe they used the same route for security, because in Cevizli railway station there was a military commando consisting of five persons and on the same way a civil police car patrolled now and then. In addition to that, a military car with 15-20 soldiers which was sent out in as a form of mobile security under state of emergency conditions patrolled the areas of Maltepe, Cevizli and Kartal. Every day between 1045 and 1100 Nihat Erim set out for Deniz Kulubu (1) together with his bodyguard to do some swimming in the sea. To get into the area you have to be a member, but people who live outside of the municipal district can’t get membership. On the opposite side of the club there’s a security guard. The distance between Erim’s villa and the club is about 400-500 metres. There are only a few streets and a sizeable number of villas. It was decided to punish Nihat Erim, the responsible person for the massacre on March 30, 1972 in Kizildere, the execution of Deniz, Yusuf and Hüseyin (2), and the physical elimination of the leading cadres of THKP-C (3) and THKO. Four cadres of the Armed Revolutionary Units (SDB) and the Armed Team against the Fascist Terror (FTKSME) were chosen. Another member of the FTKSME was made responsible for organising a car. When he handed over the car to the action group, one week before the action, his mission was completed. After all the information was evaluated at the meeting of the action group the responsible comrade chose plan number one of the options on offer. After that the different tasks of the action were distributed to the comrades. According to the plan Anadol would drive the car and another comrade would take over the responsibility for securing the area where the action took place. The comrade in charge of the action and another comrade would punish Nihat Erim. The plan was to put the bodyguard out of action and disarm him. If Erim’s wife was there she was not to be harmed. According to plan number one the action would take place in front of the Deniz Kulubu. If Erim’s car reached the club and he had got out the action would begin. Two 14-round Browning pistols, as well as two 7.65 Brownings were chosen for the action. There was a second plan. In the event that something unforeseen should happen in front of the Deniz Kulubu at the moment of the action, Erim’s car was to be raked with fire on the way, but only if his wife wasn’t in the car. As a third and secondary plan they had thought about punishing Erim when he left his house, on the main street, but the likelihood of this plan being implemented was small.
The first day of the action
According to the plan, during the night, a comrade showed up with the car and began to clean it.
At about 10 in the morning two comrades who had been waiting at the railway station went to the beach. Each of them had a bag with sun oil, a bath towel and other bathing gear. The fourth comrade in the team came from the direction of Maltepe, but this comrade carried a gun behind his back, and three more in his bag together with the bathing gear. When the comrade had nearly reached the beach he recognised that a political police car was slowly driving behind him. The comrade was on full alert. He acted inconspicuously, just like a boy who is on his way to the beach. So the police car drove past. Four persons met at the beach. At 1045 they headed for the Deniz Kulubu to carry out a check. The police car was still nearby so the action was postponed until the next day. They returned to the beach and after a short while they left the area.
The second day:
On the second day the team, which met directly at the beach, waited for Erim to leave his house in his car. Erim left his house ten minutes later than usual. To be inconspicious the comrades had a chat with some people nearby. They saw that Erim took a shorter way to the beach, so it took him less time to reach the club. There were two possibilities, either to wait at the entrance, or to postpone the action until the next day. It was decided not to wait at the entrance, because that could have been conspicuous.
The third day:
It was decided to use the second plan.The team would rake him with fire on the crossing, where the street to Tekel meets with the first parallel street. They saw that Erim left his house. A comrade behaved like a pedestrian and carried out observation duties. The car waited nearby, but from the other direction a car with women and children came to the crossing and so the action was postponed.
The fourth day:
The next morning the team met at the cafe at the railway station. They had some tea and left the cafe behaving like construction workers, saying things like, “They are waiting for us at the building site.” Shortly after, Anadol’s car was parked next to the beach. The comrade who was responsible for the driving headed for the beach. The other two comrades did some swimming in the sea.
The comrade with the weapons arrived shortly after that, bringing with him the bag with the gun. He put the bag in a safe place where he could see it and then he went swimming too. Ten minutes later they left the water and began a conversation about their girlfriend, a conversation which would attract no attention on the beach. “My girl will arrive soon. We met yesterday and we quarrelled with her brother.” They put their clothes on. After they had hid the gun behind their backs, then headed for Tekel Street in groups of two. Two of them went to the car and began to clean it. Two went to a kiosk nearby and had some Coke and ice cream. The kiosk was a good position to observe Erim’s house. They waited until Erim left his house. He left it at 1050. The operation started. The comrade parked the car at some distance from the Deniz Kulubu. He opened the door and behaved like he was waiting for his girlfriend. Two comrades waited next to the club discussing if they could go to the beach there. The comrade who secured the area waited nearby, next to some tennis players. It took them five minutes to get to their positions. Just before Erim’s car reached the club the beach security guard came up to the two comrades next to the club and asked them what they were doing there. It wasn’t permitted to walk around here. The comrades made jokes and started a discussion. They said that they wanted to go to the beach and tried to make him go away. They told him to go and ask at the club if it was forbidden to enter the beach area here. That was the moment when Erim’s car arrived at the club. The bodyguard, Ali Kartal, got out of the car first. He opened the door for Erim. When Erim had left the car his bodyguard saw the two comrades and told them, “What are you doing here, go away” The comrade responsible for the operation, came up to him and said: “Where are we supposed to go, we can go anywhere we want to.” When the second comrade came up too, the bodyguard tried to draw his weapon. The responsible comrade warned him to put it away, but he wouldn’t listen, and drew his 14-shot Browning. When he tried to shoot, two bullets brought him to the ground and he dropped his gun. Then Erim was punished. His wife came out of the car crying out loudly. She wasn’t harmed. The bodyguard had got involved at the last moment, he wasn’t the target, but he was punished too. The fighters took the bodyguard’s weapon and left a leaflet next to Erim, in which the operation was explained. Then they headed for the car. First the two comrades, then the driver, and lastly the comrade who had secured the area. The car drove up the hill with great speed, heading for Maltepe. After 200 metres they saw a military car with 15-20 soldiers coming up in front of them, heading in the opposite direction. There was very little room left on the street. Either they would risk an accident to get by the military car, or they would lose precious time waiting for it to drive by. Of course Anadol would have had to get out of the way under the martial law situation, but the decision was made to drive by at full speed. They pulled their weapons and the responsible comrade shouted the order to the driver: “Full speed” They drove by and left the area before the soldiers could understand what had happened. It took them five minutes to leave the municpal district. First the comrade who was responsible for the weapons left the car, taking the guns with him. At some distance, in Maltepe, the other three comrades left the car. In the evening they met to discuss the operation. Another enemy of the peoples of Turkey had been called to account. The lesson which was drawn
In relation to the strength of the revolutionary will, all the enemies of the people are weak.
He was one of the public enemies who was condemned in songs like: “Erim erim erizesin – may you get awfully thin.” The blood of the revolutonaries, the mourning of the people will cause revenge to be taken even if years go by first. The punishment of Erim was a new historical confirmation of that fact.
The punishment of Nihat Erim was, in the historical situation, like the punishment of Sabanci today, an operation which was welcomed by the people. When the people who had composed songs like: “Erim erim eriyesin, sürüm sürüm sürünesin – may you get awfully thin, may you have an awful life,” heard of the action against him, they felt relieved. The fear of the oligarchy increased, and they said what they say today, “Who can face up to terror?”
On this day different scenarios were drawn. The TKP (Communist Party of Turkey) and its associates, who regard the armed struggle itself as a provocation, couldn’t say a thing, even if they thought the same way.
On the whole, theories of provocation and conspiracy were not as widespread as today. Compared to today’s vagueness, when nobody knows who is defending what and why, in those days there was some clarity on the left.
When heads started to get confused and started to foul up, theories of provocation and conspiracy started to spread. The followers of the DY (Devrimci Yol, Revolutionary Path) for example, had much sympathy with the act of punishment. The leaders of DY, on the other hand, disparaged the operation before the courts of the junta, comparing it to fascist assassinations. Their foulness started in those days, and deepened up to the present day.
Basically the area and the house of Erim was secure. There was only one bodyguard, but the area was full of police and military forces. They were responsible for protecting Erim. In this way the area promised security, and was nearly isolated. But they didn’t reckon with the courage and creativity of the revolutionaries.
Oh how beautiful it would be, you who would splash in the blood of the people, the revolutionaries, and be proud about being a hammer beating down on the heads of the people. And later on, you would live in prosperity in your villa, with a nice view of the sea. No, it can’t be allowed. Those who are looking for and believe in the “provocations and plots”, and see the punishment of Erim or Sabanci in that light, and who have doubts, thinking that “revolutionaries could not succeed”, these people are standing well outside the rage of the peoples; essentially these people do not accept the people’s right to demand a reckoning. And of course they have no idea of the creativity, courage and willpower of revolutionaries.
The security the oligarchy promises the representatives of monopolism, the ministers, prime ministers, the heads of the police, the contra-guerrillas and so on only remains valid when the people and the revolutionaries aren’t well organised and are in a weak position. That’s the most important issue.
In those days the papers asked why a former prime minister only had one bodyguard, but that wasn’t the issue. Let us think about the act of punishment against Nural Ucurum, for example, as described in the second part of our series. First he had only one bodyguard, but when the operation of July 12 meant that information about him became known, he hired five of them. The outcome was the same.
No target, no enemy of the people is out of reach. The acts of punishment against Erim and Sabanci alone can prove that. These operations also taught everyone a lesson about the vanguard and the leadership. If a political movement declares itself to be the mouthpiece and representative of the people, but doesn’t listen to the songs in which the people tell about their hatred of the tyrants, then it’s all talk. We are a movement of the people. That’s why we feel the hatred of the people and that’s why we are as sure as the people that our curse will come true. Those who don’t believe in that should look at Erim’s death!
(1) private beach club
(2) These three revolutionaries of the People’s Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO) were sentenced to death and hanged in 1972
(3) People’s Liberation Party-Front of Turkey
This article originally was published in Devrimci SOL/Revolutionary Left/ magazine in May 1998.