Government says planning to turn Yassiada into democracy museum

The Turkish government has reiterated that it is planning to turn Yassiada, a small island in the Marmara Sea where politicians were imprisoned and tried after the May 27, 1960 military coup, into a democracy museum to be a “lesson” to future generations.

“We want to turn Yassiada into a democracy museum and democracy complex,” Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said in Parliament on Tuesday. He described the 1960 coup as an “exceptionally painful period” and said that his government wants to convert it into a “lasting and symbolic” work of art.

This small island in the Marmara Sea was the place where many figures from the government overthrown in the May 27, 1960 coup were tried, tortured and sentenced to death. It was also where Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Foreign Minister Fatin Rustu Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan were executed.

On May 27, 1960, the military overthrew the democratically elected Menderes government and the military junta took control of the administration alleging that the state's secular character was at risk. According to officers who staged the coup, it was aimed at putting an end to activities against secularism in the country. However, it is widely believed the coup was carried out to restore the administration to its original state, where power was shared only among the elite of the country.

Menderes and his fellow Democrat Party (DP) members were tried in 14 separate cases on Yassiada. The judges overseeing the case handed down 15 death penalties, 12 life sentences and hundreds of long-term imprisonments. Three of the executions were carried out: Menderes, Zorlu and Polatkan were hanged. Bayar, who was president at the time, was among the 15 sentenced to death, but his execution was not carried out because of his age.