One of the darkest days in Turkey's history came May 27, 1960, when a military junta toppled the elected government of Prime Minister Adnan Menderes.
Menderes was the first democratically-elected prime minister of Turkey after an iron-fist Republican People's Party (CHP) ruled the country for decades.
On bogus claims of violating the Constitution and embezzling state funds, President Celal Bayar, Foreign Minister Fatih Rustu Zorlu, Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan, Menderes and other members of the Democrat Party who ruled from 1950 to 1960 were put on trial by a military court in Yassiada, an island in the Sea of Marmara southeast of Istanbul.
The four men were sentenced to death by hanging.
Only Bayar was spared because of his old age.
In 2019, millions of Turks honor Menderes’ democratic legacy, courageous actions such as reverting the Turkish adhan, or the Muslim call to prayer, policy of CHP back to its Arabic original and countless other services that have ushered in a new era of growth, prosperity and freedom of religion in Turkey.
In Turkey, the adhan reverberated from the mosques in Turkish language for 18 years from 1932 to 1950 and those who insisted in Arabic were prosecuted until Menderes finally put an end to it.
Here is a compilation of some of Menderes' words on the 59th anniversary of the military coup.
"The Turkish nation is Muslim and will remain so forever. It is off limits to trespass freedom of religion in this country," Menderes said of Turks.
He fought hard throughout his tenure to provide practicing Muslims with equal opportunities in the staunchly secular state mechanism.
On democracy and his opposition
"Our country has finally managed to get out of the unfree climate of the old days [referring to decades-long one-party system] and reached an era of multi-party rule," said jubilant Menderes after winning the first free elections in Turkey’s history in 1950.
We call it free because it was the fist election held by secret ballot and open counting.
It was the opposite until 1950.
"May God protect even my enemies from such an opposition," he said in the face of constant lies and accusations his opponents surfaced in the pro-establishment and state-controlled media.
"Don't we know as a nation how they have been struggling for years and years to demonstrate every success as a catastrophe and every beautiful and magnificent work as a loss!" said Menderes, blaming the anti-democratic deep state of taking a stance against elected governments and the people of Turkey.
"There was neither a dictatorship nor a dictator around from 1950 to 1960," said Menderes in his defense at Yassiada denying allegations of authoritarian rule.
On Cyprus island and Greeks
Menderes governments always showed extreme caution and good intention in maintaining neighborly relations with Greece.
However, when the Greek governments did not care much about the olive branch Turkey extended, the message from Menderes, especially after the tension about Cyprus island started to escalate in the 1950s, was clear enough.
"Cyprus island will never belong to the Greeks."
His last words
When the military junta read the hanging sentence to his face, he was calm and strong.
He only said "May Allah protect our nation."
Only to humiliate an elected prime minister, the junta ordered a prostate examination on Menderes hours before his execution.
Then they told him to say his last words.
"At this very moment when I am departing from life, tell my family and children that I remember them with compassion. May Allah bless our homeland and nation with eternal welfare."
The last words of the 62-year-old father and statesman right before his martyrdom Sept. 17, 1961, were heart-wrenching to millions of Turks who were living in an age of political and social repression./aa