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Lady Justice

Dreams are strange things: I found myself, in full gear of Roman Goddess Justitia, with scales and all, posing for a painting before General-cum-painter Kenan Evren. I was not wearing a blindfold over my eyes, probably because some Freudian authority had decided that it was hard enough for Justitia in Turkey as it is, without adding a further handicap.

As it happens between painters and models often, we got to talking Ğ the architect and the leader of the 1980 coup and I. The sun was shining over his garden in Marmaris and I was sipping lemoncello.

"No one will see me behind bars," he said. "These two rascals, Erdoğan and Baykal, would not be able to agree on anything even if their whole life depended on it."

"So you think that the present attempt to lift the Constitution’s temporary Article 15 would not be realized and the coup leaders would not have to face trial?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "Most of us are too old. Or already dead, which is the worse option. Besides, the lifting of Article 15 is not a vote getter, such as shouting at Peres or cancelling credit card debts. No one remembers the coup anyway, except a few intellectuals, directors and authors. Not that the AKP would ever swing their votes that way."

"Ertuğrul Günay said that it was shame that the new generations only know you as a painter," I said, refraining from saying "bad painter."

"Turkish people have short memories," said Evren. "They remember Ertuğrul Günay as a Justice and Development Party government’s culture minister, and not as a militant of Dev-Sol, the revolutionary left."

"Don’t you have regrets?" I asked him. "After all, by the 1980 coup, you have created a lost generation, not to mention a very bad Constitution."

"Quite a few regrets actually, though I don’t whine like a ninny," he said. "I always resented that people said I was keeping my eyebrows untrimmed so that I could resemble Atatürk. I also rather hated that book, called ’Netekim,’ which pictured me as an ignoramus."

"Well, the association came naturally after you were quoted as saying that you could draw as well as Picasso," I said.

"Was I wrong? Picasso would have painted you as a neurotic woman with a distorted profile, red fingernails and bitter tears. Just look at what I have done," he said as he turned his canvas around.

"I am blonde in that painting," I said. "Come to think of it, the picture does not look at me but like singer Emel Sayin."

"Well, I always had a soft spot for her," said the retired general, not that he uses that title anymore. "You know, Atatürk had Safiye Ayla and I had Emel Sayin. But I do regret those evil tongues who said that I had her escorted to the presidential house after midnight. Never would I dream of imposing such discomfort on my young officers."

"Any other regrets?" I asked.

"I rather resented the way that the chubby fellow, Özal, would do everything to get on my nerves and pretend that we were friends," Evren said. "I tried to discourage him from politics but he would not listen to me at all, becoming first prime minister, then president after me. He is the one who started the whole transformation Ğ from the good old days when the well-read and patriotic generals could give a piece of advice to politicians without being accused of violating democracy."

"Is the painting finished?" I asked. "I am beginning to get cramps holding that scale and the book."

"Oh, the book is the Constitution; just toss it aside," said the general. "I am finished now, so off you go. I have an appointment with Gen. Pinochet and Gen. Viola in half an hour to exchange some tips on É Justitia."
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