Controversy over Dersim killings apology widening

Controversy over Dersim killings apology widening

Controversy over Dersim killings apology widening

Main opposition deputy Sebahat Akkiraz speaks at a press conference in Parliament. AA photo

Turkey’s main opposition has challenged the government to open discussion on atrocities committed against the country’s Alevis while the deputy prime minister has claimed that special tribunals were responsible for many massacres in the early republican period.

The comments come amid a stormy debate between the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the government over the military’s operation against Alevis in Dersim in the 1930s. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized for the massacres on Nov. 23, but the act only enflamed the debate.

Questioning the sincerity of the government’s apology, Sabahat Akkiraz pointed to the killing of 111 people, mostly Alevis, by state-backed right-wing militants in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş in 1978 and the death of 35 intellectuals in the 1993 Sivas Massacre at the hands of an Islamist mob during an Alevi cultural festival.

Alevis remain the subject of discrimination at a state level, Akkiraz said, adding that their religious holidays were routinely ignored.

“How many Alevis have been promoted as undersecretaries, governors or directors? You have pushed these people out of the government,” Akkiraz said, likening Erdoğan to a “modern-day Yavuz Sultan Selim” in reference to the Ottoman sultan who led large-scale massacres of Alevi tribes in the 16th century.

“Municipalities spend millions to host Ramadan events. When the Muharram fast [of the Alevis] starts, we will see what the municipalities will do,” she said.

Government officials, however, continued to blast practices during the early years of the Republic when the CHP ruled Turkey under a single-party regime and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was president.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said atrocities were also committed by controversial Independence Courts in CHP-controlled Turkey which, until 1927, tried those who allegedly collaborated with foreign powers during the Liberation War and those who later rose up against Atatürk’s drive to Westernize Turkey.

“We know what happened at the Independence Courts. We know that people, even children, were brutally executed without even being questioned,” Arınç said in Bursa, adding that the eventual release of the courts’ archives would show “how many other Dersim tragedies actually happened.”