Dersim killings stir Turkey's main opposition party again

Dersim killings stir Turkey's main opposition party again

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Dersim killings stir Turkeys main opposition party again

A group of CHP deputies attend a press conference to demand action from party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu against Aygün. AA photo

A Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy’s assertion that his party was responsible for mass killings in an operation in eastern Turkey in 1938 has reignited tensions within the main opposition party.

CHP deputy chair Birgül Ayman Güler announced yesterday that Hüseyin Aygün’s statements over the Dersim incidents did not reflect the party’s official position and that the deputy had been asked to explain his remarks in a formal paper of defense.

The announcement came after 12 CHP lawmakers issued a joint declaration urging CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu “to take necessary actions” against Aygün, a deputy from Tunceli, the name that Dersim took after the killings. Kılıçdaroğlu is also from the eastern province.

Aygün came under fire after he told pro-government daily Zaman earlier this month that “the state and the CHP are responsible for the massacres and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was aware of them.” He was referring to military operations in 1937 and 1938 to quash a rebellion in Dersim, in which thousands of Alevi Kurds were killed.

Aygün has reportedly refused to back down. “The Dersim massacre occurred during single-party rule, so the CHP and the state are responsible. I don’t accuse the CHP and I didn’t mean to be disrespectful to Atatürk. But we have to discuss the events,” party sources quoted him as saying at a party meeting on Nov. 15.

The 12 lawmakers who pressed for measures against Aygün are known to be among the party’s most ardent Kemalists.

“We did not voice these misgivings to launch an intra-party opposition. Our aim is to call our leaders and deputies to unity despite spats in our party’s grassroots,” said Haluk Koç, one of the declaration’s signatories.

Former CHP deputy Onur Öymen sparked intra-party controversy two years ago when he defended the Dersim operations.

In 1938, a military operation was led to put down a rebellion in the area of Dersim, killing thousands of people. A prosecutor’s office ruled last March that criminal complaints lodged on the basis that the incidents constituted “genocide” or “crimes against humanity” were impermissible because such terms were not featured in the Turkish Penal Code at the time and because the statute of limitations to file a murder accusation had long since expired.