First official apology for killings in Dersim

First official apology for killings in Dersim

ANKARA- Hürriyet Daily News
First official apology for killings in Dersim

PM Erdoğan shows an official document on the army operations in Tunceli in 1936-1939.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized yesterday “on the state’s behalf” for the Dersim killings in the late 1930s, marking the first time a representative of the Turkish Republic had ever apologized for the attacks.

He insisted that the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which ruled Turkey under a single-party regime at the time, was responsible for the military operation in the rebellious Alevi-populated region, the present-day province of Tunceli, and must apologize. “If an apology is required on behalf of the state and if such precedents exist, I am apologizing,” Erdoğan said at a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

However, he said, “If someone is to apologize for and face up to this tragedy, it is not the AKP and the AKP government but the CHP, the author of this bloody episode, as well as the CHP deputies and the CHP chairman who hails from Tunceli.”

The CHP leader withheld any immediate reaction, but his aides promptly issued condemnations.

Doğu Ergil, a political scientist, told the Hürriyet Daily News that the apology was remarkable and that the prime minister should not stop at one apology. “I wonder if Erdoğan would have done the same thing if the perpetrators had been close to his political views,” he said. “And the debate should not be limited to Dersim killings. Turkey should apologize for the 1915 Armenian killings and the Sept. 6-7, 1955, events, which resulted in the mass exodus of minorities from the country.”

Erdoğan slammed CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for likening his stance on the Dersim killings to the Armenian diaspora’s “genocide” campaign, saying he would “put in his place” anyone who would make such a comparison.

Arguing that the bloodshed in Dersim reflected “the CHP mentality” of oppression, Erdoğan said the Dersim killings had been planned in advance “with all pretexts tailored,” contesting the official history line that a rebellion prompted the crackdown.

He referred to an official report that called for “definitive action against the dangerous boil” of Dersim a decade before the crackdown and to papers that put the death toll at 13,800 in the period from 1936 to 1939, in addition to at least as many people forcefully resettled.

Kılıçdaroğlu withheld any immediate reaction, but his aides promptly issued condemnations as the issue continued to stir intra-party tensions.

In a surprise twist, the CHP provincial chairman in Diyarbakır, Muzaffer Değer, extended an apology to the Dersim people after Erdoğan’s speech and urged his party to follow suit. But shortly afterwards, a CHP statement said Değer had been removed from the post earlier in the day and his apology had no value on the party’s behalf.

In Ankara, CHP Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin said: “With his statements, rhetoric and language, the prime minister has placed dynamite at the foundations of our nation’s unity.”

“An apology into this massacre has been our demand for years, and this is progress,” said Cemal Yücel, vice chairman of the Dersim Associations Federation. “The prime minister said archives are open, but the archive of the General Staff is not,” he said.

Yusuf Cengiz, head of the Tunceli Chamber of Industry and Commerce, agreed the CHP was responsible for the massacre. “But Erdoğan is not right to put the blame only on the CHP, since it was the sole political party at the time,” Cengiz said. “The party meant the state. Both the state and the CHP should do their part for reconciliation.”