ISTANBUL – The Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has apologized on behalf of the state for the massacres in the eastern province of Dersim, in 1937 and 1938. Around 13,000 men, women and children died in the massacres. Goal of the operation was to bring the rebellious province under the control of the republic.
The discussion about Dersim, which is called Tunceli since the mass murders, flared up the past few days after a remark of Hüseyin Aygün, a MP of the CHP, the biggest opposition party. He claimed that the founder of the republic Atatürk, Turkey’s President at the time, ordered the Dersim operations and that they were carefully planned.
That is contrary to the official version of Turkish history, which states that there was an uprising going on in Dersim, a province at the time mainly inhabited by Alvei Kurds, and that the uprising was cracked down legitimately. That version of history has been openly doubted by many these past few days. The preparations for the crack down would have started already as early as in 1932. In a speech in parliament in 1936, Atatürk called Dersim ‘Turkey’s biggest internal problem’.
The apology of Erdogan came unexpected. The question is though if he apologized for humanitarian reasons, of because of party politics. The remarks of the CHP MP caused a heavy internal debate in the CHP. The party was once founded by Atatürk and was the only party allowed during the Dersim massacres. The CHP MP was criticized by other party members, who prefer to stick to the official version of history.
The matter put CHP leader Kilicdaroglu is an awkward position, because he has his roots in Dersim. The heavy discussion between Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan that followed, lead to the apologies from Erdogan, putting Kilicdaroglu on the spot.
Meanwhile a MP of Erdogans party AKP proposed to change the name of the second airport of Istanbul, Sabiha Gökcen. Sabiha Gökcen was the adopted daughter of Atatürk, and the first female combat pilot in the world. Her first combat action was bombing Dersim.