Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized Tuesday “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, reports the Hürriyet Daily News.
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 chairperson 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 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.