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November 24, 2011, Thursday

Erdoğan’s apology

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received widespread praise for an apology he offered on Wednesday on behalf of the state for the tragic incidents in Dersim in the early years of the Turkish Republic.

It was the first official apology from the government over the killing of thousands of people in the southeastern town of Dersim -- now known as Tunceli as a result of a name change in 1936 -- between 1936 and 1939. Many say Erdoğan has pulled away the curtain that was covering a dark aspect of Turkish history and opened the way for Turkey settling accounts with its history. With this move, the prime minister also eased the concerns of those who fear that he is losing his reformist and pro-democracy attitude.

Radikal’s Cengiz Çandar says Erdoğan did a great job on Wednesday by unearthing the Dersim massacre from the archives of history and tore down the 75-year-long official history. He thinks Erdoğan bringing the background of the Dersim massacre to light and offering an apology for what took place is a very significant event that cannot be downplayed with any excuse. “Most of the people were already aware of the tragic incidents in Dersim, which were shameful, and there are many publications concerning this incident, but the prime minister revealing all the facts regarding the incident and offering an apology are more important than anything,” says Çandar.

“Well done, esteemed prime minister, I applaud you,” says the headline of a column by Star’s Mehmet Altan, who is very pleased with Erdoğan’s Dersim apology. Altan says although he had concerns that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government led by Erdoğan was losing its reformist and pro-change spirit, having been in power for three consecutive terms, he became hopeful about the party again after Erdoğan’s apology. “In apologizing for Dersim, Erdoğan does not challenge the republic as the main opposition party claims; to the contrary, he is trying to cleanse the state of a dark and bloody fascism,” says Altan. He thinks it is honest and necessary to support and applaud every step taken for advanced democracy when criticizing steps and discourse that do not comply with advanced democracy.

“We went through one of the breaking points in history yesterday [Wednesday]. The prime minister of this country, after revealing one of the bloodiest sins in our history with documents, apologized for this bloody incident. He said there was no rebellion in Dersim, but a rebellion was used as an excuse to kill people. He revealed the number of people killed in Dersim and how they were killed. He pulled a bloody cloth away from the 70-year-long history and showed the bare facts to the nation,” says Taraf’s Ahmet Altan of Erdoğan’s Dersim revelations on Wednesday. He thinks the exposure of the Dersim incident in such a way and a prime minister’s settling accounts with the “hidden face of history” with great honesty and courage will open new doors for Turkey. “With Erdoğan’s speech on Wednesday, I think history has been torn down and scary realities have come to the surface, and we have taken a step in a new era of history. Erdoğan has turned a new page in our history,” says Altan.

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