First, some people claim that the prime minister's apology is just a political maneuver and that he does not care at all about the victims of this massacre. For them, the prime minister's real purpose is to win the Kurdish people's hearts and weaken the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) ahead of the next local elections. Everyone saw once again that the CHP still remains the defender of the regime of tutelage as the chairman of this party, even though he is from Dersim himself, is unable to bring up the people's suffering. People were curious about his stance because, at the time, there was a one-party regime in Turkey and the CHP controlled all aspects of political life, including the entire administrative system of the country.
The second aspect of this debate is about others who claim that it is useless to talk about past instances of suffering. They warn that apologies may lead to demands for compensation or the return of property. Thus, the prime minister has been implicitly accused of harming the state's interests.
The Dersim issue is about the state's dreadful actions toward its own citizens. If the current debate does help the victims take back some of their land or receive some kind of compensation, why would that harm the nation's interests? If there is compensation or land restitutions, the beneficiaries will be Turkish citizens, not foreigners.
Facing the past is not only about compensation, it is also about moving on with a clean conscience. This also helps the entire nation get rid of its fears. We all know that once Pandora's box is opened, no one can control what will come out of it. Facing the Dersim massacre will also encourage people to thoroughly discuss what happened in 1915 or in 1978 in Kahramanmaraş or following the Feb. 28, 1997 coup. Discussing the people's suffering is an important step toward democratization and we all know that Turkey has dragged its feet on this for far too long.
However, if the debate remains selective and only about the Dersim issue, then there is the risk of having a Sunni-Alevi confrontation on the political level. Such a debate will not contribute to the development of our democracy. Only if we start discussing all the shameful acts in our history will we become a European Council member that fully respects the institution's rules and principles. There are examples in European countries about what to do to face the past and how to ease the victims' pain. These examples should be studied.
In today's world, the policy of “whatever the cost” is not legitimate because there is nothing defendable in attacking civilians with organized armies. International humanitarian law is there to prevent such things. Besides, in our time, people keep asking questions. For example, they want to know if there was indeed an insurrection in Dersim or not. If there was, then why were people in Dersim unhappy with their lives? Why could this insurrection not be prevented in time and why, instead of punishing the armed rebels, did the government of that time decide to attack the entire population?
While having all these discussions, one has to keep in mind that people in Dersim, who are the true victims in this story, have chosen to remain silent until recently because they were frightened. They have chosen not to disclose their sufferings because they were afraid. Those trying to abort the discussion now are probably trying to make sure that people remain scared. However, international humanitarian law exists to make sure that people are no longer afraid of asking for their rights.