AK Party deputy suggests returning title of “Dersim” to Tunceli province

November 21, 2011, Monday/ 15:40:00

Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Mehmet Metiner on Monday became the latest politician to join the fray in a growing political dispute over the 1937 Dersim massacre, proposing that Tünceli province, the scene of the massacres, be restored to its historic name of “Dersim.”

The Adıyaman deputy's Monday comments come following a similar declaration he made over the weekend regarding İstanbul's Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Metiner suggested that the name, which honors Gökçen's status as the world's first combat pilot, overlooks Gökçen's role in the brutal 1937 suppression of Alevi Kurds and Zaza minorities at the hands of Turkey's early republican state.

Metiner has also echoed calls for the establishment of a parliamentary commission for the massacres, telling the press on Sunday that “the archives should be opened, and our commission should investigate the allegations related to this period.” Both President Abdüllah Gül and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç voiced similar opinions over the weekend, with the president applauding an increasingly critical stance towards the “taboos” of Turkey's past.

The Dersim massacre became a matter of heated discussion this month when Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Hüseyin Aygün stated in a Today's Zaman interview that the ruling CHP government of the time should be held accountable for the 1937 Dersim massacres. Adding that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and other high members of the state were closely involved in the operation, Aygün asserted that in 1937, the state forces used an alleged uprising by Alevi-Kurdish and Zaza minorities as a pretext for the massacre of tens of thousands of minorities in Dersim province.

Metiner on Monday stated that Turkey must investigate the facts of 1937, telling the press he plans to make a motion in Parliament to found a truth commission and rename Gökçen airport. Metiner also stressed the necessity of gaining support from the opposition CHP for the establishment of a truth commission. “If the CHP looks upon these two concrete steps favorably, we can think about coming to terms with the historical legacy of Dersim,” he stated on Sunday.

The CHP itself has been rocked by infighting since the publication of Aygün's comments, with a rogue group of 12 deputies calling for Aygün's resignation last week at a press conference unauthorized by the central party.

But while party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has denounced the actions of both Aygün and the 12 rogue deputies as “chaotic,” he has voiced support for Aygün's statements regarding his party's role in the massacre. On Saturday, CHP Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin stated that Kılıçdaroğlu had called to “open the archives” of the Dersim event, and called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan to “open not just the page of the Dersim incident, but all the pages which have remained dark in Turkey, including its unsolved murders.”

As calls to investigate the massacres increase, Aygün asserted that he will soon discuss the massacres personally with President Gül, who applauded Aygün's remarks on Sunday by stating “in Turkey everything can be debated, there aren't taboos any more.”

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