While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered an apology on behalf of the state for the tragic deaths of thousands of people in Dersim, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu failed to do the same, despite widespread expectations. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), in choosing to deny the existence of this massacre, has also failed to confront the country’s history. There is no doubt that the Dersim issue has proven to be a tough debate for Turkey, but tougher still for Kılıçdaroğlu. This debate has demonstrated once again that it is inevitable that Turkey face its past to ensure that it can progress as a democratic and confident nation.
Star’s Mehmet Ocaktan believes the Dersim debate has served as a litmus test for the political parties in Turkey and also revealed the reason behind the success of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). While Kılıçdaroğlu failed to apologize for the Dersim massacre, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli chose to describe it as a rebellion, which Ocaktan says is proof that the MHP has no interest in facing painful incidents that hurt the nation’s conscience. “In such a picture of politics, it is not really difficult to understand why the AK Party is so successful. Without feeling any insecurity or making small calculations Erdoğan openly apologized for the Dersim massacre. He displayed a vision that raises Turkey’s image and left the political actors who practice politics based on the behavior of the old Turkey to their own fate. There is no need to go further. When you look at the progress of the Dersim debate over the last 10 days you will see the “quality difference” between Erdoğan and the leaders of the opposition parties. Erdoğan apologized and in doing so lifted himself to a higher political level, and has minded his own business,” says Ocaktan.
Bugün’s Ahmet Taşgetiren thinks Kılıçdaroğlu was given a very tough test during the Dersim debate and says his dilemma was due to the fact that he is the leader of the CHP. According to Taşgetiren, if Kılıçdaroğlu had been an independent intellectual or a deputy from another party he would never have defended the CHP or the single-party era when it came to the Dersim debate. Questioning whether Kılıçdaroğlu can overcome the Dersim crisis by hitting back at Erdoğan or if he can fight the fires at the party in any way, Taşgetiren says: “When I saw the CHP deputies at the party’s parliamentary group meeting, I noticed some of them had ironic smiles on their faces while they listened to Kılıçdaroğlu. It as quite obvious that they did not believe what Kılıçdaroğlu was saying. The commotion within the CHP is likely to continue. Kılıçdaroğlu’s anger at Erdoğan may ease the tremors at the party. By adding to other issues at the party the Dersim issue will continue to shake the CHP. In brief, the job of the CHP and Kılıçdaroğlu is very tough.”
According to Radikal’s Oral Çalışlar, the Dersim debate points to a new twist in the process of the re-assessment of Turkey’s near history, its republican history and the disclosure of facts that once remained in the dark. He thinks the role played by Erdoğan’s apology in this twist will be understood more clearly in the future. “We can all foresee a process during which we will revisit history and extract new meanings from what is waiting for us. A revisiting of history beginning with the 1915 Armenian deportation is a condition of gaining a new Turkey, although in itself insufficient,” says Çalışlar.