What happened in Dersim between 1937 and 1938 is being discussed widely these days. This fact may be seen an auspicious sign that in Turkey, anything can be discussed freely and openly, that today in Turkey it is not a crime to voice the truth. Many elderly people, women and children were killed in Dersim during the suppression of a rebellion, and in the aftermath, the city's name was changed to "Tunceli." This tragedy is an open wound that constantly challenges the attachment that many Kurds and Alevi citizens feel for their country. However, due to a measure of "Sunniphobia," the CHP continues to receive the Alevi popular vote despite the fact that it was the state's party at the time and has always defended the necessity of the operation. The chairman of CHP is an Alevi from Dersim but even he does not oppose the mainstream arguments of the status-quo in order to avoid spooking the party's base.
However, there are apologetic voices within the CHP. Sezgin Tanrıkulu, the vice chairman of the CHP has declared the party's apology for Dersim live on television. Of course, the AK Party's contribution in this change of heart is notable, since Ahmet Davutoğlu as prime minister has made bold statements on this issue. Davutoğlu perceives the slaughter as a "modern Karbala" and acknowledges the state's unjust treatment. These discussions and changes indicate that, to put it briefly, Pandora's Box has been opened for Turkey to confront its past. But it also presents an opportunity for nationalist political movements to gain from the situation. Such was MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli's latest visit to Dersim. I think it was unfortunate that Bahçeli delivered a speech ending with the motto, "How happy is the one who says 'I am a Turk,' " at the very place where people were killed and tortured because of their identity and ethnicity. For years, the people in Dersim were forced by the state to practice customs peculiar to an official Turkish identity. Bahçeli's speech was nothing if not a reminder of such inhumane policies. It was provocative, unfair and shameful. Unfortunately, this kind of speech delivered in front of these people carried an inappropriate emphasis. But through this action, I think Bahçeli may be seeking a larger interest - an interest which we cannot comprehend yet.
Perhaps Bahçeli is attempting to portray himself as one who is addressing the concerns of the CHP's Nationalist-Kemalist base - those who read newspapers like Sözcü, and who have strong nationalistic tendencies. On the other hand, the apology made by the CHP's Vice Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu created a sense of disappointment among these same people. In this way, Bahçeli is trying to gain from the CHP's shortcomings, since the party has many "in-betweens" today: it constantly swings back and forth between promising radical reform and preserving its conservative identity. In the short term, thanks to this attitude, Bahçeli may receive some extra votes. But in the long run, Bahçeli and whoever pursues denial policies will inevitably lose because Turkey has entered an era of confrontation.