Turkish PM Apologizes to Kurds

For the first time in history, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has apologized for the 1930s genocide of some 14,000 Kurds.

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Chana Ya'ar,

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Israel news photo: Senat RP/Polish Senate

For the first time in Turkey's history, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has apologized to the Kurds for bombing raids against their people in the mid 1930s.

"If there is need for an apology on behalf of the state, if there is such a practice in the books, I would apologize and I am apologizing," Erdogan declared. He made the apology in a televised speech that followed a debate with Republican People's Party leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey's main opposition party.

Kilicdaroglu's family is based in the southeastern town of Tunceli, once known as Dersim, where the 1930's massacre took place. The opposition leader said he lost a dozen of his relatives and demanded an investigation into the government's suppression of the rebellion.

However, Erdogan pointed out that since Kilicdaroglu's party was in power at the time, he too must apologies for the atrocities. 

In Dersim, 13,806 Kurds were killed between 1936 and 1939 in a bombing operation designed to crush a rebellion in the country's southeastern sector.

In the past few weeks, hundreds of aftershocks followed a massive earthquake that rocked the region in October, further devastating a region already rattled by constant warfare.

The two sides have continued to fight through the years, with tens of thousands dead since 1984 in the latest of repeated uprisings by the Kurds aimed at secession from Turkey. The current Ankara government remains intent on stopping the rebels who are determined to win autonomy at all costs.

Erdogan's apology came as part of a process in which Turkey hopes to persuade the Kurds to lay down their arms and make their peace within the fold of the nation, rather than secede.