Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, has issued the first official apology for a bloody military campaign that killed thousands of Kurds in southeast Turkey at the end of the 1930s.
"If it is necessary to apologise on behalf of the state … I will apologise, I am apologising," Erdogan told his Justice and Development Party (AKP) members on Wednesday in televised remarks.
Erdogan said that the air strikes and ground operations in the city of Dersim - now named Tunceli - killed 13,800 people between 1936 and 1939, according to an official document of the time, that he cited in his speech.
"Dersim is one of the most tragic events of our near history. It is a disaster waiting to be enlightened and boldly questioned," Erdogan said.
The offensive took place under the rule of the current main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which was established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state.
About 11,600 people were exiled to other regions across Turkey, Erdogan said, citing another official document signed by Ismet Inonu, then leader of the CHP and Turkey’s second president after Ataturk died in 1938.
Erdogan, I often wish you were my prime minister.