Danielle Mitterrand, former First Lady of France and President of the France-Libertés Foundation died in the night of Monday 21 to Tuesday 22 November in the Georges Pompidou European Hospital, to which she had been admitted for pulmonary problems on Friday 18 November.
Born on 39 October 1924, she joined the résistance at the age of 17 and then devoted her life firstly to the struggles of the Left alongside François Mitterrand then, after his election in May 1981 to the defence of human rights, in France and throughout the world.
Taking advantage of her position as First lady, she took up the defence of groups ands peoples that were victims of dictatorships of the injustices of History and of Real Politik. As from 1982, she played an active role in support of the Kurdish cause, supporting the formation of the Paris Kurdish Institute to make public opinion aware of it and to “awaken consciences”.
She then sent observers to the trials of Kurdish activists persecuted by the Turkish Army junta in the 1980s; attacked the genocide campaigns against the Iraqi Kurds carried out between 1988 and 1990 by the Saddam Hussein regime; defended the Kurds of Iran at the time of the assassination, in Vienna July 1989, of their leader, Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, by the Iranian regime. After visiting the refugee camps of Iraqi Kurds in Turkey, survivors of gas bombing, she persuaded the French authorities to receive a thousand on the occasion of the celebrations of the French Revolution’s bicentenary.
She then spared no efforts to make the Great ones of the world come to the help of the Kurdish people. To this end she made several visits to Moscow, Washington, and Bonn, jointly organised by the Kurdish Institute and her France-Libertés Foundation, with lectures and colloquia to make public opinion aware of the Kurdish tragedy. Her efforts contributed to the creation, in June 1991, of a “protection zone” for the some 2 million Kurds fleeing towards the Iran and Turkish borders following the First Gulf War.
She visited the refugees by “illegally” crossing the Iranian-Iraqi border and bringing them a substantial scholastic aid. Several hundreds of school textbooks were printed in France in Kurdish to cover the start of the 1991 scholastic year. In 1992 she inaugurated the newly elected Kurdistan National Assembly. During this visit, on the way to the martyrised town of Halabja, her convoy was subject to an attack by Iraqi secret services, causing a number of deaths among Peshmerga protective escort.
In 1984, following the arrest of a dozen Kurdish Members of Parliament democratically elected for the Party for Democracy (DEP) in Turkey, she took up their defence by creating an International Committee for their liberation (CILDRKT) and conducted a large scale international campaign to make public opinion aware of their fate.
Considered “the mother of the Kurds”, Danielle Mitterrand made two more visits to Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2002 and in 2009, during which she was welcomed by all official honours but especially with great affection and gratitude. There are schools and roads named after Danielle Mitterrand in every Kurdish town.
Danielle Mitterrand’s death aroused considerable feeling in Kurdistan as a whole and in the Kurdish communities throughout the world. The media devoted considerable space to her. The Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan proclaimed the 23 November a day of mourning throughout the Region. “For the Kurds, Danielle Mitterrand represents solidarity with the Kurdish cause during its most difficult days”, declared the Kurdistan region’s Prime Minister, Barham Salih to the AFP. “She supported Human Rights in Kurdistan and was one of the few voices to be raised in defence of the Kurdish people and against the injustice from which it was suffering”, he added. “Danielle Mitterrand was a defender of Kurdish rights everywhere in the world”.
Several hundreds of Kurds came, spontaneously, from all over Europe as well as Representatives of the Kurdistan Government and Parliament and of all the Kurdish political parties to attend her funeral at Cluny.
The famous Kurdish singer, Sivan Perwer sang an elegy to “the Mother of the Kurds”, which he had composed for the occasion, that brought tears to the eyes of those present, while the Argentine pianist Miguel Angel Esterella accompanied on the piano the moving ceremony that took place in the courtyard of the thousand-year-old Cluny Abbey.
In France the whole political caste paid tribute to the First Lady’s courage and exemplary life. The TV channels devoted several special broadcasts to her. In the written press, Libération published a five-page supplement on her while Paris-Match devoted its “One Life” feature to her, followed by a twenty-page photo report
On Thursday 24 November a 1.00 pm several thousands of Parisians of all origins, including many Kurds, rallied on the Pont des Arts at the call of Paris Town Hall, to pay tribute to the woman who, throughout the world, embodied a worthy picture of France as the country of Human Rights.
The famous intellectual and political personality, Ismet Chrif Vanly, died in Lausanne on 9 November, a few days before his 87th birthday. He was born on 24 November 1924 His father came from Van and his mother from Diyarbekir, but his family sought refuge in Syria and he grew up in Damascus before leaving fir the Lebanon, then France and the United States and Switzerland to study law and philosophy. He passed his thesis in jurisprudence at Lausanne and a masters degree in history at Geneva and taught political and social science. Speaking French, English, Arabic and Kurdish, he played an active part in the Kurdish liberation struggle. Together with Noureddin Zaza he founded the Association of Kurdish students in Europe in 1949 and later the Committee for Kurdish Studies at the Sorbonne.
Between 1961 and 1975 he became the principal representative in Europe of General Barzani’s Iraqi Kurdish resistance movement. In this capacity he took the Kurdish issue to UNO, published pamphlets and many articles in the international press, thus playing an eminent part in making the media in Europe aware of the Kurdish issue.
His activities made him a choice target for the Iraqi regime, whose emissaries made an attempt on his life in 1966 at his home in Lausanne. Since the attackers had Iraqi diplomatic passports, they were able to leave Switzerland. Seriously wounded, Ismet Cherif Vanly nevertheless survived the attack though the after-effects seriously hampered his speech.
An erudite historian and dreaded polemicist, Ismet Cherif Vanly published many works about the Kurds. Among them, his PhD. Thesis “Iraqi Kurdistan, a national entity, a study of the 1961 revolution” (pub. De la Baconnière, 1970) is still an indispensible work of reference on the Iraqi Kurdish resistance from 1961 to 1970. So are his contributions on the collective work “The Kurds and Kurdistan” published by Maspero in 1977, in Paris and translated into a dozen languages, his study on the Baath dictatorship in Syria: “The Kurdish problem in Syria. A Plan for the genocide of a national minority”, published by the Committee for the rights of Kurds in Europe …
Alongside these works, Ismet Cherif Vanly remained a committed activist of the Kurdish cause. Founder of the Committee for the rights of Kurds in Europe, one of the co-founders of the Paris Kurdish Institute in 1983, of the Association of Kurdish Jurists in Europe in 1985, he joined the PKK trend in 1990 and the Kurdish parliament in Exile (PKWD) in 1995 and, in 1999, the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) of which he was President till 2003.
Over the last ten years he had gradually withdrawn from the political scene, essentially because of his poor health.
Last September he had a stroke and was admitted to Lausanne’s Central Teaching Hospital where he died on 9th November
His wish to be buried in Diyarbekir, in the heart of Turkish Kurdistan could not be granted failing Turkish government approval. President Barzani had proposed repatriating his body to Iraqi Kurdistan but his family preferred that he be buried in the city of Lausanne where he had lived since 1949 and which he loved so much.
The funeral, that took place on 16 November, brought together public figures from all regions of Kurdistan, including the President of the Paris Kurdish Institute, Kendal Nezan, the President of the Kurdish National Congress, the President of Iranian Kurdish PJAK, The Iraqi Ambassador to Switzerland, the Kurdistan Government representative to Switzerland and a crows of over 250 Kurds from several countries in Europe as well as Swiss friends of his family. The Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani and the President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, both sent messages paying tribute to Ismet Cherif Vanly’s outstanding contribution to the Kurdish cause.
Anticipating his impending death, Ismet Cherif Vanly had, early in 2011, bequeathed his archives, amounting to over 3,500 documents in seven different languages, to the Riponne Canton University Library, in Lausanne,
A fresh wave of arrests in Turkey, this month, principally hit intellectual, journalistic and publishing circles. Amongst those charged is the symbolic public figure and publisher Ragip Zarakolu, accused of “membership of a terrorist organisation”. Ragip Zarakolu, 63 years of age, has experienced, throughout his long career as a publisher and Human Rights activist, repeated anathemas from all the successive regimes that have ruled Turkey. For having founded the Belge publishing house, Ragip Zarakolu has been regularly condemned, for over 40 years, for having published books by political prisoners, works about the Armenian genocide, the Kurdish question or Cyprus.
. Ragip Zarakolu’s arrest is part of a vast dragnet that also covers academics, in the pretext of dismantling the Union Of Kurdish Communities (KCK) — a banned organisation that the government accuses of being the political branch of the PKK. Already, back in October, about a hundred people had been arrested for membership of the KCK, including Ragip Zarakolu’s son Deniz, Busra Ersanli, a lecturer in political science at Marmara University, Etienne Copeaux, a historian who has specialised on Turkey and is described as “one of the first to have been attacked for dealing with the extremely sensitive subject of the official fabrication a historical account entirely directed at glorifying the Turkish people”.
The proceedings started against the KCK in April 2009 had resulted in 8,000 people being detained and 4,000 being charged, including 5 Members of Parliament, 10 mayors, 30 municipal councillors and many members and sympathisers of the Kurdish BDP party, which has thus seen it political representation decimated. The excessive character of the charges is denounced as an attempt to eradicate Kurdish civil society of all its activists, however peaceful, even at the expense of encouraging the renewal of warfare. Thus, over 4,500 members of BDP have been arrested in the course of the last six months and over 1,600 of them have been imprisoned.
According to the columnist Ahmet Insel: “The Prime Minister adopted a strategy of wearing out the PKK just after the 2009 municipal elections, frustrated by his inability to beat the BDP. Since then the mentors and supporters of this strategy have been carrying out a propaganda barrage (…) This aims at clearing the political field of all the “Kurdish hypocrites” and those that support them. The police, the judiciary and the media are all working hand in hand”.
Outside Turkey, academics and research workers specialising in Turkey are very worried by this situation and have got together a committee of defence and support for those charged. They are also trying to inform public opinion. Thus research workers Hamit Bozarslan, Cengiz Cagla, Yves Déloye, Vincent Duclert, Diana Gonzalez and Ferhat Taylan created, on 21 November, an international working group “Liberté de recherche et d’enseignement en Turquie” (Freedom for research and teaching in Turkey) that aims at “defending academic freedom in Turkey” and “wants to advance some simple and common principles against an intolerable situation of dangers of arrest facing our colleagues”.
“At a time when, by a remarkable marketing operation, the image of a democratic Turkey is being promoted as a model for the Arab world, this latest wave of arrests reveals, once again, for all to see, the modus operandi of the AKP authorities: to annihilate the Kurdish political movement, to criminalise those intellectuals in Turkey who are working to end the fighting in the east of the country, to seize upon the State apparatus to eliminate all opposition, to intimidate the media and, finally, to cloak themselves with a democratic flag the better to mislead over-indulgent European public opinion. To sum up, they are trying to sell us here a “democracy good enough for the East”.
We expose this strategy that aims at terrorising Turkish society in the name of the war against terrorism. An investigating journalist is not a terrorist, a committed academic is not a criminal, an independent publisher is not a traitor. These men and women are Turkey's pride. We call on the community to put pressure on the Turkish government to free prisoners of opinion. We call on the European States to come out of their naïve optimism and face up to real history”. (Le Minde).
In a letter written in prison (published on the blog “Au fil du Bosphore ” (A line from the Bosphorus) run by a Le Monde journalist Guillaume Perrier), one of the arrested journalists, Dogan Yordakul explains:
“Formerly, in this country, they used communism as an excuse against opposition journalists and sent them to prison. As the cold war is over, today they arrest them on the pretext that they are “terrorists”. That is to say that, in the course of half a century, there has been no evolution with respect of democracy or freedom of expression. In Turkey today, many journalist are afraid that a team of counter-terrorist police may come to their door in the early hours. (…). A recent change in the Criminal Procedure Code (CMUK) has given fresh powers to specially authorised prosecutors that allow them to restrict resealing evidence to the defence. After our arrest, the prosecutor in charge of our case made a public declaration in which he specified that we were not “arrested for our journalistic activities but for other crimes, of which he held evidence that he was keeping secret”. The Prime Minister, Mr. Erdogan, used the same words when he was asked a question on this case in the European Parliament”.
Arrested last March with Somer Yalgin and six other journalists from OdaTV, Dogan Yurdakul is detained in the same cell as two other journalists Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik. Dogan Yurdakul was investigating and writing about the “deep State” (the army’s secret operations) in Turkey. Nedim Şener on the assassination of the Armenian journalist Hrant Drink, as was Ahmet Şık, whose book “Imam ordusu” (the Imam’s Army) was banned before it could even appear in the bookshops.
On 11 November, the American oil company Exxon Mobil signed a contract with the Kurdistan Regional government. This marks an important stage in Kurdistan’s fuel and power policy and the trial of strength it has with Baghdad on this issue. By signing with the KRG, Exxon runs the risk of having to give up hopes of other contracts with Iraq, including those for the rich oilfields of Qurna. Abdul Mahdy al-Amidi, Iraqi Petroleum’s Director of Contracts, told Reuters that his government had written to Exxon three times the previous month to warn it of the consequences that any contract signed with the KRG would have on other Iraqi contracts.
Hitherto the White House has constantly warned American companies to dissuade them from reaching direct agreements with the KRG without Baghdad’s approval. While the reasons given cover the retaliatory measures that the central government could then adopt towards foreign companies that carried on regardless, it could also reflect the political desire of the US not to encourage the Kurds in their independent management of their own oil resources. On the other hand, some observers note that it would, perhaps, not be to the advantage of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to enter into conflict with as powerful a company as Exxon, when he is also facing several internal rebellions: not only from the Kurds, but also the Sunni Arabs and some Shiites too. Moreover, the agreement was announced just after a visit by the Kurdistan Prime Minister, Barham Salih, during which he met both the American and Iraqi leaders, which could lead one to think that American mediation was possible. One of the reasons of this greater flexibility by the US regarding contracts passed directly with the KRG is that all the agreements regarding drilling in the Iraqi regions have been in suspense for the last year. The oil companies may thus be tempted to take the risk of playing the Kurdish card as it could prove more rapidly profitable. The conditions offered by Kurdistan are not significantly different from those of contracts signed with Iraq, but the risk factor of its political stability and security weight, evidently, in Kurdistan’s favour. Kurdistan has, in fact, signed 40 contracts since Saddam Hussein was overthrown — Exxon being its biggest client so far.
Experts also note that never has the interest of investors in Kurdish resources bee so great. According to the estimates of several American Institutes and companies, Kurdistan could become one of the 10 first sires for world oil reserves.
One of the factors against the Kurds is its conflict with Baghdad that still refuses to validate contracts passed without its prior approval. The other handicap is the inadequacy of its infrastructures.
On 12 November, Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Al-Sharistani, responsible for fuel and power after having been Oil Minister in the previous cabinet, stated that Exxon had been warned that it would have to choose between the Kurdish contracts and those already in existence regarding the Qurna-West deposit — one of the largest in Iraq
On 13 November, the Kurdish Minister of Natural Resources, Ashti Hawrami, retorted, in a Press conference given in Irbil, that the contract signed with Exxon was “good news” not only for the Kurdistan Region, but for all Iraq. He also pointed out that the agreement had been signed the month before, on 18 October 2011, and covered six wells, The Minister replied that he did not know whether Exxon would set up offices in Kurdistan or direct operations from its Baghdad offices.
For its part, the White House refused to say if it had given Exxon the go ahead for signing this agreement. However, according to our sources, including some diplomats, negotiations of this extent would never have been possible without Washington’s approval or support.
On 12 November, Ashti Hawrami and Hussein al-Sharistani were both expected at a conference in Istanbul but the Iraqi Minister refused to reply to questions from journalists regarding a meeting with Ashti Hawrami. On the other hand, Dr. Roj Nuri Shawis, one of he Iraqi Deputy Prime Ministers, told Reuters that his government was fairly optimistic about impending reconciliation between Irbil and Baghdad and that he did not believe that contracts between Exxon and Iraq would be cancelled.
On 22 November, in the course of a visit to Tokyo, the Iraqi Oil Minister, Abdul Karim Lunabi, stated that he had written, as had Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, to Exxon and that they were still awaiting a reply. The Minister did not reveal the tenor of these letters, but on 23 November it was Sharistani´s turn to announce that his government envisaged the possibility of sanctions and that he would so inform Exxon before any the company made any public statement. Hussein al-Sharistani, moreover, denied that the US government was supporting the Kurds, claiming that Washington had not been aware of the negotiations and that, if that had been the case, Exxon would have been “obliged” to ask for prior approval from the Iraqi government. However, the US State Department, for its part, indicated that it had “warned” Exxon, like all other firms, of the risks involved, without wishing to be more specific about the discussions that had taken place on the subject.
This matter has, evidently, taken a political turn that goes well beyond the simple matter of fuel, at a time when the US was preparing to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Jafar Altay, Director of Manar Energy Consulting, a specialist on the Iraqi sector, considers that the agreement could be considered as either fomenting divisions in Iraq or else as creating a bridge between Irbil and Baghdad, depending on the way the situation evolved towards appeasement or dissention. Thus Altay foresees a long legal battle between Iraq and Exxon is the contracts were cancelled.
“Exxon is possibly making a long term gamble. Sharistani is the cabinet’s “hawk”, so Exxon may be hoping that he will end up by leaving and that other contracts could be signed. They see that, at the moment, better conditions are being offered by Kurdistan”. Qurna-West does not, in fact, have a good reputation regarding return on investment in oil company circles, which may have decided Exxon to choose to play the Kurdish card.
Exxon, however, has refused to make any comments throughout the month. On 28 November, the Iraqi Oil Minister announced that the three letters sent by his government had remained unanswered and that his government would be writing a fourth time.
The President of the Kurdistan Region, Massud Barzani, for his part stated that Nuri al-Maliki had been informed that the agreement with Exxon was being signed.
In the course of a meeting with local tribal chiefs in the Sunni Arab Province of Salahaddin on 2 November, the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Osama al-Najaifi, addressing the Iraqi government, demanded autonomy for the Sunni Arab Provinces of Salahaddin, Anbar, and Diyala, before proclaiming it as from the next day.
While the Iraqi Constitution envisages that some provinces can secure autonomy and even, by grouping together, become a Federal Region, like Kurdistan, this process can only be carried through on the basis of a referendum in each of the provinces concerned. Moreover, Osama al-Najaifi accuses the Iraqi State itself of breaches of the Constitution by failing to observe due balance regarding the respective powers of the central government and those of the provinces, without detailing the nature of these breaches.
Since the capital of Salahaddin Province, Tikrit, is the birth place of Saddam Hussein and the whole province is a former Baath party stronghold, the rebelliousness of the Tikrits seems, above all, a challenge by those still nostalgic for a regime where they had the best positions both as Baathists and as Sunni Arabs. Thus, a few days later the other Sunni Arab province, Anbar, threatened in turn to proclaim its autonomy if the government did not release over 615 former Baath members, recently arrested for conspiracy on the orders of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The latter stated that the information he had received about this conspiracy came from the new temporary leader of Libya, Mahmud Jibril. The Libyan rebels are said to have discovered documents showing that the late dictator had supported former members of the Baath so as to overthrow the present Iraqi government.
Naturally the declaration started a wave of criticisms from the central government and from other opposition parties like the Sunni block Al-Iraqiyya and the Shiite Sadrist movement. The Iraqi prime Minister recalled that a provincial council did not have the power to decide on its province’s autonomy. That an official demand had to be sent to the government and to parliament before following the procedures provided for in the Constitution. For all that, Nuri al-Maliki did not express hostility to such an approach — he just added that it seemed to be just a media exercise.
The Shiites themselves are divided on the issue, some of them looking forward to freeing themselves from the central authorities. Thus Jawad al-Jabbouri, a member of the Sadrist (Shiite) movement recalled that this request was, in itself, not contrary to the Constitution.
This is not the first time that Osama al-Nujaifi had made such threats. Last July, in the course of an interview on the Al-Hurra TV channel, he had declared to an American journalist that the Sunni Arabs felt they were being treated like second-class citizens and might, in time, envisage separating themselves from the Shiites.
Diyala Province did not hesitate to follow suite and 17 out of 19 of its provincial council also threatened the central government to declare their autonomy if their demands were not accepted. These demands essentially covered the end of military operations by “foreign units” in some if its districts. The term “foreign units” is a way of indirectly attacking the presence of Kurdish Peshmergas in some parts of the province that, being mainly inhabited by Kurds, are covered by Article 140 that provides for referenda on their incorporation into the Kurdistan Region. The Diyala council also demanded the release of those detained for “conspiracy” as well as an end to transferring prisoners and detained suspects to other parts of the country to prevent their escaping or bribing their guards.
However, these initiatives are not unanimously supported by Iraqi Sunni Arabs, who waver between nostalgia for the former Iraqi centralised set up, which they dominated politically, and a rejection of the new Shiite domination in the Arab areas (which is more in accordance to the population distribution). In Fallujah, in Anbar Province, hundreds of people demonstrated against the creation of a Sunni region modelled on that of Kurdistan and to attack any “partition” of Iraq in the name of national interests. The organiser of this demonstration also demands the setting free of several hundreds of detainees accused of being former Baathists and still, more or less actively rebellious.
On 6 November, the Iraqi government reduced the planned 2012 budget for Diyala Province from 248 to 148 billion Iraqi dinars, The protests of the local leaders was immediate, most of them seeing this as a retaliatory measure to the demand of autonomy made by the Provincial Council.
At the same time, the Kirkuk issue that divides Kurds and Arabs remains in suspense and the approaching departure of the US troops who, more or less discretely, act as buffers between the Iraqi Army and the Peshmergas worries the local population as well as the authorities. At the beginning of the month the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani (himself a Kurd), put forward a plan for redrawing the districts in Kirkuk Province, the present boundaries being recent ones dating to Saddam Hussein. This plan was, in fact, to restore the pre-1968 borders, before the Baath decided to break up ethnically homogenous regions (mainly Kurdish and Syriac) and divide parts of them between largely Arab Provinces like Mosul ands Diyala.
Unsurprisingly, the vice-President of Kirkuk Provincial Council, also a Kurd, approved the plan, pointing out that it was a step towards normalisation and a return of Kurdish districts “confiscated” by the Baath. Equally unsurprisingly, Jalal Talibani’s proposal was opposed by the Al-Iraqiyya list (essentially Sunni Arab), the Kurds’ principal political rival in Kirkuk, that regarded it as a means of accentuating tensions, especially with the withdrawal of US troops.
Other people, like Najat Huseeein, a Turcoman member of the Provincial Council is more inclined to making a new Autonomous region, based on Kirkuk. The Kurds in Kirkuk insist on its incorporation into the Kurdistan Region, which the Torcomen reject, while the Kirkuk Arabs insist on the “need to resolve the problems at present undermining Iraq instead of proposing projects that would only serve the local citizens”.
On 9 November, Huseyin Aygun, a CHP (a Kemalist party) member of parliament for Tunceli (Dersim) declared that the massacres in his region to crush Seyid Riza’s revolt in 1937-38 could never have been perpetrated by without the knowledge of Mustafa Kemal and his government which has been, so far, the “official” historiographical version, even though Sabtha Goken, Attaturk’s own adopted daughter, who was also the first woman pilot of the Turkish Air Force, had herself taken part in the military operations and bombed the region.
The present Prime Minister, who, like his party (AKP), has little sympathy for pro-Kemakist myths, immediately jumped on the opportunity of embarrassing the principal CHP opposition. Speaking directly to the CHP President, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, himself an Alevi from Dersim, Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on him in turn to recognise, Kemal Attaturk’s role in the Dersim massacres. “This is a golden opportunity for the CHP to face up to this tragedy since its leader is a member of the Tunceli community. You are from Tunceli, why are you running away?”. In reply to this Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu replied in the same vein “Yes I am from Tunceli and I am a son of this nation (i.e. Turkish). At present I am President of the CHP and am proud of it. If God so wishes, I will also soon become Prime Minister”. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is, indeed, from Nazimiye and his own family had been decimated by the massacres and deportations.
The head of the Kemalist party recalled, on this occasion, that the AKP had never won a single seat in Dersim-Turnceli and denounced the Prime Minister’s sudden willingness to speaking the name of the people of Dersim as an “insult”, since all are Alevis and cherish a great distrust of Islamist parties. Faced with the need to calm the storm within his own party (a group of its M.P.s were demanding Aygun’s expulsion) and to face up to the polemic being blown up by the media, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu wished to counter-attack by posing as the defender of “the Kemalist heritage”, threatened, according to him, by the AKP’s manoeuvres.
However, this did not prevent the head of the government from continuing on the same theme. On 22 November Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the course of a meeting of his parliamentary group, announced his intention of opening, in the near future, archives on the Dersim repression which would establish, unequivocally, the predominant role of the government of the time in these massacres.
The next day, on 23 November, the Prime minister went so far as to make political apologies, in the name of the Turkish Republic, for the acts of repression that had, according to the Turkish State, caused nearly 14,000 deaths (between 30,000 and 50,000 according to historians) of both civilians and fighters over a 4-year period. “If any apologies have to be made on behalf of the State, then I offer my apologies”. The papers whether close to the AKP government, like Sabah and Zaman, or hostile to nationalism, like Radikal, also carried on the historical debate, publishing document after document from the Archive that confirmed Huseyin Aygun’s words while books dealing with the issue are enjoying a boom in sales.
Many opposition voices or journalists like Pinar Ogunc of Radikal, expose the incoherence of the AKP, which had a documentary film on Dersim banned. The MP who started that debate, Huseyin Aygun, also accused the AKP of having done nothing to alleviate the living conditions of the Alevis in the region. However, most of the columnists and editorial writers, like Mehmet Ali Birand (Hurriyet, Kanal D) immediately make the connection with the Armenian genocide, asking whether the recognition of this “most tragic incident in our recent history” (as the Prime Minister described the Dersim massacres) might not lead to the recognition of an equally tragic though less recent “incident”, namely the genocide of Armenians and Syriacs in 1956-16.