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Turkey apologizes for bloody military campaign against Kurds in 1930s.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued the first official apology on Wednesday for a bloody military campaign that killed thousands of Kurds in southeast Turkey at the end of the 1930s, AFP reported. "If it is necessary to apologize on behalf of the state ... I will apologize, I am apologizing," Erdogan told his Justice and Development Party (AKP) members in Ankara in televised remarks. Erdogan said 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 he cited in his speech.

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. Some 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. Turkey was under one-party rule of the CHP until 1946.

Erdogan said the archives of his office were open for any research of official documents about the events. "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 strikes targeting Dersim were tried to be legitimized as "quelling an uprising," Erdogan said, but "there was an operation which was planned step by step."

Ankara is still battling Kurdish separatists, whose Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) took up arms for Kurdish independence in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

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Title Annotation:TURKEY-KURDS
Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Nov 24, 2011
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