Bahçeli’s visit to Dersim


Was it an act of intimidation, or was it an outright fiasco?

The kind of Turkish nationalism inherent in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has lately begun to take on an even pricklier stance than the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) stance when it comes to debates over Dersim.

One needs to consider what the real reasons are behind the MHP being dragged into efforts to exonerate state crimes that unfolded in Dersim; after all, we are talking about a party that has always maintained that the Turkish nationalist movement really played no role in Dersim, but that instead this crime against humanity belongs in full to the Ittihat ve Terraki (Committee of Union and Progress) tradition.

The MHP views the events in Dersim through the angle of official history. It does not wish to see any flexibility in this official history, not even a little. But even the CHP, which lies at the center of the Dersim question, is experiencing serious debates on this topic.

And in fact, we see today that the CHP’s stance — which has traditionally been to deny its role in the events in Dersim — has taken on a very different shape than in the past. When CHP Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu recently apologized on live television for what happened in Dersim, there were some very negative reactions elicited from the CHP’s ranks. But interestingly, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroglu chose to remain silent about it all. This silence was interpreted in some circles as being a kind of implicit approval from Kılıçdaroglu for what Tanrıkulu said.

It is not difficult to anticipate that topics involving the Alevi problem and Alevi demands will remain on the Turkish agenda for a while to come.

When it comes to a visit paid by MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli to Dersim, which appeared to be for the sole purpose of providing a response to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s visit there, this was a complete fiasco. He ought not to have visited Dersim simply to repeat that the massacre at Dersim resulted from an uprising. After all, he says this every chance he gets in Ankara.

In addition, the desire to reiterate this straight to the faces of Dersim residents is certainly a provocative and inflammatory stance. Luckily, Dersim residents received all of this calmly, and acted level-headed in response.

During the 1970s, Alparslan Türkeş showed a similar stance, and wanted to pay a visit to Diyarbakır. Most Diyarbakır residents were not particularly enthusiastic about this visit, but Türkeş insisted. And unfortunately, as the result of this insistence, Diyarbakır found itself dealing with an uprising. Some were injured, others lost their lives. As for Türkeş, he never even entered Diyarbakır, returning to the airport. And since that day, the MHP’s presence in that city has completely been erased. One could argue that Türkeş and his party had essentially shot themselves in the foot on that one.

And now the MHP is facing the same sort of trial by fire, though in a different political atmosphere in Dersim.

What does it stand to gain? Absolutely nothing.

By heading to Dersim, will Bahçeli really be able to capture the hearts of Kurdish and Alevi citizens?

Is it really wise to behave this stubbornly, to insist on telling Dersim residents to their faces that they are protesters, and that is why that event happened so long ago?

On the day Bahçeli visited Dersim, there was a march in the name of Seyyit Rıza, a Dersim resident who Bahçeli had earlier accused of being a “bandit.”

Not surprisingly, the marches in Dersim protested Bahçeli and his words.

A few people greeted Bahçeli as his car passed over the line into the province, showing the MHP’s “gray wolf” hand signal.

And so it is that Turkish nationalists, despite all the pain that has come out in the wash over the years when it comes to the Kurdish and Alevi problems, continue on their paths, stubbornly clinging to the same old rhetoric and words.

But this really is not much of a path.

What can we say? May God grant them brighter ideas.