After 78 years, Turkey to restore Tunceli’s original name

September 14, 2013, Saturday/ 12:22:00/ MEHMET DÖNMEZ

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is working on what it called a “democratization package” that includes the restoration of the Kurdish name of the eastern province of Tunceli. The original name of the province was Dersim and was changed to Tunceli in 1935.

The AK Party was supposed to meet on Friday night to put the final touches on the reform package but postponed the meeting to Tuesday as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had to attend a wedding ceremony. Sources said one of the most important items in the reform package is the restoration of Tunceli's name to its original.

The reform package comes at a time when the settlement process, aimed at ending the decades-old Kurdish conflict, was at a stalemate and on the brink of collapse. Government officials appeared confident in their statements about the fate of the settlement process, putting the blame on the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) for dragging its feet.

The restoration of Tunceli's name carries symbolic importance because of the 1930s massacre of more than 10,000 Kurds, mostly civilians, as a punishment for a rebellion.

In November 2011, Erdoğan made the government's first apology for the killings of 13,806 people in a bombing and strafing campaign to crush the Kurdish rebellion between 1936 and 1939.

Observers argue that the government's intention in changing the name of Tunceli back to Dersim appeared to be aimed at embarrassing main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, whose party was in power at the time of the Dersim rebellion. Kılıçdaroğlu's family is also rooted in Tunceli.

Some ruling party lawmakers had earlier called for a probe into the Dersim slayings, where troops of the newly established Turkish Republic brutally crushed Kurdish clans that rejected the central authority.

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