Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has apologised for the violent "Dersim massacre" in which thousands of Kurds were killed at the end of 1930s.
"If we have to apologise on behalf of the state and given that such literature exists, I apologise", Erdoğan told his Justice and Development Party (AKP) members on Wednesday.
According to official documents that he cited in his speech, the air strikes and ground operations in the city of Dersim, now called Tunceli Province, in southeast Turkey left 13,806 people killed between 1936 and 1939.
The documents showed for the first time the direct involvement of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered father of modern Turkish state, in the mass killing,
"Dersim is among the most tragic event in recent history. It is a disaster that should now be questioned with courage," Erdoğan said."
Chairman of the Confrontation with the Past Association, Cafer Solgun, said that the prime minister's apology was of great value. "An apology coming from the prime minister of Turkey is historical. It was a historical speech. I am excited as a person from Dersim," he said.
Ankara is still battling Kurdish fighters, whose Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) took up arms in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed 45,000 lives.The PKK is fighting for an autonomous Kurdistan and greater cultural and political rights for Kurds in Turkey.