Turkey: The Tricky Business of Confronting a Dark Past
Without a doubt, one of the major changes in Turkey in recent years has been the willingness of the state and of a growing segment of Turkish society to confront some of the dark chapters in the country's modern history. The way this is being done might be flawed (look at this previous post about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's politically-charged apology for a 1930's mass killing in eastern Turkey), but the significance of what were once taboo subjects now being openly discussed should not be overlooked.That said, the subject of how to confront the past remains a very loaded one that frequently feeds -- rather than heals -- Turkey's political divisions. A good illustration of this is an excellent Foreign Policy story by Jenna Krajeski about the efforts by activists in Southeast Turkey's Diyarbakir to turn a notorious local prison into a museum dedicated to chronicling the abuses committed by the Turkish state against Kurds in the 1980's and 90's.Questions about just how to deal with recent dark chapters of Turkish history are also likely to come up now that a prosecutor in Ankara has issued an indictment for the last two surviving members of the military junta responsible for Turkey's 1980 coup. The two, Kenan Evren, 94, and Tahsin Sahinkaya, could spend the rest of their lives in prison if convicted.Meanwhile, in an interesting column from a year ago, human rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz suggests that what Turkey really needs in order to confront and overcome its troubled past -- particularly regarding the Kurdish issue -- are truth and reconciliation committees, along the lines of what was used in post-Apartheid South Africa. His column can be found here.