Sunday, May 4, 2014

May 4:The Anniversary of 1938 Dersim Massacre in Turkey… #4MayısDersimSoykırımı

From Wikipedia - Kurdish soldiers and residents of Dersim 1938

 Kurdistan Map given to the League of Nations in Geneva,1938, by the Kurdish delegation
Before WW I, the Kurdish people were nomadic - sheep and goat herding throughout the plains and highlands of Turkey and Iran.  Their homeland was absorbed by the Ottoman Empire, but after that war, the Kurdish homelands or Kurdistan was obliterated upon the break up of the Ottoman Empire into smaller nation states of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and the new USSR. With that break up, the Kurdish nomadic lifestyle was destroyed.

In the early 20th Century,, the Kurdish people began envisioning and pushing for their own  independent state.    After WW I, the 1920 Treaty of Sevres,  negotiated between  the  Allied powers and representatives of Ottoman Turkey, was to have created the modern states of Iraq, Syria and Kuwait, was to have included an independent Armenia and, finally, an autonomous Kurdistan state.  It was rejected by the Turkish regime.

The treaty of Severs was replaced by a renegotiated pact, the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, signed by the Turkey (formerly the Ottoman Empire or Ottoman Turkey) and Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (Yugoslavia). Unfortunately, Kurdistan was no longer a part of the negotiations the world allowed the Kurdish territory to remain broken and the Kurdish people without a land of their own.

In Iran, Iraq and other nations, the Kurds were pressured to “assilmilate” into the culture of the nation.  They suffered religious and cultural persecution from those new, formerly Ottoman, nations -  In Iran,  by Shīʿite Muslim majority; In Iraq, brutal repression by the Iraqi government; and in  Turkey…..

In response to the Kurdish move  for their own independent nation, the Turkish one party government escalated their oppression of the Kurds – They tried to deny them their identity, declaring them “Mountain Turks,” outlawed the Kurdish language, forbade ethnic dress in and around the cities and administrative centers of the nation, and tried to dilute the concentration of Kurds in their native lands, moving many to the cities in order to spread the Kurds throughout the country…

The Kurdish freedom fighters responded:

The Suppression of the Dersim Rebellion in 1937-1938 is considered, by many, to be one of the darkest years in Turkish and Kurdish history.  The Turkish government committed genocide as a part of the “pacification” of Kurdish freedom fighters  in the Kurdish District of Dersim (today’s Tunceli).

During the 1937-1938 Turkish "pacification," the government squelched all information coming out of the district.  Diplomatic observers were told nothing, were unable to get any information from the district and only knew there were large scale operations taking place.  No other information was getting out into the world.
 "Thousands of Kurds," he wrote, "including women and children, were slain; others, mostly children, were thrown into the Euphrates; while thousands of others in less hostile areas, who had first been deprived of their cattle and other belongings, were deported to vilayets (provinces) in Central Anatolia. It is now stated that the Kurdish question no longer exists in Turkey."

In 1937, Approximately 25,000 troops were sent into Dersim to quell the Dersim Rebellion – all leaders of the rebellion were hanged without due process.   As freedom fighters continued their resistance, more troops were sent in.  Homes razed, villages bombed, and thousands slain.   During the operation over 3,000 were deported from Dersim.

The reported number of deaths ranged from conservative estimates of about  7,600 to a less conservative (and claimed, by some, to be exaggerated) number of 40,000 (McDowall, David, 2007). A Modern History of the Kurds. London: Tauris & Co. pp. 207–208.) Kurdish people were slaughtered.    In their press release from their  “Dersim ’38 Conference” in 2008, Navenda PEN a Kurd or Kurdish PEN (a chapter of PEN International states the number of Kurdish people killed during the operation was between 50,000 and 80,000.

From the Press Release:

Dersim-Gesellschaft für Wiederaufbau e.V. (Gemeinnützig)
Holweider Str.40, 51065 Köln
Tel.: 02216160611
Für Ihre Spenden: Postbank Dortmund
Kontonummer: 687 152 466; Bankleitzahl: 440 100 46


To the Attention of Press and Public


European Parliament

 It’s the 70th anniversary of the Dersim Genocide. Although 70 years have passed since the genocide by the Turkish Government in Dersim in 1937-38, this massacre has never been forgotten nor will it be forgotten as the culprits have not been brought out into light.
 Dersim massacre started with the Turkish Republic regime presenting Dersim as a target by stating “Dersim is a ‘Pandora’s Box’”.
 First by means that aren’t very common the name of Dersim was changed to ‘Tunceli in 1935.
 In order to carry out this massacre, the Council of Ministers came together in Ankara on 4 May 1937 and formed ‘Tunceli Questioning Operation’ Council of Ministers and signed the half a page document classed as “Top Secret” which was the order for the Dersim massacre.
 According to the people of Dersim 70 thousand people were massacred.  After this atrocious act thousand of people were banished from their homeland.
 On 16 November 1937, Seyit Riza who was one of the Kurdish leaders and seven of his comrades were hanged in Elazığ. Despite all attempts by the families, the grave sites of Seyit Riza and his comrades still haven’t been disclosed. Dersim Genocide is not the only genocide the Republican Turkey has committed towards Kurds and Alevis. During the reign of the Ottoman emperor Ahmet I. between 9 December 1606 and 5 August 1611, the “fire wells” of ‘Murat Pasha the Well digger’ who had murdered almost 100 thousand Kurdish Kizilbash Alevis, are still remembered by many. The problem Yavuz Sultan Selim couldn’t solve in 1514 by murdering 40 thousand people by sword was attempted to be solved during 1935-1938 in Dersim once again by a massacre.
 The 1938 tragedy has not only left behind the dead, the wounded and banishments, it has left behind a depopulated region whose name and all presence has been banned. The Dersim Kurds has faced a planned, systematic genocide and an extremely cruel assimilation process because of their; identity, language, culture and religious beliefs.
 The “one language and one nation” policy of the Republic of Turkey that continues in today’s
society as been the source of serious massacres first in Kocgiri, then at Seyh Said Revolt, at Zilan and at Dersim.
 During the Dersim Genocide the Turkish government has massacred thousands of people, those
who survived were banished, Dersim was depopulated. The cause of these merciless acts was being Kurdish, Alevi and Kizilbash. Although 70 years have passed, Turkey is not willing to acknowledge this Genocide like many other Kurdish Genocides. Those responsible for the deaths of thousands of people have never been tried nor have they been brought out into light. The broken families could never discover their past. Thousands of people still haven’t received news from their families and close friends. The whereabouts of the Kurdish children taken by the Turkish Government at the time are unknown. Many other world counties who have had a similar experiences and committed genocide against its people have acknowledged the injustice and sorrow they have caused and have apologised. However Turkey is continuing to resist and use “it does not exist” strategy with the Kurdish Genocide just as they have with the Armenian Genocide.
 Latin America called it “Making Peace”; the Japan called it “Leaving the past behind”; Italy had the “Cleaning Operation”; Austria took up “Nazi Cooperation”; Switzerland faced the “Nazi Accounts” and the “Nazi Gold”. Australia said “Sorry” to the Aborigines. Canada did the same for the Quebecois. South Africa put an end do the racist regime of Apartheid. This and similar examples prove that it is only possible to cleanse ourselves from the outworn traces and influences of the past by abandoning ‘denial’ and ‘destroying strategies’. As evident by these examples, the road to living together in peace goes through a democratic mentality transformation.
 However, Turkey has not abandoned its desire for massacre, which it uses as a government policy. Kurdish regions are still being bombed, villages are being emptied, people being murdered because of their identity and culture.
 To remind the world public of Dersim Genocide in its 70th year, we are organising the “Dersim ‘38 Conference” at the European Parliament on 13 November 2008. We will be there to face our history, to show that we have not forgotten nor will forget our ancestors and mothers who had been massacred.
 We convey that the solution for our difference is not to kill or to die as it was the case in the Dersim Genocide and various other Kurdish Revolts, but to be seen as cultural richness. The solution for the Kurdish problem can be achieved not by denial or annihilation but by a peaceful approach. However, having a safe and secure future can be achieved if the government can face its past. Otherwise this pain and trauma will not end and it will not contribute to the solution to this problem.
 Armenians, Greeks, Kurds, Jews, Alevis-Kizilbashes, Syrians, Assyrians, all citizens of Turkey and those who were classed as “the other” are the real owners of this move for Turkey to accept its past.
 It is for this reason the Association of Reconstruction of Dersim is organising a conference regarding the Dersim ’38 Genocide at the EU Parliament with the left party acting as the host.
 We invite all EU counties, UN, civil public organisations and Kurdish people to show sympathy to this conference which will take place on 13 November 2008.


The Kurdish people have been denied their rights of self-determination for centuries; they have been oppressed for decades, especially since WW I and the destruction of their way of life. After multiple attempts to establish  a Kurdish independent state, the world basically tried to erase them instead.  In Turkey as in Iraq, as in Syria, as in Iran, the Kurds have been harassed, denied their language, denied their identity.   In Iraq, Saddam Hussein gassed them (with US chemical weapons – right Donald Rumsfeld?); the Iranians have persecuted them, the Turks tried to annihilate them and the Syrians, under Assad, have tried all three.

May 4’s remembrance of the Dersim Massacre is not just about the genocide of 1937 and 1938…It is representative of the on-going oppression of a people without a state.

No comments:

Post a Comment