Thursday marked the 86th anniversary of the Turkish Armed Forces launching a military operation to suppress a Kurdish tribe’s uprising in the eastern city of Tunceli (Dersim) and killing tens of thousands of Kurdish Alevis.
The Dersim Labour and Democracy Platform organised a commemoration at Çır Creek in the Nazımiye district of Dersim, one of the scenes of the massacre which began on 4 May 1937 and continued until 1938.
The platform demanded recognition of the Dersim massacre, as well as an official apology from Turkey. It also called for the disclosure of all archives and the entire truth about what happened in Dersim between 1937-1939, along with the restoration of the reputation and rights of the relatives of those killed.
Participants in the commemoration, which included several political parties and organisations, stressed that the “genocidal mindset” that caused the massacre still persists in the Turkish government today. After a march towards Çır Creek, people lit kindling and candles near the stream. Witnesses of the period talked about what happened, and carnations were left in the creek in memory of the murdered people.
One witness recalled seeing the families taken to the stream to be murdered, while another one said that 11 members of her family were killed during the massacre.
The commemoration ended with a lament recited by Dersim-born musician Raber Diler.
In the first operation by the Turkish forces, around 25,000 troops were deployed to quell the uprising. The leader of the Kurdish tribe, Seyid Rıza, and his fellows were hanged in November 1937. When the Kurds in the region continued to resist after Seyid Rıza’s death, the number of troops in the region was doubled and the Turkish Armed Forces bombed the area from the air.
The military campaign against the people of Dersim did not only cause thousands of deaths but also forced the exile and displacement of thousands more from their lands. Many children, particularly girls, were married off and separated from their families and cultural roots.