Tens of thousands of people from mostly Kurdish, Alevi and Armenian communities in Dersim were subjected to forced displacement in 1937-38, in an event known as the “Dersim Tertelesi”.
The horrifying chain of events began on 4 May 1937 and resulted in the deaths of approximately 70,000 people.
Güllü Polat is a survivor of the Dersim massacre. Now 85, she was just two years old when her village in Dersim, “Rubayik”, was raided as part of the deadly military campaign.
Her husband, Bedri Polat (93), who was known as Uncle Bego, also witnessed the massacre.
“When he was nine years old, his mother and his four and six-year-old siblings were killed during the massacre. Then he was thrown into the river, but he somehow survived,” Polat said in an interview with Jin News.
Villagers were gathered by Turkish soldiers and executed. ”The soldiers who raided our village gathered 25 people in the square of the village, including my father, and killed them right there,” she said. “They tortured my mother and many women. I lost two of my uncles in the massacre.”
She added: “Many people were thrown into the Munzur Stream from the cliffs. I was just a child, but I was still subjected to violence. A lot has happened in these lands, and is still happening.”
As one of the few living survivors of the massacre, Polat is concerned about the heritage of the collective memory. “Please record what we are saying, please record these memories. Because one day we will be gone as well, but the next generations must never forget what happened in Dersim in 1937,” she said.