🔴 Turkey's Alevi community has called again for equal treatment as citizens, 45 years after the infamous Maraş (Mereş) massacre in which at least 120 Kurdish Alevis were killed.#Alevis | #Maraşmassacre | #TwitterKurds
— MedyaNews (@1MedyaNews) December 18, 2023
It is 45 years since the devastating massacre of the Alevi community in the south-eastern Turkish province of Kahramanmaraş, also known as Maraş (Mereş).
Between 19 and 26 December 1978, a week-long wave of violence against the Kurdish Alevis of Maraş resulted in the loss of at least 120 lives, the majority of them women and children, the burning of 559 houses and the destruction of nearly 290 businesses.
Parts of Maraş were completely destroyed, and a curfew was imposed on the town. Neither the army nor the police made any attempt to stop the attacks. After the massacre many of the city’s Kurdish Alevis began to leave, so that the demography of Maraş changed significantly. The Alevi population, which was over 35 per cent before these events, is now only 10 per cent.
Despite years of legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the massacre, justice remains elusive. The decisions of the martial law court, which sentenced 22 people to death, seven to life imprisonment and 321 others to various sentences, were later overturned by the Court of Cassation. The death sentences were not carried out and those convicted were released under the 1991 anti-terror law, raising concerns about accountability.
To make matters worse, Ökkeş Kenger, identified as one of the ringleaders, was acquitted during the trial and later changed his surname to Şendiler. In 1991, Şendiler was elected as a member of parliament for the Islamist, right-wing Welfare Party (RP) and served on the Human Rights Commission in the Turkish parliament. This political reward for a key figure in the massacre has fuelled frustration and anger among survivors.
Müslüm İbili, president of Erenler Culture and Solidarity Association, an Alevi faith organisation, spoke to Mezopotamya Agency on the 45th anniversary of the massacre, claiming that it was orchestrated by the “deep state” and highlighting the continuing trauma. İbili, who was 19 at the time, was forced to move away to Istanbul. After losing a leg in a train accident, he returned to his home town and founded the association in 2007 to deal with the trauma.
Describing the massacre as a deliberate act to suppress the socialist movement of the 1970s, İbili said: “Despite the passage of 45 years, the trauma remains.” He asserted that the massacre served as a “preparation for a coup”, and a major provocation staged to create social unrest.
Calling for Alevis to be treated as equal citizens to prevent future incidents, İbili urged everyone to attend the annual commemoration event on 23 December, despite the government issuing a ban, which İbili put down to provocation. “You cannot cover up pain with bans,” he stressed.