Dersim Massacre

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Dersim Massacre
Dersim region in the mid 1930s English.png
Dersim in 1937
Location  Turkey
Date 1937-1938
Target Dersim Rebellion
Attack type
Massacre
Deaths 13,806-70,000[1]
Victim Kurdish and Zaza Alevi population[2]
Perpetrators Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk[3][4]
The commander of the Guard regiment İsmail Hakkı Tekçe and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at Tunceli region in 1937.
Sabiha Gökçen and her colleagues in front of Breguet 19, 1937-38
Turkish soldiers and local people of Dersim region. They were exiled to other parts of Turkey, 1938.
Local people of Dersim, 1938

The Dersim Massacre took place in 1937 and 1938 in Dersim Province, (formerly Tunceli Province)[5] in Turkey. It was the outcome of a Turkish military campaign against the Dersim Rebellion by local ethnic minority groups against Turkey's Resettlement Law of 1934. Thousands of Alevi Kurds and Zazas[6] died and many others were internally displaced due to the conflict.

On 23 November 2011, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave an apology for the Dersim operation, describing it as "one of the most tragic events of our recent history".[7]

Rebellion in Dersim[edit]

In 1934, Turkey passed a Resettlement Law, aimed at assimilating ethnic minority communities within the country.[8] Its measures included the forced relocation of people within the country, with the aim of promoting cultural homogeneity. In 1935, the Tunceli Law was passed to apply the Resettlement Law to the newly named region of Tunceli, previously known as Dersim and populated by Kurmanci-speaking and Zaza-speaking Alevis.[9] This area had a reputation for being rebellious, having been the scene of eleven separate periods of armed conflict over the previous 40 years.[10]

Following public meetings in January 1937, a letter of protest against the law was written to be sent to the local governor. According to Kurdish sources, the emissaries of the letter were arrested and executed. In May, a group of local people ambushed a police convoy in response, the first act of a localised conflict.[11]

Around 25,000 troops were deployed to quell the rebellion. This task was substantially completed by the summer and the leaders of the rebellion, including tribal leader Sayiid Riza, were hanged. However, remnants of the rebel forces continued to resist and the number of troops in the region was doubled. The methods used by the army were brutal, including the mass killing of civilians, the razing of homes and the deportation of people from less hostile areas. The area was also bombed from the air.[10] The rebels continued to resist until the region was pacified in October 1938.[12]

Numbers killed[edit]

The contemporary British estimate of the number of deaths was 40,000, although historians suggest that this figure may be exaggerated.[10] It has been suggested that the total number of deaths may be 7,594,[9] over 10,000,[13] or over 13,000.[7] Around 3,000 people were forcibly deported from Dersim.[9]

A 2008 conference organised by Kurdish PEN reached the conclusion that Turkey was guilty of genocide, estimating that 50,000–80,000 were killed in the aftermath of the Dersim rebellion.[14]

Genocide controversy[edit]

Many Kurds and some ethnic Turks consider the events that took place in Dersim to constitute genocide. A prominent proponent of this view is the academic İsmail Beşikçi.[15] Under international laws, it has been argued, the actions of the Turkish authorities were not genocide, because they were not aimed at the extermination of a people, but at resettlement and suppression.[16] Scholars, such as Martin van Bruinessen, have instead talked of an ethnocide directed against the local language and identity.[17]

In March 2011, a Turkish court ruled that the actions of the Turkish government in Dersim could not be considered genocide according to the law because they were not directed systematically against an ethnic group.[18]

Government apology[edit]

On 23 November 2011, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologised on behalf of the state for the Dersim massacre during a televised meeting of his party in Ankara. His comments were pointedly directed at opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Erdogan reminded his audience that Kılıçdaroğlu's party, the CHP, had been in power at the time of the massacre, then the only political party in Turkey.[7] He described the massacre as "one of the most tragic events of our near history" saying that, whilst some sought to justify it as a legitimate response to events on the ground, it was in reality "an operation which was planned step by step".[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dersim massacre monument to open next month". Today's Zaman. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  2. ^ Kaya, Ali (1999). Başlangıcından günümüze Dersim tarihi. Can Yayınları. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Altuğ, Kurtul. “Celal Bayar Anlatıyor”, Tercüman, September 17, 1986. “Şimdi, Mareşal, Erkan-ı Harbiye Reisi (Genelkurmay Başkanı), ben başbakanım. Atatürk malum... Üçümüz Dersim’de yapılan büyük ordu manevralarındayız. Manevranın da sonuna gelmek üzereyiz. Üçümüz bir arada ‘Ordunun emniyeti bakımından strateji ne olmalıdır?’, onu görüşüyoruz. İkisi de Birinci Cihan Harbi’nde muharebe etmişler. Ben daha çok izleyiciyim. Malumatları geniş... Oradaki her şeyi biliyorlar. Hatta şahsen casusları bile biliyorlar. Dersim’in o halde kalırsa her zaman ordunun emniyeti bakımından tehlikeli olacağını görüşüyorlardı... O sırada biz konuşurken, Dersimlilerin jandarma karakollarımızdan üç-dört tanesini bastıkları haberi geldi. Atatürk’le göz göze geldik. Birbirimizi anlıyorduk. Atatürk benim yüzüme baktı. ‘Ne olacak?’ dedi. Anlıyorum, orada emniyet tesis edilecek. Ne olursa olsun bana hitap edecekler. Hükümet reisi benim. ‘Anlıyorum efendim, bana hitap edişinizin manasını’ dedim. Atatürk: ‘Sorumluluğu üzerime alıyorum, vuracağız Dersim’i’ dedi ve vurduk...
  4. ^ Trabzon'daki belge: Dersim Katliamı'nı bizzat Atatürk yönetmiş... "Dersim (Tunceli)’de zuhur eden isyanda askeri durumu gösteren taktik işaretler bizzat Atatürk tarafından çizilmiştir"
  5. ^ http://ejts.revues.org/index370.html (Accordint to european journal of turkish studies, Tunceli is an alevi kurdish province)
  6. ^ http://www.massviolence.org/Dersim-Massacre-1937-1938 (According to the organisation encyclopedia of mass violence, Dersim is a Kurdish alevi province, and the massacre of turks were towards zaza speaking alevi kurds)
  7. ^ a b c "Turkey PM Erdogan apologises for 1930s Kurdish killings". BBC News. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Çağaptay, Soner (2002). "Reconfiguring the Turkish nation in the 1930s". Harvard. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Lundgren, Asa (2007). The unwelcome neighbour: Turkey's Kurdish policy. London: Tauris & Co. p. 44. 
  10. ^ a b c McDowall, David (2007). A Modern History of the Kurds. London: Tauris & Co. pp. 207–208. 
  11. ^ Jwaideh, Wadie (2006). The Kurdish National Movement: Its Origins and Development. Syracuse University Press. p. 215. 
  12. ^ Chaliand, Gerard (1993). A People without a country: the Kurds and Kurdistan. London: Olive Branch Press. p. 58. 
  13. ^ Hans-Lukas Kieser: Some Remarks on Alevi Responses to the Missionaries in Eastern Anatolia (19th–20th cc.). In: Altruism and Imperialism. The Western Religious and Cultural Missionary Enterprise in the Middle East. Middle East Institute Conference: Bellagio Italien, August 2000
  14. ^ Dersim ‘38 Conference
  15. ^ İsmail Besikçi, Tunceli Kanunu (1935) ve Dersim Jenosidi, Belge Yayınları, 1990.
  16. ^ Martin van Bruinessen: Genocide in Kurdistan? 1994, S. 141–170.
  17. ^ The Suppression of the Dersim Rebellion in Turkey (1937-38) Excerpts from: Martin van Bruinessen, "Genocide in Kurdistan? The suppression of the Dersim rebellion in Turkey (1937-38) and the chemical war against the Iraqi Kurds (1988)", in: George J. Andreopoulos (ed), Conceptual and historical dimensions of genocide. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994, pp. 141-170.
  18. ^ Saymaz, Ismail (14 March 2011). "Turkish prosecutor refuses to hear Dersim 'genocide' claim". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  19. ^ "Turkey apologises for 1930s killing of thousands of Kurds". The Telegraph. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 

External links[edit]

In Turkish[edit]