Otel Madımak in Sivas, site of the Alevi massacre on 2 July 1993
|Date||2 July 1993|
|Deaths||37 killed (including 2 perpetrators)|
The Sivas massacre (Turkish: Sivas Katliamı, Madımak Katliamı) refers to the events of July 2, 1993 which resulted in the killing of 35 people, mostly Alevi intellectuals, and two hotel employees. Two people from the mob also died. The victims, who had gathered for a cultural festival in Sivas, Turkey, were killed when a mob of Salafists set fire to the hotel where the Alevi group had assembled.
Attending the conference was a left-wing Turkish intellectual Aziz Nesin who was vastly hated amongst religious Sunnis in Turkey as it was he who attempted to publish Salman Rushdie's controversial novel Satanic Verses, in Turkey. Thousands of Sunni locals in Sivas, after attending Friday prayers in a nearby mosque, marched to the hotel in which the conference was taking place and set the building on fire, chanting anti-Alevi and pro-sharia slogans. The Turkish government sees this incident as being aimed at Aziz Nesin only, yet most agree that the target was the Alevis since many of the Alevi victims in the fire were very important artists and musicians. One musician, Hasret Gültekin, the most important and influential bağlama saz player in modern time was also killed in this fire. Gültekin is still considered a great loss for Turkish and Kurdish culture by Alevis and others.
The attack took place not long after traditional Friday prayers, when the mob broke through police barricades to surround the Otel Madımak, where artists, writers and musicians had gathered to celebrate 16th century Alevi poet Pir Sultan Abdal. Reportedly angered by the presence of Aziz Nesin, a writer who had translated and published extracts from Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, the enraged fundamentalists surrounded the hotel, shouting "Death to the infidel!" and threatening the assembled artists with lynching. The hotel was set alight, and the fire claimed 35 lives, including those of musicians, poets, tourists and hotel staff, while assembled police did nothing to intervene. Aziz Nesin was able to escape only because attackers initially failed to recognize him. According to reports, when rescuers eventually realized his identity, he was beaten by firemen while a city councilman, Cafer Erçakmak (tr), from the Welfare Party shouted, "This is the devil we should have really killed."
Indictments, trial and sentences
The event was seen as a major assault on free speech and human rights in Turkey, and significantly deepened the rift between religious and secular segments of the society. A day after the incident, 35 people were arrested. Then the number of detainees increased to 190. A total of 124 out of the 190 defendants were charged with "attempting to establish a religious state by changing the constitutional order" and were indicted on charges. The first hearing of the case, publicly known as Case Sivas Massacre, Ankara State Security Court No. 1, was held on 21 October 1993. On 26 December 1994 a verdict was reached in the case of the 124 defendants: 15 years in prison for 22 suspects, 10 years in prison for 3 defendants, 3 years and 9 months for 54 suspects, 2 years and 4 months for 6 suspects, and the acquittal of 37 of the defendants. Another 14 suspects were sentenced to 15 years in prison. The remaining 33 defendants were charged with 35 counts of murder. After lengthy court proceedings, the State Security Court sentenced the 33 defendants to death on 28 November 1997 for their roles in the massacre; 31 of these sentences were upheld in a 2001 appeal. When Turkey overturned the death penalty just over a year later in 2002, the sentences were commuted. Each defendant received 35 life sentences, one for each murder victim and additional time for other crimes. These 31 convicts are currently the only ones still serving time for the crimes; the other defendants were paroled early or released after completing their sentences.
The response from the security forces at the time and afterwards was weak. The assault took eight hours without a single intervention by the police, military or fire department. Alevis and most intellectuals in Turkey argue that the incident was triggered by the local government as flyers and leaflets were published and given out for days before the incident. The Turkish government refers to the Sivas Madımak Hotel incident as an attack on the intellectuals but refuses to see it as an incident directed towards Alevis. The events surrounding the massacre were captured by TV cameras and broadcast all over the world. Every year, during the anniversary of the massacre, various Alevi organizations call for the arrest of those responsible. 33 individuals were sentenced to death in 1997 for crimes related to the massacre.
Seven other suspects were still on trial until March 2012. Two of the suspects, including Cafer Erçakmak, died while on trial. In March 2012, the Sivas massacre case against the remaining five defendants was dropped, owing to the statute of limitations. However, this case is still being appealed.
Each year on the anniversary of the massacre, demonstrators hold protests and vigils to commemorate the victims of the fire. Many wish to see the hotel, which has since re-opened, declared a memorial and turned into a museum. In 2008 a government minister indicated that it would be turned into an Alevi cultural center, but this has yet to occur. In June 2010, the Minister of Work and Social Security announced that the money for buying the hotel had been transferred, and that the Ministry would provide additional resources for restoration. Following the court ruling on 23 November 2010, Madimak Hotel has become a public entity for a compensation of 5,601,000 TL to the hotel owners.
- "40 Killed in a Turkish Hotel Set Afire by Muslim Militants", New York Times, 3 July 1993. Accessed 20 January 2008.
- Kinzer, Stephen. Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 64. ISBN 0-374-13143-0.
- Frantz, D. "Turkey's Choice: European Union or the Death Penalty" New York Times, 30 May 2001. Accessed 21 January 2008.
- "Sivas massacre case dropped on statute of limitations". Todayszaman.com. 2012-03-13. Retrieved 2012-11-22.
- "Turkey commemorates 15th anniversary of Sivas massacre". Hürriyet. 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
- Guvenc, Duygu; Sonmez, Selahattin (2007-07-03). "Thousands gather in Sivas to commemorate Madimak Massacre". Turkish Daily News (Hürriyet). Retrieved 2008-04-17.[dead link]
- Dinc, Ahmet (2008-12-27). "State to convert Madımak Hotel into cultural center". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
- "Turkish gov't buys hotel site of Alevi massacre". Hürriyet Daily News. June 17, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
- "Madımak Oteli devletin oldu - Sabah - 22 Kasım 2012 - 23 Kasım 2010". Sabah. 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2012-11-22.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sivas massacre.|
- A selection of TV scenes about the event
- Can Dündar's documentary film about the event
- Dostlar Tiyatrosu's semi documentary play about the event