Turkey unearths fragments of Dersim Massacre

Turkish court ordered to dig up a mass grave in eastern province of Tunceli allegedly containing bones of 24 victims of Dersim Massacre 1938

Updated Jul 28, 2015

As one of the most tragic events of Turkish Republic history, the Dersim Massacre of state’s military forces killed over 13,000 people who were a mix of ethnic minority group including Alevis, Zazas and Kurds in Turkey’s southeastern city of Dersim, which renamed as Tunceli in 1937.

The excavation started after the complaint of the relatives of Canan and Baran families from Karabakir village in Tunceli burned to death during the massacre.

On May 4, 1937, Turkish parliament decided to start a military operation against some tribes of Dersim revolting against Turkish Resettlement Law of 1934.

The Resettlement Law had forced the relocation of people to ensure the newly established state’s authority in the region, and was enacted by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the only political party at the time.

The surviving family members found bones in the area where the execution allegedly took place, after they attempted to construct a monument in the area to honour their slaughtered relatives.

The families claim that their 24 relatives were taken from Karabakir village to Sekesure neighbourhood of Dersim city on August 14, 1938, and burned alive by military forces.

A number of tests trying determining the age and owner of bones will be conducted by the Forensic Medicine Institute after completion of unearthing.

The lawyer of the families Cihan Soylemez said “We are sure that these examinations of forensics will provide concrete proof of the Dersim incidents,” in the beginning of excavation work.

Sabiha Gokcen, the adopted daughter of Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, carried attack strikes against victims of Dersim.

“We were given the order to strike everything that was alive, we were striking even the animals because they were the food of rebellions,” said Gokcen to daily Milliyet news in an interview in 1956.

The military finished the operation after hanging the leaders of tribes, and the death of over 13,000 people who were mostly civilians, were left dead when the strikes were over.

Seventy-four years after the incident President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologised for the massacre on behalf of the Turkish state in 2011 when he was the prime minister, and was displayed the official documents that confirmed the slaughter and deportation of over 11,000 people.

“Dersim is the most tragic event in our recent history. It is a disaster that should now be questioned with courage,” Erdogan said.

TRTWorld and agencies