Dersim Massacre

Dersim Massacre

Dersim Massacre
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 Turkish government



The Dersim Massacre took place in 1937 and 1938 in Dersim, now called Tunceli Province,[3] 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[4] 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".[5]

Rebellion in Dersim

In 1934, Turkey passed a Resettlement Law, aimed at assimilating ethnic minority communities within the country.[6] 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.[7] This area had a reputation for being rebellious, having been the scene of eleven separate periods of armed conflict over the previous 40 years.[8]

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.[9]

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.[8] The rebels continued to resist until the region was pacified in October 1938.[10]

Numbers killed

The contemporary British estimate of the number of deaths was 40,000, although historians suggest that this figure may be exaggerated.[8] It has been suggested that the total number of deaths may be 7,594,[7] over 10,000,[11] or over 13,000.[5] Around 3,000 people were forcibly deported from Dersim.[7]

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.[12]

Genocide controversy

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.[13] 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.[14] Scholars, such as Martin van Bruinessen, have instead talked of an ethnocide directed against the local language and identity.[15]

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.[16]

Government apology

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.[5] 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".[17]

See also

References

External links

  • Dersim 1938 – 70 Years After
  • Dersim on Turkey's ‘genocide' list

In Turkish

ckb:کۆمەڵکوژیی دەرسیم tr:Dersim Katliamı