The Dersim Massacre
Photographs taken through a Turkish officer on the spot. Here its Kurdish prisoners to see (1938).
In 1990 was published there a book in Turkey with a title, that the only party then in Turkey accused of genocide. According to the book, the party a genocide had exported in the Kurdish district of Dersim. The book became at the same time bans and it saw to not for the debate on which the writer and sociologist, Ismail hoped had. Was the first and for a long time the only that in all openness the Turkish official ideology and administration opposite the Kurds criticized.  He began in 1969 with its study of the social economic conditions of Turkish Koerdistan with a whole series of increasing polemic writings. He has a large price paid for its moral and intellectual courage; all its books its bans and he remained more than ten year in the prison for its books. The mass slaughters of the book of treated the pacificatie of the rebel scholar Kurdish district of Dersim (these becomes now Tunceli named) in 1937 and 1938. The events its one of the most black pages in history of the republic Turkey. On the book of the crtical sociologist was not reacted or been wrong reproduce to by most historians, as well foreign historians as Turkish. While the campaign against Dersim further went, saw to the Turkish authorities for it that little information to disposition came for the outside world. The diplomatic observanten in Ankara were of it conscious that it large military operations were, but she knew actual not what it precise at the hand was.
After the events spoke the British consul in Trebizond (Trabzon), the dichtstbijzijnde diplomatische mail of Dersim over brute violence by which no differences were made between men or women.,. Also he made an explicit comparison with the Armeense genocide in 1915. “Thousand Kurds,” wrote he, “below which women and children were slaughtered; others; mainly children, became in the Eufraat gegooid; while thousand in less hostile areas, firstly were stripped of their cattle and other possessions before they deported to vilayets (provinces) in Central Anatolië. It now is said that the Kurdish question no longer consists in Turkey.”
Photograph from Dersim 1938 of a Kurdish victim of oppression.
What is Dersim? Dersim is an inaccessible territory store of high with snow covered, narrow valleys and ravines in North Koerdistan (Southeast of Turkey). It was inhabited by a large number of small tribes, that a marginal existence had of mainly agriculture, animals watch over and the collecting of forest products. Their total numbers were around the 1930 around the 65,000 and 70,000. (Dersim was previously larger, but here become the numbers uses of the province Tunceli)
Dersim was a part of Koerdistan with someone else culture. This came partly through ecological and geographical factors (surrounded through Mountains) and partial through the language and religion. Some tribes spoke good Kurmanji, but the most the Kurdish Zaza dialects spoke. Also belonged they all till the heterodoxe alevitische sect, that them distinguished of the soennitische Kurds that lived in the rest of Koerdistan. (Below which as well Kurmanji talking Kurds were as Zaza talking Kurds.) Although there are also Alevi’s in Turkey, are the alevi’s in Dersim someone else group, with someone else believe and belief trade.
Dersim was in the middle of the years 1930 the last part of Koerdistan, that effective under the control by the central Turkish state had not been brought. The tribes of Dersim had never been yet under supervision through former governments. And the only law, that they was the traditional stammenwet recognized. Chieftains (Agha’s in the Kurdish) and religious leaders had a large authority over the usual people, that they exploited often economic. They were not meddled against a government, as long as this
government not surplus with their affairs.
Many chieftains, strengthened their position actual through strong relations with the police and the army in the region to have. There was a tradition of loads refusal, for there was little money to evaluate. The region was quite very poor. Young men avoided could the military service as they, but in 1935, a considerable part in the Turkish army served. There were conflicts between the tribes, that often the forms took of lengthy fat. Many of the stem members carried not assault descend were weapons, and on neighbor unusually.
Local military civil servants were enticed often also in the stem conflicts. Because some chieftains accused their enemies of the conspiring against the state. But on the same moment, there was a Kurdish nationalistic commotion under the tribes, that led became by the taught suns of the head families.
In 1936, Dersim was placed under military supervision, with the nationalistic expression to calm down, to get and to “to civilize” under supervision. The answer of the tribes on the so-called modernisatie brought by the state of roads, bridges and police post, was ambiguous.
The Kurdish tribe leader Seyyit Riza.
Some tribe leaders sought turned adaptation with the military authorities, others self against the intervention in their former autonomy. In the beginning of 1937 benedictions the authorities that a large rebellion would come. A token of uprising against the pacificatieprogramma, exhorted through nationalists. The central figure in the conspiracy was according to the Turkish state, Seyyit Riza. There was said that five tribes with this conspiracy to make had (Van the hundred tribes that there were.)
The military campaign against Dersim was begun after a relative small incident and the layman that the army waited on a direct reason the tribes to punish. On a day in March 1937 was a strategic wooden bridge burnt and were the telephone line cut through. According to the army, this was the beginning of the uprising, that she had expected. A Turkish source mentioned that there someone else incident was in Koerdistan and put co-ordination for through Kurdish nationalists.
Was the incident classroom but according to the official history of the military campaign. It is with difficulty violence within the tribes to distinguish of a rebellion against the city. A per-Turkish source said actual that the suspicions against Seyyit Riza had been based on the accusations of its local enemies. The first troops that were steered the suspected to arrest, were stopped through armed tribe members.
The confrontations escalated fast. When the tribes their leaders refused over to give, became there a large campaign begun. In the summer of 1937 found military operations place in the whole region. In September, gifts Seyyit Riza and are mostly strong comrades went extended over, but the next spring the operations through. According to sources were these operations extremely violent.
The little sources over the events have been written necessarily by partisans/resistance fighters. An important book was written by a local man, veteran and nationalistic activist Nuri Dersimi. This fighter was concerned was by the beginning of the uprising and had many family members lost. The book was published 14 years later in Syrian exile.
Hang of Seyit Riza (zazaki. org). Seyit had been tortured firstly, tortured, removed nails and hung after that at a car and half living meegesleurd by the city.
When the Turkish troops the hunt open descend on the rebel scholar, concealed liquids the men in the fight. De women and children itself in deep caves. Thousand of these women and children are disappeared, because the army closed the entrance of the caves. These caves were marked with numbers on the military files of the territory. By the entrances of other caves, the army want to fire to let suffocate at the men within in the caves. The defense lynxes women and children were trapped as a ratten. Those who tried were killed to escape from the caves with bayonets. A large part of the women and girls of the Kureyshan and Bakhtiyar descend threw to not to fall itself of the high kliffen in the Munzur and Parchick ravine thus in the hands from the Turks. Because of this they drowned in the Munzur. Taylan Ozgur wrote in the article “Child in Dersim” an affirmation of this: “There are thousand men in the Munzur drowned (The river Munzur).”
De Kirgan, a stem that self had handed over to the Turkish army and distance had done of the rebels became not with many grace treated:” Because the Kirgan the Turks trusted, remained they in their towns, while the rebels of Bakhtiyar self withdrew. If a result of this were destroyed they. Their leaders were tortured and shot. The tribe leaders were tortured and shot after that. Everybody that tried to escape or a shelter sought at the army were executed. The men were shot down at the same time. The women and children were locked up in haysheds, that stuck became in the fire.
When the winter could approached the army do not continue with the operations. They bids a truce at and a peaceful truce with the rebels. They promised that they the other tribes with rest let and compensations to give for the damage.
These promises were made round the rebel leader, Seyyit Riza the city Erzincan in to entice. Here Seyyit the governor knew. He was arrested, with fifty man. They at the same time were condemned and eleven by them below which Seyyit Riza at the same time were executed.
In the spring of 1938 went the military operations on a yet larger manner further. The Karabal, Ferhad and Pilvank descends, were destroyed total then they self surrenders. The women and children of these descend were lived burnt. Women and men.
The Pilvank and Abbas descends, had been remained had been set up and shot that always fidelity at the government in rows. The women and girls were collected and sprinkles burnt after that with kerosine and. Khech, the head town of the Sheykh Mehmedan descend that self already had delivered, became in the night attacked. All inhabitants of the town were killed by machine gun bullets and artillery fire.
The inhabitants of the Hozat city and the Karace descend, men, women and children were driven to a dichtstbijzijnde military camp outside Hozat and were shot with machine guns.
Ali Ser, Zarife leaders of the uprising in Dersim (1938).
Thousand women and children leapt in the Munzur river. The entire territory wash covers with gifgassen. Even young men of Dersim that their military service served in the Turkish army became of the army separated and shot. Someone else Kurdish nationalist from Dersim, Sait published in 1970 also more over the history of the Kurdish movement. In this were also what pages over the Dersim uprising. He used the book of Dersim, but oral sources joined also to. Over the campaign in 1938, he writes the following:
In the spring of 1938, the government, an amnesty offered on, at everybody that itself want to deliver. The Karabal, Ferhad, Pilvank, Sheykh Mehmedan and Karaca descends, reacted were destroyed that then complete. She murdered descend also most of the Kureyshan from the Mazgirt district, the Yusufan and the Bakhtiyar descend, by which she saved no women, old men or children. They were murdered in masses, in many affairs with a bayonet (soortement knife).
Against the end of the summer, the Hormekan, Kureyshan and Alan of the Nazimiye district and a part of the Bamasuran and Mazgirt were destroyed also by means of gifgas or bayonets. Their bodies were sprinkled with kerosine and burnt.
In such a way that it incredibly appears that the Kurds at the same time such brute violence were taken in Dersim, are these sources for the largest part affirmed through official documents. These documents were published in the official military history of the campaign. The simply a little became not mentions is the use of gifgas in the offensive of 1938 through Dersimi and Ivan. Passings grind there were described that there many women and children had been arrested, but in other parts became the murder described without difference on men and animal.,.
Genocide or etnocide?
Prisoner of the Turkish army during the Dersim uprising. (1938) Photographs taken through a Turkish officer on the spot and stolen through a Kurd.
The mass slaughters in Dersim were clear exported with brute violence, but it was no genocide, but an “etnocide”. It had not been directed namely round to row the whole or a part of the Kurdish people out. There is never away been wiped an administration round the Kurds of the face of the earth to. Only well their etniciteit to change. That they assimilated till Turks. Therefore “etnocide” is the administration better to name. Thus the destruction of the Kurdish ethnic identity. The intention the Kurdish culture to destroy can be gotten from the secret decision of the council of ministers over the punishment forwarding to Dersim on 4 May 1937. The decision contain an end decision opposite the rebellions and uprisings in Dersim.
The council orders has uses the army, those who self delivered have and that weapons uses have, or these once to kill. And hereby also their towns complete to destroy and to remove their families. Given fact, that each man in Dersim weapons carry, was this task actually a task in which were dedicated all men in the territory to kill.
It was not at the same time clear from the official sources that the Dersim campaigns had been directed against the Kurds, because it no references were made to the Kurds. Against this time there already was denied that there Kurds were. The military reports named the entire people of Dersim without difference bandits (haydut). The minister of domestic affairs found it however necessarily national council to inform that these men authentic Turks were.
The problem was natural that most men in Dersim not on the height were of their Turksheid. Many wanted not to communicate once the language Turkish and the authorities must with their via interpreters. Airplanes let leaflets fall in the “local language” De Dersim was a real Kurdish rebellion, but no nationalistic as that later on came. The layman on it that the rebellion more a reaction was on the intervention and concern of the government in the tribe affairs. Resistance against something the Turkish government saw as a “civilizing mission”.
The regime presented was begun this mission already before the rebellion. It was a dedicated fight according to the government against the neglect and oppression of the people through the feudal leaders, chieftains and religious leaders. An observator that narrow relations had with the government was enthousiastic after the Dersim campaign over the so-called positive effects:” De tribe leaders, religious leaders and their supporters had been caught taken and deported to the west. The successful military operations have for once and always the future of a bandits movement prevent in Tunceli. Dersim has been liberated now and reason. There its no places where the army is not, or where the military officers and commanders not their intelligence and energy in stick. Again the army a tremendous task has exported and earns the eternal grace of the Turkish nation.” In the practice was the floating power behind the governments action, below which those directed in Dersim not against the feudalisme or the achtergesteldheid, but against the Kurdish ethnic identity. The impudent Dersim campaign was one of the many measures, that were taken the Kurds forced to assimilate.
The Kurdish administration of the republic of Turkey
The republic that became opgeëist in 1923 thanks its existence at the independent war of Mustufa Kemal and its partners flatten after passings other nations the former Ottomaanse provinces claimed below which the Greeks, Armeniërs, French and Italians. A “National pact” definieerde the borders where for the independent movement fought: the former Ottomaanse land that were inhabited through not-Arabic Muslims (Turks and Kurds). These were the largest not-Arabic Muslims in the realm. The Kurds took fight part at these next to the Turks. And the leaders of the movement spoke sleepiness of a Turkish-Kurdish brotherhood and that the new state would consist of Turks and also Kurds.
In January 1923 put Mustufa Kemal still for that it perhaps a local autonomy came for the Kurdish areas.,. But this administration changed fast on a drastic manner. The fact that the new republic Turkey was named (a loan word of European scores) indicated though that some citizens more equal would become than others.
The new republican republic that zorgvol keep wanted their difficult obtained victory. Obsessed were disunion through threats against the territorial integrity and with imperial plots to sow. From this viewpoint, the Kurds as a large risk were seen. There was namely a weak a Kurdish independences movement that the encouragements gotten had by the Britons. The call round unity under the Muslims during the war round independence more effective under the Kurds than Kurdish nationalism and an own country. Just then Turkey set course disappeared to secularisatie this basis of unity. The kemalisten tried to replace the Islam as an united factor through an on Turkey based nationalism. Because they this provoked did a Kurdish nationalistic response they for which they fearfully were.
Some measures saw to yet more dissatisfaction under much wider circles than only the Kurdish nationalists. In the world war were talloze Kurds fled to the west the Russian army “easterly-Anatolië” (Anatolië, is the Turkish word for Small-Asia) then occupied. In 1919 decided the government the Kurds over the western provinces to spread in groups, that not more large were than 300 each, so that they no longer than 5% constituted of the local population.,. Some Kurds that back want to turn to Koerdistan became tegengehouden. In the new Turkey was also yet once all the modern education in it Turkish; moreover were the traditional Islamic schools (medreses) in which also in it Kurdish were taught closed in 1924. These two radical changes saw to for it that Kurds no entry had till the education.
Other secularisatie measures (the discontinuance of the kalifaat, the office of shaikh already-islam and the religious courts; all in 1924) saw to for many resistance in the traditional muslim circles. Kurdish nationalistic intellectuals and army officers took part at the troops of the dissatisfied religious leaders what led till the first large Kurdish uprising led through Sheik Said in 1925.
The rebellion was knocked down with a large military power. The leaders were picked up and hung and there were passing reprisals for the districts that had with done with the uprising. According to the official Kurdish nationalistic sources resulted this in the plundering of more than two hundred towns, the destruction of eight thousand houses and five ten thousand dead. Sheik of Said’s uprising saw to not only for a serious military threat for Turkey, but it sees to for a large change in the history of the republic. It saw to for a trend opposite the authoritarian government and it saw to for measures that on it directed were the Kurdish etniciteit to destructions.
At the same time became after the uitbraak of the uprising the relative liberal prime minister Fethi Okyar afgezet and replace through the grimme Ismet Inönü. Its position over the Kurds made he on the next manner public known, “We are openly nationalistic. Nationalism is it some what our samenhoud. Aside from the Turkish majority, an impact will have no of the other elements. We will for each praise those who our countries live verturksen and those destroy that in uprising come against Turks and the Turkendom.”
Passings other uprisings followed on which the largest that place found in 1928-1930 around the Ararat mountains. This was the nationalistic by all organized uprisings and were coordinated by the Kurdish political party in exile. In all these rebellions played tribes however a large role that actions undertaken under the head of theirs ‘s own agha’s (chieftains) and sometimes under the co-ordination of sheiks, religious leaders with a large authority.,. (From there the benadrukking in the Turkish pronunciations of the government over the necessity of the destruction of “feudalisme, tribalisme and religious reaction.) The government reacted with the executing of some sheiks and agha’s and other chieftains of theirs ‘s separated descend to move finished through them to other parts of the country. Some entire tribes (especially those who had participated in the Ararat descend) were deported and moves over entire westerly Turkey.
The first deportations were descend simply reprisals against rebel scholar. In the later years, deportations became to assimilate a part of the attempt the Kurds. The Turkificatie program announced had been based on Turkish nationalism. The Kurdish language, clothing. Folklore and even the word Kurd became bans. Researchers furnished the “proof” that the “descend of the east” purely Turkish were and that their language Turkish was, that a little bit corrupted were because they in the vicinity were of Iran. Therefore they were named “Bergturken”. There was no place for other concepts in the academic or public life. Someone else historical theory that was developed with the support of the Turkish government was that all large civilizations – Chinese, Indian, Muslim and even the antique Egyptian and Etruskische civilization of Turkish origin were. Turkificatie, even forced, was therefore by definition a civilizing trial. The genante ask, about which it necessarily was men to Turkficeren, that they as Turks considered were never stolen.
Massive hervestiging of populations was one of the measures, with which the authorities strengthen wanted the territorial integrity of the country, and the trial of the assimilation to accelerate. The Kurds were deported to the west of Turkey and dedicate spread, while Turks established became in their place. The most important document of the the Turkish administration’ the Law of Hervestiging of 1934, late see that the Turkificatie the primary target was of the hervestiging.
The law described three categories of hervestiginggebieden:
1. Districts “whose evacuatie is desirable for health cultural, political and safeties reasons and true establishment is bans,”
2. Districts, that have been intended for move move move and hervestiging of the population, of which assimilations till the Turkish culture wished is.”
3. Places of which an increase of the population has been wished with the Turkish culture. In other words, particular Kurdish districts became were clouded complete ontvolkt meanwhile in other Kurdish districts the Kurdish element by the establishment of Turks (and the possibility of deportations of local Kurds). The became deported hergevestigd in Turkish districts which they be assimilated could.
The intention the Kurdish community on to break is for a faster assimilation also to see in passing other passages in the Turkish constitution (That currently probably has been adapted). Article 11 goes for instance goes over not-Turkish peoples that their culture try to keep through with each other to remain in ethnic homogeneous towns or trade. The law said: “Those of which the native language not Turkish became not allowed round a group of new towns or communities, workers or trades organizations to begin. Yet will become allowed such persons to reserve an existing town, trade, enterprise or studio for men of the same swift.” This is clear more than alone a legalized form of discrimination; the law over hervestiging furnishes a legal frame for an administration of etnocide.
Against the background of this law, the pacificatie of Dersim in consideration must be taken. Dersim is one of the first regions where the laws were applied. Came there a year after the law of hervestiging in December 1935 a special law for Dersim. The district was changed in a separate province and placed under a military governor that extra exceptional powers had persons to deport and families. The minister of domestic affairs Kaya laid sharpen the necessity of these from with references of the achtergesteldheid and onderhandelbaarheid of the tribes. The district was in a state of wetteloosheid, causes through ignorance and poverty. The tribes regular all legal affairs, civilly as well as criminal affairs according to own “primitive” stammenwet with a total indifference to the state to.
The minister described the situation as an illness. According to him, the 11 earlier military campaigns had not seen to about it under the old regime for to cure the “illness”. A radical treatment was necessary emphasized the minister and he said that these sharpen part was of a reformations program (with civilizing methods) what this people as also would let participate at the blessings of the republic.
The metaphor of the minister for illness and treatment apparently had been borrowed from a report that ten years earlier for the same ministry were made. This document had been reproduced in the official history of the campaign as a guide for the military administration. The author Hamdi Bey named Dersim an “abscess that the republican government must operate further pain to prevent.” He was clearer than Kaya over the nature of the illness of Dersim: It was the growing Kurdish ethnic consciousness.
The treatment wanted to mail with the building of roads and bridges and police and governments buildings in each large city. The unrest that came from this oplegging of governments control saw to for the direct reason of the pacificatie campaign of 1937-38, that on the same moment were exported as the large deportations under the law of 1934. After the Dersim uprising wash crushes must other Kurdish regions that became “civilized” better knowledge then in uprising uprising revolt to come.
The Kemalistische enterprises was a grandioze attempt a new world to develop Mustufa Kemal and its allies had a new state created from the heaps of rubble of the Ottomaanse realm, the ill man of Europe. Through the prohibiting of the Arabic writing destroyed they all pin businesses at the past and were she court the history to rewrite on the manner of which they the good find. The Kemalisten had to make was a modern progressive united nation from a territory a little ever a patchwork of passing ethnic communities. Whatever the national unity would undermine or had been denied it now etniciteit or classes difference at the same time and suppresses on a brute manner. In the eyes of the Kemalisten, this was a trial of liberation and an affirmation of human dignity and equality.
“The people of Ankara, Diyarbakir, Trabzon and Macedonia,” maintained Mustufa Kemal, “be all children of the same race, jewels cut from the same waardevolle stone.” De reality appeared to be often less equal. Even on the day of today become with someone else aim for looked at a person with an identity card of which to see is that he or they born is in Tunceli (Dersim). They are treated distrust with and will find is dislike by civil servants and less fast work even as he proper geturkificeerd.
Someone else famous of said of Mustufa Kemal is, has been written that on passing official buildings and depict through the whole country is ambiguous: “How fortunately is those who itself a Turk can name!” – A little little good implies for those who this do not do. The minister of Justice Mahmut Esat was said less subtle then he the following: The Turkish minister of Justice, Mehmut Esat Bozkurt, says in August 1930: “There is more freedom in Turkey than where also in the world. This country is the native country of the Turks; are they that not of pure Turkish race, have straighten only one: serve or slave become.” 
This ambivalence (The at the same time or after each other be present of opposite landlords) or internal contradictie inherent in the Kemalistische position over the Kurds has more than a half century exist. The Kemalistische conception of Turksheid and the present government has not been based on the biological definition of race. Everybody (aside from perhaps the Christian minorities) is a Turk and many that Kurdish are have level a political career made after they a Turkish identity accepted. As well the former president Turgut Özal and the opposition leader Erdal Inönü its partial of Kurdish origin. Only there is also a feeling of Turkish raciale superiority that comes often to above. These opposite attitudes both have strengthens the oppression of the Kurdish identity.
The democracy of Turkey that began after the second world war sees to for a heropkomst of the Kurdish ethnic consciousness at the same time with a rise of left and right radicalism. Military coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980 tried the Kemalistische puurheid to repaired and saw to to force for new attempts the Kurds till assimilation.
The Turkish president Cemal Gursel, its speech of 10 November 1960 wanted not to stop in even the Kurdish “native country” to destructions.” As the Kurds, will destroy then we their native country, said” he on an imminent tone. (2)
Finally the old Dersim got to make with this new oppression. It was considered no longer longer than a source for ignorance and primitive stammendenken only as a hatch place for communism, while it remained still recognizably Kurdish. Years ago were made there also yet new plans to evacuate large parts of Tunceli and the inhabitants to hervestigen in the west, in the name of bebossing. The oppression was intensified after 1980 again and led in 1994 till an enormous peoples removal. A part of them has requested asylum within Europe, as also in Nederland. De majority of the people of Dersim lives in the diaspora, or in westerly Turkey now or apart from that. There is little been left from Dersim’s distinctieve Kurdish culture and identity.