Turkey bans commemoration of Kurdish-Alevi Dersim Massacre

Seyid Riza Square in Dersim is covered with candles to commemorate the massacre.

Turkish authorities have banned a commemoration event for the 80th anniversary of the Dersim massacre, in which thousands of Kurdish-Alevis were killed by Turkish forces between 1937 and 1938.

The event, which was due to be held in the Seyid Riza Square in Dersim (named Tunceli in Turkish) on Thursday, was banned by the local governorate on the grounds of state of emergency and because it could be “used by some groups for other purposes.”

According to historians the massacre occurred after some Kurdish-Alevi tribes resisted assimilation and resettlement policies by the Turkish government, which had begun in 1935 with the ‘Tunceli Law’. Many men who surrendered were then executed by shooting and women and children were locked into haystacks which were set on fire.

According to Turkish official Ihsan Sabri Caglayangil Turkish troops also used chemical agents in the massacre. In an interview, Caglayangil, a security chief at the time said, “The Turkish army gassed to death Kurds in caves like rats.”

The Turkish army carried out three operations in the area against the local population between 1937 and 1938, leading to the death of at least 40,000 people, according to historians.

In 2011 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologised on behalf of the state for the killing of 13,000 people, however no further steps were taken to compensate the victims or address the issue.