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September 1, 2010
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Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu, and Genocide of Dersim

Kurdishaspect.com - By Amed Demirhan

During this partial constitutional amendments referendum, Turkish politics are getting intense and heated. The new leader of the Republican People Party (RPP -Turkish CHP) Mr. Kemal Kilicdaroglu has created an interesting debate mostly because of his “Alevi-Kurdish” background but some times because of his reckless claims. For example, he claimed in the past that he is a “Sayid” meaning a decedent of Prophet Mohammed par-excellence while actually his tribe is from Khorasan in Central Asia which makes him an original Turk. It is well in line with the old Turkish claim that Kurds are “Mountain Turks”. Mr. Kilicdaroglu has been a living example of that. Another time the RPP leader claimed he was like “Gandhi,” but a few weeks later he went to a Turkish military post on the Iraqi-Kurdistan border and took photos with a Turkish officer in a war trench against Kurds. (1) And so he demonstrated his commitment and support to the Turkish military in a war against Kurds.

However, there are some that have been abusing his “Alevi – Kurdish” identity knowing he can’t defend himself on that basis. At times some of the accusations against him have reached to racist slander; for example, those of mayor of Ankara Mr. Melih Gokcek. The Mayor claimed Mr. Kilcdaroglu’s mother is Armenian descend and his father Alevi – Kurdish; knowing these three identifications: Armenian, Alevi, and Kurd are the worst things in Turkish political literature.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayip Erdogan, statement about Dersim (a Kurdish City/Region in Northwest Kurdistan) regarding a Kurdish genocide created quite serious debate. Mr. Erdogan stated’: “… Kemal Kilicdaroglu is from Dersim. This place was bombarded with order of former RPP leader Ismet Inunu (co-founder of Turkish Republic and second man in command) because people of Dersim didn’t pay taxes. It is claimed 20 thousand, 30 thousand, 40 thousand, and/or 50 thousand were killed without due process. First this has to be cleared.” (2) After Erdogan statement there have been many discussions in the Turkish media about the genocide of Dersim in 1937 – 1938.  Soner Yalcin a writer and columnist in daily Huriyet on August 22, 2010, wrote an article (with an interview with Kilicdaroglu) in defense of Mr. Kilicdaroglu. In his article he claimed that Mr. Kilicdaroglu has studied this “incident” and actually has interviewed a former Turkish politician, Ihsan Sabri Cagliyangil, who has participated in this “incident.” Basically his article presents Mr. Kilicdaroglu’s point of view. Mr. Cagliyangil claimed the reason the war started in Dersim: “Seyit Riza’s men have killed a Turkish Officer and 33 soliders…”  (3) In reality Mr. Kilicdaroglu didn’t have to do any particular research as there are thousands of survivors and eye witnesses from Dersim still alive in his town. His parents, grandparents, and neighbor could have told him, too, but this is not why the war started.

Another interesting article on this subject was published in the daily “Zaman” newspaper by Mustafa Armagan . (4) This article had more substance and indicated a more serious allegation that most people know. Armagan implied that Attaturk himself had given an order to Turkish Army to commit a genocide in Dersim, which is a well-know fact but official dogma has never admitted it. However, this article, too, doesn’t actually mention how and why war started except mentioning that the Turkish state saw the Dersim region as a threat to the Turkish army.

Since this is a very important subject of modern Turkish -Kurdish history and for Kurdish -Turkish relation every one should publish all available documents about Dersim. Here how it was reported in a British secret document in 1943: the Turkish government appoints Mr. Abeddin Osman as the inspector general for eastern provinces (Kurdistan [AD]) to prepare a report for government policy. In 1936 Mr. Osman submitted his report about how to deal with Kurdistan Region in Turkey. In January 1937 the Turkish government passes a new law for the Kurdistan region. I quote the shortened list that reported by the British officials:
  • A Military Governor was to be appointed.
  • The civil administration was suspended and replaced by military law.
  • Local tribunals were to be set up with powers up to capital punishment.
  • The Military Governor was to have a free hand in regard to military operations in his area.
  • The use of any language other than Turkish was forbidden.
  • The teaching in schools of any other language than Turkish and keeping of books in any foreign language were forbidden. (p. 117) (5)

The British report continues in this subject and states clearly that the Dersim Region until then never participated in any anti-government rebellion. Nevertheless, after this law passed the leader of Dersim started feeling uncomfortable. The report state: “However, feeling in Dersim ran high, meetings were held and a delegation visited the Military Governor bearing a letter of protest. The three emissaries who carried the letter were arrested and executed at Elaziz a few days later. As a reprisal the Kurds stopped a convoy of Turkish police cars and kidnapped the police. Revolt had started. A considerable Turkish force was assembled and in May 1937 military operations against the rebels commenced. This operation lasted well into 1938 and it is reported that more than three army corps were employed, Villages were burned but the Kurds, adopting guerilla tactics, defied the Turkish Army in the Mountains. Little is known of what actually happened except from Kurdish sources according to which, despite savage massacres, the spirit of Kurdish resistance was not broken.” (p.117)

The Turkish Prime Minister and the Justice and Development Party’s leader Mr. Erdogan, says up to 50, 000 civilian may have been killed in Dersim. I don’t know about exact numbers but most eye witnesses I talked with during my university years in Elaziz said many more civilian were killed. The Turkish Government used chemical gas on civilian population and killed many “prisoner of war” including children and pregnant women and later deported tens of thousands of survivors to the Turkish cities in the west. Aren’t  these crimes against humanity?

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(1)  You may check this link for photo of  the man claim to be “Ghandi”   http://fotogaleri.hurriyet.com.tr/galeridetay.aspx?cid=37393&rid=2

(2)  “Erdoğan: Dersim'i CHP bombaladı” http://www.radikal.com.tr/Radikal.aspx?aType=RadikalDetay&
ArticleID=1013583&CategoryID=78

(3)  Yalcin, S. (2010, August 22) “Kılıçdaroğlu sordu Çağlayangil yanıtladı KONU: DERSİM” http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/15608090_p.asp retrieved 08 22, 2010

(4)  Armagan, M. (2010, August 29)” "Dersim'i vurun" emrini Atatürk mü verdi?”
ZAMAN http://zaman.com.tr/yazar.do?yazino=1021324&title=
dersimi-vurun-emrini-ataturk-mu-verdi

(5)  Destani, B (2006)M Minorities in the Middle East Kurdish Communities 1918-1974 (Vols. 3 - 4) Chippenham, UK. Antony Rowe Ltd.

Amed Demirhan
e-mail: ameddemirhan@hotmail.com

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies with a minor in Spanish, a Master of Arts Degree in Dispute Resolution from Wayne State University and a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Southern Mississippi, His languages spoken are: Kurdish, Swedish, Turkish, Spanish and English.


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