Dersim

When & Where The 1938 massacres at Dersim of the Kurdish people by the Turkish government is an incident still hotly cited by Kurdish nationals and sympathizers against Turkey'

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When & Where

The 1938 massacres at Dersim of the Kurdish people by the Turkish government is an incident still hotly cited by Kurdish nationals and sympathizers against Turkey's human rights violations. Dersim is a small town located in the middle of Turkey's Anatolia region.Following many disagreements between the Kurds and the Turkish government, military rule was established in Dersim, which had been renamed to Tunceli, in 1937.

Several local rebel leaders were executed upon failed attempts to appeal to the government for autonomy and others to request foreign military aid.In 1938, heavy bombings, gassings, and artillery raids were presented against various Dersim area villages. While many fled to nearby caves for refuge, even those settlements were eventually killed by harsh methods including the drowning of children in the Euphrates river. Overall, around 40,000 Kurds were murdered. Any known survivors were locally imprisoned or deported, and a military regime remained in effect until 1946. During that time, no public programs were given to the citizens at Dersim, one traveler to the area in 1948 noted that there were not even any medical facilities or educational centers.

Not much more is known about the massacres in and near Dersim, more formal government investigation is needed to provide missing information and detailed reports. The few survivors of the time mostly shared their experience in oral stories. The first written account was not recorded until 14 years after the incident occurred.

In 1938, heavy bombings, gassings, and artillery raids were presented against various Dersim area villages.While many fled to nearby caves for refuge, even those settlements were eventually killed by harsh methods including the drowning of children in the Euphrates river. Overall, around 40,000 Kurds were murdered.Any known survivors were locally imprisoned or deported, and a military regime remained in effect until 1946.During that time, no public programs were given to the citizens at Dersim, one traveler to the area in 1948 noted that there were not even any medical facilities or educational centers.Not much more is known about the massacres in and near Dersim, more formal government investigation is needed to provide missing information and detailed reports.The few survivors of the time mostly shared their experience in oral stories.The first written account was not recorded until 14 years after the incident occurred.

 How & Why

In 1920 following several revolts of the Society for the Rise of Kurdistan, the Kurds in Dersim sent a declaration of autonomy to the Kemalist government. In 1921, violent clashes between the Kemal and the Kurds began in Dersim. Ultimately, these Kurdish nationalist efforts failed. 

Beginning in 1930, the Turkish government implemented programs to deport, disarm, and force the settlement of various nomadic tribes -- primarily those of Kurdish origin. These efforts were especially enforced in the Dersim region. In 1935, the government made a new plan to include administrative restructuring of Dersim and armed suppression of its people. It was in that year that Dersim was renamed to Tunceli.

 
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Long-Term Effects
The massacre at Dersim remains a vivid and disturbing part of recent Kurdish history. The incident is part of why there is still a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey today. Unfortunately, other military attacks in the Dersim area have persisted even as late as 1994, according to Turkey's state minister for human rights, Azimet Köylüoğlu.
The Turkish government never formally acknowledged the killings of the 1930s until Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered an apology in 2011. However, many Kurds doubt the sincerity of his apology, pointing to political gains in exchange for the words. They believe Mr. Erdogan's statement was made only to win votes from Kurdish citizens.
Some citizens of the city now called Tunceli want to reverse the name back to its original Kurdish title of Dersim, stating that the Turkish government never asked the population for input on the name change.

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