Dersim 1938, Turkish soldiers and the Kurds of Dersim
9 April 2016
by Hasan Cemal
“Do not leave a single stone nor a single body standing in Nusaybin!”
These words belong to Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli.
Listening to him on television I shuddered.
It is a call to massacre…
Or the resurrection of the ‘tenkil’ mentality.
Tenkil is to annihilate wholesale.
It is collective massacre.
And it means to not leave a single stone or body standing.
The 1938 Dersim Massacre is one terrifying example of this ‘tenkil’ mentality, and it is still very vivid and has not disappeared into the recesses of the state.
In February 1991, Süleyman Demirel [former Turkey PM and President] told me:
“Terrifying things happened in Dersim in 1938.”
Ihsan Sabri Çaglayangil, a Foreign Minister during Demirel’s tenure in government and the police commissioner of Dersim in 1938, told current Republic People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in 1986:
"They had taken refuge in caves. The army used poisonous gas, through the cave openings, and poisoned them like rats… Young and old, they killed the Kurds of Dersim."
Former Air Force Commander and one of the leading figures of the 12 March 1971 military coup Muhsin Batur writes in his memoirs of his ‘special mission’ as a pilot in Dersim:
"We erected a tent military post a little way from Elazığ, at the foot of Harput. Soon after we began our operation at the first stop, which was Pertek [a Kurdish town]. For more than two months we were on a special mission… I apologise to my readers and refrain from talking about this period of my life."
What was the ‘special mission.’
Why had Muhsin Batur refrained, even after many years, from talking about this period of his life, these questions I am passing.
Dersim was most certainly a ‘tenkil’ operation.
In 2010 current President Tayyip Erdoğan was to say:
"50,000 people were massacred in Dersim in 1938…"
This mentality, which did not “leave a single stone and a single body standing” in Dersim has been resurrected.
Unfortunately this is the case.
After years, Cizre and Sur will also be talked about like Dersim and sadly the suffering of today is forming the foundation for the greater sorrows of tomorrow.
But some, like they did in history and like they are doing today, are going to continue defending the ‘tenkil’ mentality as a requisite of ‘state mentality.’
What kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it cannot find a solution to a problem that has spawned 29 rebellions since 1923.
What kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it has banned the identity and language of a group of its own citizens but has not found a solution since 1923.
What kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it has forcefully displaced its own citizens and burned down their homes for years on end and yet has not found a solution since 1923.
What kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it has completely ignored law, created Susurluks [mafia-state relations], Ergenekons [deep states] and committed thousands of extrajudicial killings, but has not found a solution since 1923.
What kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it has carried out military coups, suspended democracy, disregarded law, fed feces to its own citizens as in the example of Diyarbakir Military Prison, but has not found a solution since 1923.
What kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it has not solved the issue, but conversely exacerbated and deepened it.
What kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it has spent Turkey’s resources on war rather than development and welfare.
What kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it has led to the death of more than 50,000 of its own citizens since 1984.
What kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it has not taken the necessary lessons from all the bloodshed and mistakes since 1923.
And finally, what kind of ‘state mentality’ is it that it thinks, despite all the blood and tears and tragedies, that a solution is at the end of a barrel,.
One can only be baffled by such a ‘mentality!’
One can only be baffled by a ‘state mentality’ that always does the same things and expects different results… The end!
Originally written and published in Turkish on T24. Translated by Kurdish Question.