Document Indicates Complicity in Turkey’s Dersim Massacre, Says Lawyer

ISTANBUL (Radikal)–A 1955 document that declared the relatives of a Tunceli man were “annihilated” following the 1938 Dersim Operation has been submitted to court as proof of crimes against humanity.

The record, which belonged to Ali Akgun, said “the family members were totally annihilated.”

Tunceli Governor’s Office permitted Akgun to return to the eastern Turkish province, which was known as Dersim until the 1930s, from exile in Kutahya on Aug. 27, 1955, based on the document.

The same document, which is now being cited as proof of an official acknowledgment of the massacre, has become the basis for legal action initiated by Ali Akgün’s son, Huseyin Akgun, to bring those responsible for the deaths of 10 family members to justice.

Huseyin Akgun, who is also an attorney, filed a complaint on April 22 against the commander and private gendarmes who participated in the operation, claiming they “committed a crime against humanity” by “organizing the killings of 10 women and children for the purposes of the total destruction of a social group based on political, philosophical or religious motives.”

The attorney said that because the killings were crimes against humanity, there could be no statute of limitations.

“This case is a good opportunity to reconcile with Dersim. I hope this case also contributes to Turkey’s efforts at reconciliation with many similar events of the past,” he said.

According to the allegations, gendarmerie troops shot the family of Zeynel Cavus, Huseyin Akgun’s grandfather, near Avlosen brook in Camurek village. Among those murdered were his daughter-in-law Humar and her kids Elif, 20, Mehmet, 14, Hadice, 11, Ahmedi, 6, twins Suzan and Alicemal, 5, Hetip, 3, Emine, 2.

Other members of the family, including Hüseyin, Humar’s husband and Zeynel’s son, along with his brother and Huseyin Akgün’s father, Ali, succeeded in escaping.

Akgun has also brought another case related to the 1938 Dersim Operation to court on behalf of client Efo Bozkurt, 86, whose father, mother, sisters, and brothers were allegedly murdered by gendarmerie in the Caytasi village of Hozat district.

The early Turkish Republic launched an operation in Dersim in 1938 to pacify the restive province.

In 1937, the government at the time began an ethnic cleansing operation in Dersim, today’s Tunceli province located in eastern Turkey, that continued until 1938 with the goal of emptying the area of its Kurdish and Armenian inhabitants.

According to Hasan Saltık, owner of Kalan Music Company, 13,160 civilians were killed and 2,258 families, including 11,818 people, were exiled after the operation, daily Radikal reported in November.

The Dersim massacre was recalled recently when Republican and People’s Party, Deputy Onur Oymen made a gaffe about it last year that was widely criticized for supporting the Dersim military operation. In a Nov. 10 parliamentary session about the government’s Kurdish initiative, former diplomat Oymen said: “Unfortunately, the mothers of this country cried a lot. We created lots of martyrs. All their mothers cried. Did mothers not cry during the Dersim uprising? No one stood up and said, ‘Let no mothers cry [so that we] stop this struggle.’”

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