Archive for the ‘Turkish Politics’ Category

Turkey’s Alevi Community

November 28, 2009

Turkey’s Alevi community (they represent nearly 20 million people) is in a shock. Once again, they have realized that they are the forgotten majority, the orphan child of the Republic.

Kurdish-Alevi members of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) are increasingly leaving the party following Turkish CHP Deputy Chairman Onur Oymen’s remarks about a 1937 rebellion in the Kurdish-Alevi town of Tunceli (Dersim). On the other hand, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan critics Chairman Onur Oymen over his remarks two weeks ago.

Just recently, in a demonstration organized by the Alevi Bektasi Federation in İstanbul’s Kadıköy district in November 8th under the theme “Equal Citizenship Rights Against Discrimination,” thousands of Alevis came together to voice their demands for the same rights as the Sunni majority expecting that they would draw attention of democratic platforms to the problems and demands of Alevis in the country. 

How naïve this assumption was. Even the Republican People’s Party (CHP) failed to understand their unique needs, diversity, and cry for more religious freedoms. Because we live in a partially free society, we have a tendency to forget that people still lack fundamental political freedoms in many of the Eastern and European countries such as freedom to practice their own religion and religious beliefs. 

In a country where Prime Minister (Mr. Erdogan), speaks at the 3rd Grand Congress of his Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party), even quotes Seyit Rıza, the Alevi leader who led the 1937 Dersim revolt in the Alevi town of Tunceli, which was violently suppressed by the government of the time using a military campaign that resulted in the deaths of some 90,000 people, a lot is being expected from opposition parties, especially from Republican People’s Party (CHP). 

It is believed that economic freedoms and political freedoms can hardly be separated and they are very much interconnected. The restrictions imposed on individual, political, and religious freedoms can only be improved and removed if and only if the county adopts the essential features of a free market economy. Therefore, economic arrangements fill a dual purpose in promoting a free society. 

Let me explain this in detail. 

According to the organizers of the protest, The Alevis’ main demands are:

  • the abolishment of compulsory religious lessons offered by the government
  • the recognition of Alevi praying houses
  • the abolishment of the Religious Affairs Directorate (RAD),
  • turning the Madimak Hotel, where 37 Alevis were killed in 1993, into a museum

If Alevis are being asked to attend compulsory religious lessons, if their Alevi praying houses are not being recognized by the government, if the Religious Affairs Directorate is only funding the mosques but not the Alevi praying houses, it is clear that the government policies and programs are limiting the religious rights and basic individual freedoms of the citizens’ of Turkey. 

It is evident that some compulsory government programs and policies deprive people of their religious, individual, and political freedoms. So where is the connection between the political and economic freedom? 

In a free private enterprise, society uses its resources to control goods and services where possibility of coordination and cooperation through voluntary involvement of the agents is respected. In a free private enterprise, society also maintains law and order to prevent coercion of one individual by another and to enforce contracts voluntarily entered into. The other great advantage of free private enterprise is also its ability to offer diversity and options. 

In essence, free market provides economic freedom. In the event that the economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few then this political power will also be a threat to the individual freedoms.

The existence of the free market does not eliminate the need for a government to offer other cultural freedoms listed above. And, especially this government has an important role of determining the rules of the game.

To put this argument in a different perspective, we may easily claim that the Turkish Government is eliminating the options and diversity of individual options as it aims to regulate the religious society. 

In our case, with the Alevis, we come to observe that theTurkish Government activity should insist on “limiting” and “renouncing” its religious programs and religious activities and enabling a more diverse society. 

It is clear that further steps should be taken to enforce this decision. 

Religious education should not be made compulsory and individual taxes collected from the Alevis should not be funneled to the creation and construction of the Sunni religious infrastructure. 

In addition to that, The Directorate of Religious Affairs should limit and renounce its religious programs and religious activities where and if individual freedoms are refrained. 

Do you really believe that the Republican People’s Party (CHP) will understand the basic and fundamental needs of Alevi community and their cry for more religious freedoms? 

I remind you, once again, Prime Minister Erdogan’s speech at the 3rd Grand Congress of his Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party), even quoting Seyit Rıza, the Alevi leader who led the 1937 Dersim revolt in the Alevi town of Tunceli, which was violently suppressed by the government of the time using a military campaign that resulted in the deaths of some 90,000 people. 

Given the facts, a lot is being expected from opposition parties, especially from Republican People’s Party (CHP).


A scientific and impartial approach to Kurdish History

November 24, 2009

Confessions, confessions, and confessions…

Confessions of Turkish CHP Deputy Chairman …

Official history, is once again being unrevealed in the statements, speeches, and writings of these powerful politicians and diplomats.

I find this moment very important and wise to provide you with some facts and historical anecdotes. 

In cases where it may be doubtful on which side justice lies, what better can support our judgment than the historical facts? 

Without the compass of facts, figures, research, and impartial observations and with our continued dependence on official historians comprised of superiority of the official/national tools and resources, the answer is always skewed towards insufficient and lack of facts which diminishes the importance of Kurdishness. 

And for that reason, no one can provide a cure but the lines that lie in the shelves of the libraries and secrets of unbiased archives. 

The lack of power to promote the progress of scientific research and utility of this power should be questioned. The indispensable necessity of the facts for the historian is crucial. Without it, it is not possible to produce records, statements, research papers, and articles. 

Without it, we will all be drawn into questions. Without it, we will be drawn in the darkness of the oceans. Without it, we will sacrifice our souls to the shades of dishonest life styles and connections. 

I am hoping that the facts provided in these articles will allow us to see the colors rather than the shades, facts rather than the unscientific information, truth rather than the biased and nationalistic views. 

“Criticize Atatürk and its period if you dare,” said Onur Oymen, when defending his remarks on the Dersim Rebellion, which received criticism from several communities but particularly from Kurds and Alevis. 

Oymen’s statement implying to the fact that it is impossible to question and criticize Atatürk’s personal aspects and political views has triggered questions about why the early years of the republic have not been analyzed by historians, journalists and scholars.

Even Ertugrul Ozkok, a populist journalist, devoted his column on Friday in the Hurriyet Daily to the “Dersim debate” and said it has influenced people to discuss the Atatürk era and the single-party period of the new regime.

He pointed out that Oymen’s statements, which Ozkok thinks he made unwisely, will be beneficial for Turkey as they have brought the political developments in the early years of Turkey under the spotlight.


I urge you to continue to read the articles which will be published on this site; a scientific and impartial approach will be taken to review the Kurdish history, on these very pages. And I am hoping that the facts provided in these articles will allow you to see the colors rather than the shades, facts rather than the unscientific information, truth rather than the biased and nationalistic views. 


Kurdish Massacre and 1938 uprising in Dersim

November 22, 2009

Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Onur Öymen’s unfortunate comments on the Dersim Rebellion have led Turkish Government, Politicians, Political Power Centers, and Journalists to examine the rebellions years of the republic era from a different perspective.

There are so many articles written with regards to this issue (1938 uprising in Dersim), in the last few days, that the level of expressionism and genuineness published in the Turkish newspapers, on the subject matter, gives validity to the mass massacre (some call genocide) itself.

Two questions of a very delicate nature present themselves on this historical occasion.

1. On what principle did the Turkish Government carried out the forced assimilation and mass massacre and who was behind the the decisions?

2. What are the consequences and lessons to be learned?

The first question can be answered at once by referring to the recurring and repetitive frequency of the case in the Kurdish region, called Dersim, located North Eeast of Turkey. During the 1930s, Turkish government aimed at consolidating the control of the Kurdish areas, including Dersim, and increased their efforts of forced assimilation

  • The Turkish Assembly, in a rush, passed the “Settlement Law”, which allowed the Turkish Government to evacuate and dispalce most of the Kurdish residents.
  • The “Law of Maintenance of Order”, gave government the power to establish a form of oppression never seen before. Thousands of villages were given Turkish names and the word “Kurdistan” was removed from the Turkish vocabulary. Objective was to erase any memory associated with the Kurdishness, the Kurdish land, and the past.
  • Around the same time, Fourth General Governance was established. General Abdullah Alpdogan, with the attributes of being the Governor of Dersim, was appointed.
  • In 1936, General Abdullah Alpdogan, re-named Dersim “Tunç eli (Bronze hand)”, and announced that Kurdish people did not exist as a race.
  • A military court, called “Independence Court”, was established in Dersim. Through this legislation Dersim was declared a “Prohibited Area”.
  • Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in his opening speech of the Assembly in 1936, said the following: “If there is an important phase within our domestic affairs then this is the matter of “Dersim”. This domestic job, the job of ripping off, cleaning up and to radically carve this dreadful boil, this wound, has to be done no matter what the costs associated and hence the government should be granted absolute and extensive authorization so that urgent decisions can be taken on this matter.
  • The Turkish State, staged a military attack with heavy armament. War planes taking off from Diyarbekir bombarded Dersim in 1936.
  • The occupation which had to be interrupted due to winter conditions was resumed in 1937.
  • The civilians took refuge in the mountains in the face of Turkish army’s siege and later invasion.
  • Villages were bombed, burnt down and destroyed.
  • On15 September 1937, the leader of Dersim Uprising, Seyit Rıza, was seized on the Muti bridge on his way to Erzincan.
  • In the indictment prepared for Seyit Riza and his friends the prosecutor, Hatemi Şahamoğlu, had made the following statements: “This case is a case opened by Tunceli against Dersim. The judgment delivered by the High Court shall lead Tunceli to live and Dersim to be thrown on the trash heap of history”.
  • On 10 November 1937, the court deliveres the judgement of death penalty for Seyid Riza, his son and 7 others. On 15 November 1937 Seyid Riza, his son and friends were executed.
  • However, the massacre continued in the aftermath of the executions. Although the army withdrew back to its barracks in the months of winter, with the onset of spring 1938 they attacked once again and implements mass massacres.
  • In Mustafa Kemal’s opening speech of the Assembly, read by Celal Bayar due to his illness and absence, on 1 November 1938 he expressed his pleasure over the “end of banditry and robbery incidents and the procurement of national sovereignty” in Dersim while Ismet Inönü said “We are rid of the difficult problem of Dersim”.

With the historical facts reviewed, second question can be answered with a sense of responsibility and sensibility:

Dersim stands as a mass massacre, for some as a genocide, which is forgotten or wished to be forgotten by official and political power centers.

Solidarity that was shown for Jewish people must be shown with the innocent people of Dersim civilians that were bombarded, massacred, and displaced at the same time. 

Turkish armed forces listed almost 8,000 Dersim residents killed in the last few months of 1938 alone. More than 1 million Kurds were displaced in the conflict. Estimates of the number of Kurds killed in Dersim between 1937 and 1938 run as high as 20,000.

 In the process of displacement, thousand of Kurdish homes were burned, villages permanently depopulated, and civilians massacred. Hundreds of Kurds hidings in caves or barns were buried to death by the Turkish armed forces. There were reports of Kurds suffering from collective suicides. According to historian McDowall, “Turkey was practicing crude social engineering”.

 As presented, with the facts, and consolidating all the debts and engagements of the Turkish Government and obligations of the State to the Kurds, and under the light of recent discussion that took place following Mr. Onur Öymen’s unfortunate comments, a popular insurrection to the dissatisfaction of the government of 1938th was oppressed with a military and political force that reminds us the practices of Germans against the displaced Jewish settlers.

 We can no longer pretend to be the observers of this cruel form of civil democracy dictating its own perspective on historical matters and facts. We must work hard and impatiently to bring about the awareness where archives are made available to the community and this process of transparency and openness shall have a magical effect of dissolving the oppression to its moral obligations, sects, and atoms.