Tens of thousands of people including mostly Kurdish, Alevi and Armenian communities in Dersim were subjected to forced displacement in 1937-38, in an event known as the ”Dersim Tertelesi” or ‘Dersim Massacre’ that resulted in the deaths of more than 70,000 people.
Hıdır Çiçek was a little boy when he lost 80 relatives of his family during the Dersim massacre. He speaks to Mesopotamia News Agency (MA) about his memories and how his father survived from the massacre after hiding in the caves for years.
“We were living in the Gevrek district of the Kutudere region Gökçek village. Only my father Kamer Çiçek and his cousin survived the massacre of my family, almost 80 people died” he starts telling of his past.
Cicek grew up with the stories he listened to from his father who hid in the mountains from the Turkish state. “The tribe leaders close to the state all worked for the government, they brought the elderly, women and children in the village to the nearby police station.” he remembers the first days.
“A few days later these people were massacred in the Pax and Marchik regions, and when the others heard of it they all escaped to the mountains. My family was among them, my father and nephew survived in the caves for years.” Later with the amnesty law, they could return from the mountains.
Çiçek shares some memories about her father’s experience:
”The moment his beloved brother Hemede Civraile Khejia was shot had a great impact on my father. Whenever he was speaking about him, he always cried.”
Another memory of his father was about the use of chemical gas on the murdered villagers in the Laç cave.” Still the bodies could not be identified” he said.
When his father was asked to surrender, he did not accept it at first.
”Our leaders and notables were trying to convince my father to surrender, saying ‘If you die, there will be nobody left in a whole family’. My father accepted on the condition that he did not give up his gun”.
Çiçek also spoke to at least a hundred witnesses of the massacre as well as his father. He even recorded the voices of those who were alive at that time. ”I met an old man in Tornova near the village where Seyit Rıza lived, he told me he was about 14 years old at the time of the massacre.” he says.
When he asks how he survived he says: “There were heroes, and they resisted. After four years had passed, the security forces came here and the amnesty was issued, this is how we survived” he answers.
Çiçek ends his interview by saying “We call it genocide. They killed everyone, even the babies, elderly, women, without exception. Whatever they say, we define it as a genocide and the facts about Dersim should be revealed.”