Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Zilan River Massacre: Part 2

This is Part 2 of the article on Zilan River Massacre that appeared in Gündem. You can read Part 1 on this blog as well.
Zilan River was filled with Corpses

Right after this massacre, the semi official newspaper of the state, Cumhuriyet daily, in its 16 July 1930 issue reported the massacre of Zîlan as below:

‘The villages of Agri that joined the bandits have been burned down and their residents were sent to Erciş. The number of bandits destroyed during the Zilan operation is over 15 thousand. The number of those who fell before a battalion and died is guessed to be over one thousand. Five brigands who made it to Zilan River surrendered. The war in this place has been very fierce. The Zilan river has filled up with corpses.’

Faik Bulut’s book titled ‘Kurdish Uprisings in Turkey’ which included some documents from the Archive of War History has also included the [Turkish] General Staff’s order dated 01 July 1930. The General Staff orders ‘All of the villages in the region of uprising that have participated in the uprising shall be completely burned down.’

Also, the General Staff’s order on 03 July 1930 says this: ‘… To show the people who rise up will be punished, the villages that participated in the Oramar events and the clans in the meadow must be identified and bombed with the air force.’

These documents [included in Faik Bulut’s book] further state that ‘On 02 July 1930 the following activities occured: Kaymaz, Haçan, Kölesor, Çilli ve Osmanlı villages were bombed by airplanes; the villages in the Patnos region that joined the uprising were subjected to machine gun fire and bombings.

According to the government of the time ‘The actions [by state officials and forces] in the uprising cannot be considered as criminal’. The region was a 'fire at will’ zone. The law number 1850 on 20 July 1931 approved this:

Item 1: During the uprising in Erciş, Zilan, Ağrı mountain regions and following that due to the tracking and punishment operations in the jurisdiction of First Public Controller and in Erzincan’s Pülümür town, from 20 June 1930 to 1 December 1930, any individual or group actions of the military forces, government employees, and anyone who acts with or for them, including watchmen, paramilitary [korucular], and regular citizens, related to getting rid of the uprising and events associated with it are not criminal.

Item 2: This law is in effect on the day of its publishing.

Item 3: The representatives of judiciary and internal matters are charged with the implementation of this law.

After the massacre, the Zilan River was declared a military zone closed to the public. After a while, a Government Farm was started there. Later, immigrants from Afghanistan, Turkmen, were brought and settled in the region. There are still villages in the region whose inhabitants are completely Turkmen.

The Zilan River is one of the most painful episodes of the painful struggle of Kurds. Thousands of people, from swaddled babies to old people were killed.

We believe that those who think they can finish Kurds by killing them have been wrong. Those who committed massacres after Zilan River, in Halepçe [Halabja], Qamişlo, Dersim, Lice, and other places and times, could not finish the Kurds’ struggle for freedom. Kurds, because of their struggle for freedom, have faced these massacres and paid heavy prices. Without a doubt, the sacrifices made by the Kurdish people will not be in vain and this people, in the end, will gain their freedom.


İdris ERTAŞ - Tarihe Kazınmış Belgeler; Soykırımlar-III /
Ahmet Kahraman - Kürt İsyanları -
Tedip Ve Tenkil-
M. Remzi Bucak - Bir Kürt Aydınından İsmet İnönü'ye Mektup
Sıddık Güler - Dicle Haber Ajansı
Mehmet Ali Aslan - Kürt Trajedisi
There other eye witnesses who survived the massacre. Here is what another one says:
I think İsmet İnönü gave the order

Kakil Erdem, who is currently 94 and lives in Kündük village, was 17 years old at the time of the massacre. He is one of the few witnesses who survived. He goes on:

“The soldiers were stabbing pregnant women and cutting their babies out. I watched them behead people. They skinned heads of three of my relatives before my eyes. I saw them beating two brothers to death with wood.”

Erdem says when the massacre started, he ran towards the mountains and watched the events from where he hid. “Thousands of soldiers from the 7th Army Corps came to the villages. They surrounded the 72 villages in Zilan. They killed everyone in these villages; men, women, old, young, children, babies, everyone was killed. İbrahim Bey and Derviş Bey were commanding the unit. As they were killing people, we had to run and hide. Some people hid in the wheat fields and beneath their things. Then we all escaped to the mountains. We stayed hungry for days. We went back to the village after the soldiers left. They had killed 35 relatives of mine. I watched them beheading many people. My oldest brother is alive, he saw these too.”

Erdem responds to some allegations which say that the government of the time did not know about the events: “I think İsmet İnönü gave the order. Derviş Bey is father of Alparslan Türkeş. As I think of them, I get chills. I never forgot that massacre. They killed those they captured. Most of the people who died in this massacre were those who fought [side by side with Turks] in the war of independence. They had fought for this country. I did my military service in Sarıkamış. The people we fought together against the enemy later came and killed us.”
What kind of brotherhood is this?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

The Zilan River Massacre: Part 1

Below is Part 1 of the translation of the article appeared in Gündem. Many thanks to a Zarokek Roj (child of sun) who helped with the translation.
The Zilan River Turned Red

The Kurds, during the First World War at the beginning of 20th century, sent hundreds of thousands of Kurdish soldiers to fight side by side with Turks at every front Turks were fighting. Kurds did that to protect Islamic values, their freedom, and because they considered Turks brothers.

After the war was over, the response the Kurds have received were promises that were not kept [by the Turks], the splitting of their homeland into five pieces, the denial of their identity, and bans. In response to this injustice, uprisings break out at every corner of Kurdistan.

One of these uprisings is the one at Agri [Agirî]. After the Turkish state suppressed the Agri uprising, it started an all out annihilation campaign against Kurds at the Zilan River, in the Town of Erciş [Erdîş], Van [Wan] on 13 July 1930.

After the Agri uprising was over, the Kurds took refuge in the Zilan valley. The commander of the Army Corps, Salih Pasha, with the military operation, conducted a massacre against the Kurds taking refuge in the Zilan valley. The Zilan region was bombed with airplanes. The passages to the region get sealed off and tens of thousands of soldiers surrounded the region; the massacre began. From a new born baby to 90 year old elderly, people of all ages, male and female, were raked by machine guns and stabbed with bayonets.

The Bodies Rot

A total of 44 villages were set on fire and around 15 thousand people were tied to one another [and] massacred in the valley. A soldier who was part of the massacre tells the story:

“They made women, children, babies, everyone living in the region, thousands of people to get into the Zilan river. Then these people were surrounded by machine guns. They [the commanders] put us, the privates, on the machine guns. Behind us, there were corporals and sergeants who had their rifles aimed at us. Behind the corporals and sergeants, in the third row, there were commissioned officers waiting with their loaded pistols, ready to fire. If we didn’t fire, the noncommissioned officers were going to shoot us. If the noncommissioned officers didn’t shoot us, the commissioned officers were to shoot them and us. We pulled the triggers. Thousands of bullets spit fire on the people in the river. The horrible cries of women, children, old and young men echoed in the river. After a while the cries turned into moans. Then the moans ended too. Along with old and young men’s bodies, corpses of thousands of women, children, babies in swaddling clothes were left in the pool of blood. The corpses began to rot after a while.”

I was Under the Corpses

A few of the injured, fainted [and] remained under corpses. They survived. For years, they have been telling of this tragic story. Tayfun Susak, -he is known as Tayfunê Zîlan in Bulanik- tells the story:

“Soldiers under the command of Captain Derviş Bey [Captain Derviş Bey is father of Alpaslan Türkeş] attacked the seven villages on the Zilan River with the excuse that we were going to start an uprising. They started killing everyone. In a short time, bodies were all over the place. I fell when I was running. In a short while, I was under corpses. They thought I was dead. They piled corpses. I was under corpses. After the soldiers left, I came out. I was the only survivor in my family. My father, mother, and all my relatives were killed. Very few people survived. And those who survived, like me, they lost their sanity.”

Susak says he was arrested by the soldiers after the events. He continues: “Sometime later, the soldiers came back to the region and took the survivors to Muş, Agri, and Dogubeyazit. I was among them. We suffered hunger and torture in these places. Then I was made to care for soldiers’ livestock for a few years. After this, they took me to Elazig Mental Hospital. I stayed there for a long time. They were treating us like animals there. I suffered a lot in that hospital. After things got better in this area, they set us free. I wanted to go back to my village. When I went there, there was nothing left. Houses were destroyed too. So I came to Muş and settled in the town of Bulanik. Since I came here, I have been living on handouts.”
We shall not forget.

Read on to Part 2.