The Zilan River Turned RedWe shall not forget.
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.”
Read on to Part 2.