Turkey commemorates victims of Sivas Massacre on 29th anniversary

Thousands on July 2 attended a commemorative march to mark the 29th anniversary of a massacre which targeted Turkey’s Alevi community in Sivas. Rights activists have called on the state to bring the real perpetrators to account, saying that “a society that does not face its history rots away.”

Duvar English

Turkey is remembering victims of the Sivas Massacre, which took place when a large group of radical Islamists set the Madımak Hotel in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas on fire on July 2, 1993, killing 33 intellectuals and two hotel personnel, on the 29th anniversary.

A commemoration ceremony was held on July 2 in Sivas to remember the victims. Relatives of those killed in the massacre as well as representatives of various political parties, rights groups and Alevi and Bektashi organizations attended the ceremony.

Thousands of people walked towards the Madımak Hotel carrying photos of the victims. They shouted slogans of “The light of Sivas will not go out,” “Sivas has been still burning since 1993,” “Do not forget Sivas” and repeated their demand that the former hotel be turned into a “museum of shame.”

The building, which became a symbol of discrimination faced by Turkey’s Alevi population, was expropriated in 2010 and turned into a science museum. 

The crowds left carnations in front of the Madımak Hotel and observed a moment of science for the victims.

The chair of the Alevi organization Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Foundation (PSAKD), Cuma Erçe, held a speech here on behalf of all Alevi organizations, calling on the state to uncover the truth behind the massacre and saying that it was “a crime committed against humanity.”

“This hotel is stil burning and scattering light...July 2 was committed to bring the regime of one-man just like today. Those who walked arm-in-arm with the current rulership have hurt us. A society that does not face its history rots away,” he said.

The attack against the Madımak Hotel targeted a group of artists and scholars participating in a conference organized by the PSAKD. The majority of murderers were never found despite being filmed. 

The attendees of the conference were accused of being infidels by the large crowd outside, who had been provoked to action by a number of local political leaders, including the current head of opposition Islamist Felicity (Saadet) Party Temel Karamollaoğlu who was the mayor of Sivas during the massacre.

Meanwhile, Felicity Party's official Twitter account released a statement on July 2, condemning the atrocity.  The statement, which was retweeted by Karamollaoğlu, commemorated the victims and said that the massacre was a “joint pain of all of us.”

Several other politicians also took to Twitter to mark the anniversary of the massacre, using the widely shared hashtag of #unutMADIMAKlımda (I have not forgotten Madımak, it is on my mind).

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said that for Turkey to not go through “the same pains,” there is a need for “unity and solidarity” as well as the cultivation of “seeds of love.”

“The pain of the fire that befell on our hearts at Madımak Hotel 29 years ago, is still in us,” said İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener.

Former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said that although so many years have passed by since the atrocity, “a real confrontation [for the truth to be exposed] has not happened.”