Turkey commemorates victims of Sivas Massacre on 30th anniversary

Thousands on July 2 marched together in Sivas province on the 30th anniversary of the Sivas Massacre to commemorate the 33 victims radical Islamists killed. Family members of slain intellectuals renewed their call for the Madımak Hotel, where their relatives were burned to death, to become a museum.

Thousands gather in Sivas province for the commemoration of victims.

Duvar English

Thousands of people on July 2 commemorated the victims of the Sivas Massacre on its 30th anniversary by marching to the Madımak Hotel in Sivas province, where 33 intellectuals and 2 two hotel personnel were burned to death by radical Islamists. 

Relatives of those killed in the massacre as well as representatives from opposition Green Left Party (YSP) and Republican People Party (CHP), rights groups and Alevi and Bektashi organizations attended the ceremony.

Thousands have carried the photographs of the massacred writer, poet, thinker and artists and shouted their names. The participants marched to the hotel with the slogans "Sivas martyrs are immortal," "Do not forget Sivas," and “Secularism against sharia, justice against oppression" and organized a commemoration there. 

Thousands gather in front of the Madımak Hotel for the commemoration.

Mehmet Gündüz, who lost his son Murat Gündüz in the massacre, made a speech on behalf of the massacred families and said, "We will not leave this place until we die. Our struggle will continue until Madımak becomes the Museum of Shame. We have to be united. Every day we are going into darkness. This darkness will swallow us.”

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 attack against the Madımak Hotel targeted a group of artists and scholars participating in a conference organized by the Alevi organization Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Foundation (PSAKD). The majority of murderers were never found despite being filmed throughout the whole massacre.  

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 Party Temel Karamollaoğlu who was the mayor of Sivas province during the massacre.

Meanwhile, Felicity Party's official Twitter account released a statement on July 2, condemning the atrocity which was retweeted by Karamollaoğlu as well. Nonetheless, he in 2020 said, “A massacre is the deliberate killing of people. The people inside died from smoke inhalation, not from burning to death.”

Thousands chant as the Madımak Hotel is on fire with people inside it.

In 1993, almost 15,000 people participated in the march towards the Madımak Hotel after Friday prayers in which radical Islamists chanted "Sivas will be the grave of secularists." Security forces did not intervene against the Islamist mob who waited in front of the hotel for hours and eventually set it on fire. The fire brigade also intervened late.

At the end of the long trial process, 33 defendants were sentenced to death and 14 defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging up to 15 years. In 2002, the death penalty was abolished and 33 people were sentenced to life imprisonment. Eight key figures in the Sivas massacre escaped and disappeared in 1997.

Many of the defendants' lawyers have risen to parliamentary and ministerial positions in conservative right-wing parties, and the number of people in prison has been reduced to 33 with the release of prisoners over time.