Demonstration marking 1993 Sivas massacre joins hands with Gezi Park

Demonstration marking 1993 Sivas massacre joins hands with Gezi Park

ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency
Demonstration marking 1993 Sivas massacre joins hands with Gezi Park

Thousands attended to the commemoration demonstration of the 1993 Sivas massacre a week before its 20th anniversary. DHA photo

Thousands gathered in Istanbul's Anatolian district of Kadıköy to mark the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Sivas massacre, upon a call from Alevi associations.

A number of unions as well as the Taksim Solidarity Platform, a local organization that launched the Gezi Park protests, also attended the demonstration. A representative of the platform made a speech emphasizing that their demands had yet to be met by the government.

The crowd was commemorating the killing of 35 people on the night of July 1-2, 1993, in an arson attack led by a mob on a hotel where many Alevi intellectuals and artists who had come to Sivas for a conference were staying. The controversies surrounding the pogrom have never completely been uncovered and an Ankara court dropped the case on the killings in March 2012, ruling that the charges against the suspects exceeded the statute of limitations. The Madımak hotel has since become a symbol of the discrimination faced by the Alevi community, who have long asked the state to turn it into a memorial museum.

Demonstrators also commemorated Ethem Sarısülük, a young Alevi protester who died after allegedly being shot by police during the Gezi Park events in Ankara.

Outcry over third Bosphorus bridge's name

At the Kadıköy demonstration, Kemal Bülbül, the Chairman of the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association, slammed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's attitude toward the Alevi community. "After saying 'one confession,' 'one religion,' 'one language,' 'one race,' he now says 'one man.' We don't accept any of it," Bülbül said.

He also criticized the choice of the name "Yavuz Sultan Selim" for the future third bridge over the Bosphorus. Known in English as "Selim the Grim," Selim is the Ottoman Sultan who is well known for slaughtering Alevis, and the Alevi community has repeatedly expressed its outrage over the government's selection. 

Following the bridge furor, President Abdullah Gül proposed to name a future project after Hacı Bektaş, a mystic who influenced the Alevi faith, or the Alevi poet Pir Sultan Abdal.

"Change the name of the university in Sivas to Pir Sultan Abdal. Establish the Hacı Bektaş Theology University. Change the name of Tunceli, which is in fact the name of a military operation, back to Dersim. Then we'll talk," Bülbül said. 

"Establish an inquiry commission into all the people who have been the victim of massacres: Alevis, Armenians, Syriacs, Turks, and Kurds," he added.

The Kadıköy demonstration came on the same day that Erdoğan warned of attempts to "foment ethnic tensions" in Turkey during a rally in Erzurum. He also hinted that a future rally could be held in Sivas, as preparations for the 20th commemoration of the attack on the Madımak hotel are ongoing.