Excavation starts to find possible Dersim massacre victims in Tunceli

Excavation starts to find possible Dersim massacre victims in Tunceli

TUNCELİ – Doğan News Agency
Excavation starts to find possible Dersim massacre victims in Tunceli


A rural area in eastern Turkey will be excavated on April 15 to reveal bones allegedly belonging to 24 people from two families killed during the Dersim massacre in 1938.

A local court decided to start excavations in a rural area in the eastern province of Tunceli to find out whether 24 people from two families were buried in a mass grave, as claimed by their relatives. The excavations, which will be the first such operations in the area, will start on April 15 in the Karabayır village of Tunceli’s Hozat district, where 24 people from the Cana and Baran families are thought to have been buried after the Dersim massacre. 

Cihan Söylemez, a lawyer for the Baran and Canan families, said the excavations could lead to other excavations being initiated. The Hozat Public Prosecutor’s Office will start the excavations upon the court order, said Söylemez, adding that this will be the first “concrete and historic step” over the incidents. 

In Dersim, now known as Tunceli, over 13,000 people were killed during a military operation to quash an apparent Kurdish tribal rebellion during the single-party era. Seyid Rıza, the leader of the rebellion, was executed in 1937.

“DNA tests and scientific examinations to determine the date of death will be conducted on the bones that will be removed from the mass grave in the area. We are sure that these examinations, which will done by forensics will provide concrete proof of the Dersim incidents. Excavations will start tomorrow [April 15],” Söylemez said.

The Baran and Canan family members claim that 24 of their ancestors, including women and children, were taken from the Karabakır village on Aug. 14, 1938 and were executed at the Saka Sure neighborhood by military personnel. 

The surviving family members wanted to erect a monument in memory of 24 people in the area where they claimed the execution took place, but stopped construction work after finding bones in the area. Demanding an examination into the bones, the families then applied to the Hozat Public Prosecutor’s Office, which rejected the demand, saying the incident exceeded the statute of limitations. 

The families’ lawyer Söylemez subsequently applied to the Erzincan High Criminal Court to cancel the ruling of the prosecutor’s office. The higher court agreed that the incident should be investigated. The court said in its July 17, 2014 ruling that the prosecutor’s office had decided that the bones dated back to 1938 without conducting medical examinations.