Sivas Massacre victims remembered on 23rd anniversary

Sivas Massacre victims remembered on 23rd anniversary

SİVAS – Doğan News Agency
Sivas Massacre victims remembered on 23rd anniversary

Demonstrators in Sivas carry the photos of the Sivas Massacre victims in a march to mark the 23rd year of the arson attack. DHA photo

The Sivas Massacre, an arson attack on mostly Alevi intellectuals inside the city’s Madımak Hotel staged by radical Islamists that killed 33 intellectuals and two hotel personnel, was commemorated on its 23rd anniversary on July 2 in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Sivas.

Families of the victims and representatives of the Alevi institutions were joined at the commemoration ceremony by a delegation of Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers, led by the party’s deputy leader Veli Ağbaba and five-member delegation from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The group marched through Sivas and ended at the site of the infamous Madımak Hotel, where they laid carnations and gave speeches in memory of the loved ones. 

Speaking in front of the Madımak Otel, CHP deputy leader Ağbaba reiterated the demand that the hotel be turned into a “Museum of Shame.”

“Those who killed Madımak victims targeted humanity,” he said. “That mentality is still around, most recently killing 44 people in Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. Unfortunately, the government does not turn this building into a museum despite the demand from all Alevi institutions and the victims’ families,” he added.

The attack against the hotel on July 2, 1993, targeted a group of artists and scholars participating in a conference organized by the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Foundation (PSAKD), an Alevi organization. The event came at a time when legendary Turkish short story writer Aziz Nesin, who was among the guests, had become a public target for translating Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” into Turkish. The participants of the conference were accused of being infidels by the large crowd of fundamentalists outside, who had been provoked to action by a number of local political leaders. 

While 33 people attending the conference died in the fire, two hotel personnel also died along with them. Two protestors - who were in the crowd outside the hotel that instigated the events leading to the fire and who watched the hotel while people inside were burning to death and calling for help - also died in the fire. 

Earlier in the day, Sivas Governor Davut Gül Barut, Mayor Sami Aydın, Sivas Cumhuriyet University Rector Faruk Kocacık, Cem Association head Ali Dağ, and other local notables, marched through the city to reach the site of the Madımak Hotel. There they laid carnations at a memorial built inside the building, which is currently being used as a science and culture center. 

The building, which became a symbol of discrimination faced by Turkey’s Alevi population, was expropriated in 2010 and turned into a science museum. However, families of those who died in 1993 demand it be turned into a “museum of shame.”

Widespread security measures were taken in the province before and during the latest commemoration. Police stopped and searched vehicles carrying people from outside the province, and checked the identities of people entering the city. 

Among those killed in the Madımak Hotel arson attack were poets Metin Altıok, Behçet Aysan and Uğur Kaynar, writer Asım Bezirci, Dutch anthropologist Carina Cuanna, as well as popular Alevi musicians Muhlis Akarsu and Nesimi Çimen. Aziz Nesin, the renowned writer and humorist, was rescued by firefighters – but nevertheless was beaten by his saviors as they escaped the burning building.