Thousands march in Sivas for massacre anniversary

Thousands march in Sivas for massacre anniversary

Thousands march in Sivas for massacre anniversary

Thousands, including groups of Alevis living abroad and deputies from the main opposition CHP, march to the Madımak Hotel in Sivas to commemorate 35 victims killed in an arson attack in 1993. AA photo

Thousands marched to the Madımak Hotel in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas yesterday, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of an arson attack in which 33 mostly Alevi intellectuals and two hotel workers were killed.

The families carried pictures of their lost loved ones who were killed in the arson attack on July 1 and 2, 1993. The attack was led by a mob on a hotel where mostly Alevi intellectuals and artists, who had come to Sivas for a cultural conference, were staying. The march, including groups of Alevis living abroad and deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), started from Ethembey Park toward the Madımak Hotel.

The authorities took serious security measures for the ceremony, and the street in front of the Madımak Hotel was blocked to traffic with police barricades. The group was stopped near the hotel by the authorities, but the march was allowed after negotiations, Doğan News Agency reported.

The group chanted slogans against the government, and recalled Ethem Sarısülük, an Alevi protester recently killed during the Gezi Park protests in Ankara.

Only the families and the deputies were allowed to enter the Madımak Hotel, where the names of those killed 20 years ago were written on the walls.

Families protest two names in memorial

However, some families refused to enter the building, protesting the fact that the 35 victims’ names were written alongside the names of two members of the mob who were also killed in the fire.

Yeter Gültekin, wife of folk singer Hasret Gültekin, who was killed in the Madımak massacre, spoke on behalf of the families and said they would not enter the hotel until it became a museum.

CHP deputy leaders Nihat Matkap and Şafak Pavey as well as CHP deputies Malik Ecder Özdemir, Kamer Genç, Muharrem Işık and Üstün Sarı attended the ceremony. Independent Van deputy Aysel Tuğluk and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Mersin deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü were also present. Also, an official ceremony was held at Madımak Hotel earlier in the day, attended by Sivas Governor Zübeyir Kemelek and Sivas Mayor Doğan Ürgüp.

Ürgüp said the incident had taken place with "planned provocations by dark circles," adding that the state supervisory council’s work on the issue must be waited for.

The controversy 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, which has long asked the state to turn it into a museum.

At yesterday's commemoration, Pir Sultan Abdal Kültür Association head Kemal Bülbül criticized the government’s decision to name the third bridge in Istanbul after the Ottoman Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim, known for his notorious slaughtering of Alevis, according to daily Radikal.