Turkey remembers victims of the Sivas Massacre 25 years later

Published 02.07.2018 00:00
Updated 02.07.2018 19:22
A crowd holding pictures of the victims commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Sivas Massacre in Sivas, Turkey on July 2, 2018. AA Photo
A crowd holding pictures of the victims commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Sivas Massacre in Sivas, Turkey on July 2, 2018. (AA Photo)

The Sivas Massacre, one of the darkest chapters of the 1990s in which an arson attack on the city's former Madımak Hotel killed 37 people, was observed on its 25th anniversary on Monday.

The commemoration events began with a large group – including relatives of the victims, officials and activists – walking from Seyrantepe neighborhood to the former site of the Madımak Hotel, which was later turned into the Sivas Science and Culture Center with a corner devoted to victims.

The crowd shouted "here" when the names of victims were read out loud and laid flowers at the site.

"This pain is our pain, our nation's pain, our government's pain too as much as the victims'," Sivas Governor Davut Gül said, placing carnations at the memorial.

The July 2, 1993, massacre, which targeted mostly Alevi intellectuals and artists staying at the hotel, is blamed on provocateurs among an angry mob gathered to "protest" the hotel's tenants for their alleged anti-Muslim sentiment. The hotel guests had gathered to celebrate the life of famous poet Pir Sultan Abdal when angry protesters surrounded and attacked the hotel.

Two of the attackers died in the blaze. Dozens were arrested following the incident and 33 were convicted.

Republican People's Party (CHP) Vice Chairman Veli Ağbaba at Monday's ceremony called the fire "still burning." Ağbaba said Turkey would continue to preserve the memory of the massacre, adding that they would also attend commemoration events in Başbağlar, a village in Erzincan where a PKK massacre took place, on Thursday.

Three days after the Sivas Massacre, the PKK terrorist group slaughtered 33 villagers in Başbağlar. The massacre in the Sunni-majority village was viewed as "retaliation" for the deaths in Sivas. Yet, both incidents failed to stoke a broader conflict between Sunni and Alevi communities.

"What happened in Sivas and Başbağlar was a plot by dark hands seeking to drive our country into a conflict. Thanks to the common sense of our nation, the plot failed," Gül said.

Critics of the Sivas trial long claimed the real perpetrators behind the incident were not brought to justice.

The "perpetrators" the critics refer to are notorious members of the "deep state" that is accused of pitting the Sunni community against Alevis and vice versa.

Also, the deep state referred to by media outlets is a shadowy community of bureaucrats, soldiers, mobsters, police officers and other figures and as its name implies, it was never fully revealed. It is the culprit in a string of murders of journalists and civilians in the 1990s.

In July 2014, the State Auditing Board issued a report that found grave negligence by the authorities in the handling of the incident.

According to the report, officials failed to take adequate safety precautions to prevent the attack, which could have been clearly anticipated.

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