Although 40 years have passed since Maraş Massacre, during which a total of 111 people were brutally killed, the murderers who are protected by all governments are still “walking free”.
According to Turkey’s Alevi figures, 500 people were killed in misfortunate tragedy, whereas official figures indicate a total of 111 people were killed in Maraş (Now is called as Kahramanmaraş, located in the East Mediterranean).
Turkish Alevism is a syncretic and local tradition, whose adherents follow the mystical teachings of Imam Ali, the Twelve Imams and a descendant—the 13th century Alevi saint Haji Bektash Veli. It differs than Alawites mainly exist in Syria, which is a sect of Shia school.
While many people including children were killed, many women were also raped during the incidents. The events which started on 19 December 1978, was just watched, ignored by gendarmeries and policemen until 26 December. Following the massacre, the one main suspect was acquitted and chosen as member of the parliament after he changed his surname and then he became a member of The Commission of Human Rights.
“MHP, Turkish Intel (MIT) involved in the massacre”
The scenario started on 19 November. A movie theatre in Maraş was bombed, where an anti-Soviet Turkish movie was displayed. Members of MHP, also known as ‘grey wolves’, claimed and spread rumors in the city that left-wing forces bombed the theatre. However, Ökkeş Kenger, a primary perpetrator, and nationalists provoked the citizens at the theatre to attack some governmental buildings and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) buildings.
Following the attacks which started on 19 December, then two leftist teachers Hacı Çolak and Mustafa Yüzbaşıoğlu, also members of Turkey’s All Teachers Association for Union and Solidarity (TÖB-DER), were killed while they were just leaving the school. Provoked by “nationalist-fascist” forces, some people attacked the funeral of the killed teachers. Alevi neighborhoods and leftist trade unions, associations and party buildings were attacked as well.
Spraying the Alevi neighbourhoods with machine guns triggered on 24 December, the events spiraled out of control. Ever since, Maraş became the scene of rapes, executing the children with guns, and many inhumane events.
State officials interfered late
Within the context of the trials, around 804 people were tried until 1991 and the file was closed, based on the anti-terror law in 1991, thus the intriguers and perpetrators were left in impunity.
Since the beginning of the trial, many reports have included the interventions of MIT (Turkish Intelligence Agency) and MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) but no steps have been taken.
Prime suspect becomes member of the Commission of Human Rights in Parliament
Ökkeş Kenger, prime suspect of the incidents was acquitted, following the trial, which lasted after long years and changed his surname as Şendiller then was chosen as Kahramanmaraş deputy by the coalition alliance of ANAP (Motherland Party) –BBP (Great Union Party). He also was elected as the membership of Inspection Committee of Human Rights and brought forward by ruling AKP(Justice and Development Party) as the “Face of Democratic Initiative Process.”
A parliament resolution, which was issued to establish an investigative committee on the massacre was rejected, and wasn’t even put on the agenda later.
Maraş massacre lasted from 19 to 26 December in 1978 and the incidents turned into a pogrom, as nationalist and Islamist crowds stormed the area where Alevi community were residing.
Many houses, shops, offices including Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK), TÖB-Der, Association of Police Officers (Pol-Der) and today’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) headquarters were destroyed by angry crowd.
During the incidents, were Turkish security forces failed to stop the perpetrators, over 100 people were killed, and more than 200 houses and approximately 100 shops were destroyed.
Many years after the massacre, the Alevi community leaders spoke about Turkish State’s role in the killings. President of the Alevi Bektaşi Federation, Turan Eser, who spoke at the 29th anniversary of the massacre in Maraş claimed that “counter-guerrilla and racist paramilitary imperialist henchmen made efforts to spread the seeds of hatred between those, who were citizens of the same country and had lived together in peace for centuries.”
How the incident escalated?
Turkish government announced martial law in İstanbul, Ankara, Adana, Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep, Elazığ, Bingöl, Erzurum, Erzincan, Kars, Malatya, Sivas and Urfa on 26 December 1978 to control ethical and religious conflict among the Turkish society. Maraş massacre was considered as the greatest provocation, paving the way for a successful military coup in 1980 in which then legally elected government was overthrown by the Turkish army.
Turkish Alevis is a group in Turkey known as Ahlul-Bayt, the term refers to the family of the Prophet Muhammad and live in vast areas of the south to southeastern parts of Turkey, from Maraş to Taurus Mountains. Alevis were influenced by the popular Sufism, and they founded the Bektashi order and Alevism in today’s Turkey. The majority of Turkish Muslims strictly follow Islam’s mainstream Sunni tradition. Throughout the Turkish history, there have been occasional conflicts between Alevis and Sunnis.