Two massacres that claimed the lives of at least 150 people have been labeled by a prominent member of the ruling Justice and Development “as theatre and completely fictionalised unrests”.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu made about the Çorum and Maraş massacres of Alevis while speaking to a group of opinion leaders of Tunceli, a mostly Alevi dominated eastern city of Turkey, during a new year eve visit to a military compound in the city.
“They were complete theatre and completely fictional unrests. Those who are old enough can remember that tens of our citizens were martyred during the incidents,” he said.
In December 1978 the Turkish far right ultra-nationalist group known as The Grey Wolves led an attack on the homes of Alevis in the city of Kahramanmaraş (formerly known as Maraş) in Southeastern Turkey.
While official figures from the Turkish government place the death toll for that massacre at a little over 100 dead while other sources place the death toll as high as 1000.
A total of 804 defendants, mostly right-wingers, were put on trial and the courts passed 29 death penalties, sentenced seven defendants to life imprisonment and a further 321 people to sentences between one and 24 years of imprisonment. However, the sentences were quashed in 1991 and everyone was released.
Between May and July 1980 between 50 and 100 people were killed in similarly ultra-nationalist inspired attacks predominantly on Alevis in the province of Çorum in Turkey’s Black Sea region.
The Alevis, are a Muslim minority, who according to some estimates form between a tenth and a fifth of Turkey’s 80 million population. While they are ethnically Turkish and even Kurdish it is their beliefs, which incorporate Shia, Sufi, Sunni and local traditions that distinguish them from the majority of Sunni Muslims. However, they are distinct from the Alawites in neighbouring Syria.
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.