Taking the first step towards shedding light on the bloody incidents in the predominantly Alevi region of Dersim in the early years of the republic, Parliament has established a sub-commission to investigate the tragic incidents after receiving over 700 petitions from the families of victims, who demand an extensive investigation into the incident.
Officials from the sub-commission are currently investigating the petitions, in which families mainly request that their family members' graves be identified and the government officially apologize for the massacre and pay compensation to the families of the victims.
Ali Haydar Koç, the nephew of one of the first victims of Dersim, stated in his petition that his three uncles were all killed and he wants the state to apologize for the massacre.
While those claiming the events were genocide say that around 70,000 Alevi Kurds were killed in Dersim between 1937 and 1938, no official figures have been provided by the authorities. What officials call the “Dersim rebellion” took place in 1937 in Dersim, which had historically been a semi-autonomous region. Dersim was renamed Tunceli after the events. The fighting was led by Seyid Rıza, the chief of a Zaza clan in the region. The government of the time, led by former CHP leader İsmet İnönü, responded with airstrikes against the rebels. Thousands of civilians were killed as a result. Even though locals filed many complaints about the events in the 1940s, their concerns remained unaddressed.
In a landmark move last year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized on behalf of the state for the Dersim massacre.
The sub-commission is expected to hear from survivors and ask several institutions to provide documents relating to the events that took place in Dersim. However, it may be difficult to obtain some of the documents, as the generals who led the Sept. 12, 1980 coup destroyed all petitions submitted to Parliament's Petition Commission prior to the coup.