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Sıdıka Avar was a Turkish teacher, known for her role as Director of the Elazig Institute for Girls from 1939 to 1959. She is considered one of the “Turkish national heroines” and an “example” for the “Turcification of the Kurdish population“. (You will find her detailed biography at the end of article N° 2)

Other women continued Sıdıka Avar’s action, such as Türkan Saylan to name but one. These school-factories spread the seeds of shame and of self-loathing in the unconscious of young generations torn from their roots.

We know that in 2012, 44% of these school were located in Kurdistan.

The following article is by Suna Arev and third part of a series published in Turkish in Nupel.

Follow this link for the full series


Dersim Orphans, Slaves to Sıdıka, Servants to Officers


As time goes by, I still search for Geyik. I would like to gently touch the wound on her right shoulder blade, the one changed into tree bark, let the pus run out, bind it…

I said to Job “Come! Come see a wound!” 1Job: biblical character also mentioned in the Coran as a prophet. Job bore with resignation the physical sufferings to which Satan subjected him.

Geyik 2 is now a mute fawn who has lost its tongue. A wounded doe. Yet, on the lands from which she was forcefully torn away, those are sacred animals. Dersim’s “mountain goats“are the “innocent animals of Xızır” 3 one is not allowed to shed their blood…

Sıdıka Avar, where is Geyik? Where is Geyik who looked at you with “her traitor’s eyes” despite the wound in her back crawling with worms  and who won’t let go of your collar till the end of days. Tell me, Sıdıka ?…

And Hayriye ?

Was she trained to serve well? Does she do a good job of ironing the Director’s clothes? Does she do the laundry well, and the dishes? Has she learned how to cook, how to make a house sparkle from cleanliness? Come, tell me Sıdıka. Does Hayriye still hide a hunk of bread against her chest? Does she still think “perhaps I’ll find Geyik again some day and share my bread with her?” In what tongue does Hayriye dream? In what tongue does she speak of her pain? Say something!

They saw an olive for the first time here, in this assimilation center. This is where their naked feet wore shoes for the first time.

These two little girls were taken from Hozat and brought here. They owned their first pair of shoes here. They put them under their pillow and couldn’t sleep all night. Do you know the smell of your first pair of shoes, Sıdıka? First times last forever, they cannot be erased easily, they don’t disappear.

As if the “Kurd’s poverty” page had been turned, they took the road to Hozat. They walked for three days and three nights, just so they could show these shoes to their grandmother. They were frightened, they slept hidden wrapped in each other’s arms…

Because their grandmother would finally see the shoes, and they would gladden her… Sıdıka, do you know the taste of happiness? And then, when they cried over their shoes torn in the earth and the stones, in what tongue did their tears flow? Sıdıka, tell me, in what tongue?

Remember your first capture. She had learned Turkish so well that she had to translate for the administrator visiting from the village of the “mountain bears”. As pure as water, she was filled with good intentions… Then, this administrator who spoke Turkish took this girl into the woods and raped her. According to him “Qizilbash flesh4 was halal for everyone, for three days”. Thus had their Sultan decreed. In any event, there was no punishment… The girl threw herself into the waters of the Munzur…Of what tongue was her corpse? How many days did you search for her, Sıdıka?

One day, you left for Ankara. The Kurdish girls would see the great Turks… Instead of the wrecked and empty mud and wattle houses in Elazığ, buildings stood in Ankara. Who could have known how grand and sumptuous Ankara seemed in the eyes of these girls who knew nothing but Elazığ, worlds away from such splendor.

“All this, teacher? All this belongs to us, the Turks?” they asked. “Yes, everything”, you answered, adding “and we are so great”, as a reminder…

With the slogan “one Turk is worth the world” you will make these Kurdish girls ashamed of themselves. And to this task you will devote all your time.

Journalists gathered at your feet, they even heard of your reputation in the United States. Didn’t the example come from there? Remember the Indians! They had not anticipated the sharp blades of Columbus. When they said “welcome” shaking the white man’s blades, their hands bled.

When you gathered miserable Kurdish girls in Tokat, in Ankara, in Bingöl Karlıova, in Peri Suyu where the Munzur flows like a sister, on the roads of Palu, Çemişgezek, Ovacık, Mazgirt, Pülümür, Pertek, Baskil and Keban, when you sent them back like swords against their own language, their own identity, what did you feel then? Of what barbarous victories against the future were you dreaming?

Now and forever, we will ask for accounts Sıdıka. We will demand them always, till the end of times…Where is Geyik? Where is her wound, does it still bleed? Speak Sıdıka, tell me…Where is Geyik? The does, Sıdıka, where are the does?

  • Sidika Avar

This here is one of the largest villages of Kuzuova, and its former owners were Armenians. In the village, mulberry trees stand in rows… Rows of willows, rows of prune tree, and also vaulted fountains…On both sides of the village,  oleasters, the trees of paradise 5 spead out all the way to Harpu, to Paramazlar. The Armenians from the village were sent to their death in 1915 and never came back.

On their death roads they left behind them destroyed schools, demolished churches and also cemeteries from which bones stick up out from the ground. The things they left behind, stunned, watched them leave…

There, there is Dersim, precisely there. The road to Mercimek is a mountain in itself. It winds down to the plain like a serpent with so many twists and turns you need hours to get there. What a road, this Mercimek! A journey as long as the cliffs the cars packed with travellers wind along until they reach Elazığ, even though it is only a tooth away from Dersim… Mothers call Xızır to their aid during the whole trip, until reaching level ground…

The Ottoman raised the cry. All young Armenians who could hold a shovel and a pick ax were to gather at the foot of the Mercimek mountain. They were the ones who opened it, with pick ax and shovel, this road that terrifies just looking at it…

Once the road was built and reached all the way to Dersim, they killed them all, striking them down with swords. They were buried under the road they had built with their hands.

These are not idle tales, the bearded one Nureddine Pacha 6 with Topal Osman, after drinking the blood of thousands of Roums 7 arrived in Koçgiri Imranli and swore a new oath to massacre. Armenians and Roums killed, it was now the turn of the Qizilbash.

While Imranli was covered in blood and consuming itself to the sound of scarlet laments, a hand was pinning a medal on the chest of bearded Nureddine in Ankara.

That hand was Mustafa Kemal’s, the war was holy and the spilled blood, halal…

Who was it that said “there will be an expedition to Dersim, but there will be no victory?” If it wasn’t bearded Nureddine, it must have been his son-in-law Hüseyin Abdullah Alpdogan seeking to obtain a “victory” with Mustafa Kemal’s permission… Koçgiri, the country of the holy wise ones of the “12 hearts” 8 did he not nourish himself from Dersim?


The massacre took place.9

Thousands were buried on the shores of the Munzur, thousands were displaced, thousands were broken between the wolf’s jaws.

The remainder were left to misery and lamentations. Their only weight was their white collarless shirt. They scattered, naked, in Elazığ’s villages of Kuzuova, one tooth away from Dersim…

Villages that had been resettled with Turkish emigrants following the massacre of Armenians.

“The people of Dersim are bandits! They are thieves. They are Qizilbash who do not recognize mother nor sister, faithless ones, with no book, who believe in nothing”… With these repeated words, their reputation reached the Turkish emigrants placed in the villages of Kuzuova. They were frightened, migrated elsewhere by the hundreds. There was not a single one left, they say, when the miserable tongueless ones of Dersim, fleeing the smell of gun powder and blood, came to settle here.

Thousands originally from Dersim lived in Kuzuova and most of them were laborers, serfs to the Sunni power caste. They were the constantly subjected to the dismembering of these lands, voiceless, alone, wounded…

Here, a collapsed earthen wall… Steps, left over from the Armenians, shelter the “12 hearts”. In patched baggy pants, wearing rubber boots held together with bits of string, holding crumbs of dry bread on the chests, they ceaselessly talk about Dersim… Their unfinished business is under the care of the “12 hearts”.


Hüseyin Şengül

Barber Hüseyin Sengül is from the Haydaran tribe. He says: “I was 12 years old or maybe not quite yet…I heard that the Qizilbash rebellion in Koçgiri had been repressed in blood. The cruel bearded one had received his sword from Mustafa Kemal in person, and cut up all the innocent people. Such a sea of blood washed up on the doors of Dersim. The bearded one became a member of the National Assembly, his son-in-law put out the call. “You have heard about Koçgiri, come now and surrender your weapons to the Republic. May the blood stop flowing”. At home, an order from our fathers is pre-eminent. With my brother, we gathered up all the existing guns and knives from village to village, hamlet to hamlet. We carried them on the backs of mules to the commissariat and turned them over to Abdullah.

Alişer et Zarife Koçgiri

Alişer et Zarife, Koçgiri

Henceforth, our belongings as well as our lives were in the hands of the Republic. Alişer, Zarife 10 and their adopted child had taken refuge between Dersim Xizir’s hands. Alişer, a brave man, Alişer, an educated man… He was the Qizilbash leader of Koçgiri…

How were we to know that Alpdoğan had slithered his way in among us like a snake and formed militias…One day, we heard that Heyderi Kop had killed Alişer, Zarife and a nephew in a cavern. He had decapitated Alişer and Zarife and sold their heads to Abdullah Alpdoğan against a fistful of gold. 

After that day, our sacred places, our mountains, our stones, our waters, turned against us… They closed their heart to us, turned their backs on us. After that day, our faces no longer smiled, our breads were like stone. Heyderi Kop and his men, those cursed black faces, stained our name, our history.

Then, soldiers came into all the villages, killing everyone without discriminating between old people and children. One day, bringing back the cattle to our destroyed home, I couldn’t find my mother, my father or my brothers.

The stones I gnawed at were my bread…They were all dead, at the foot of a cliff. My five brothers, my parents, lying in a pool of blood. My two sisters were not among them… The Zel mountain turned into a deluge, poured out of my eyes…

“Be quiet” someone told me, “shut up already! You are from Haydaran, they will kill you also, your blood line will dry out, you will not reach manhood”…He took me by the hand and brought me to his home. During the day, soldiers were searching for us. I hid in the mountain. At night, in this man’s home, I slept on my pillow transformed into a sea of tears. The mountains, the stones were not to see what we had seen.

The one who hid me, who offered me his life was Şemali of the Areyan tribe. When they promulgated the law imposing family names, he chose the name Şengül. I told myself this was my debt of gratitude, I took his name and so, I am now Hüseyin Şengül. Even if we never found joy again 11.

Thousands of human beings were killed, sent into exile, like hords of ants… The State, using as an alibi three or four guns, fired in self-defence, caused this annihilation…

Time went by… I heard that my two sisters were still alive. They had been given to railroad officers, as servants. Guts don’t listen to anything, I threw myself on the roads. I found one of my sisters in Merzifon, in the service of an officer. I brought her home. She had forgotten her tongue, she had become mute…I searched long and hard for my other sister. Finally, I found her in Istanbul. She was buried from head to toe inside another religion, in another language, she had become a stranger. A stranger to her wound, in two separate worlds. We were annihilated, killed for a second time.”

This here is a large village in the Kuzuova plain. Exiles from Dersim are spread across over 300 homes. 7 of the homes belong to Sunni Islamists. Between them and the Qizilbash, there is a fountain. Their cemetery is different also. Even the poorest among them walk with a confident step, head high. They are like the real owners of power. The homes of some of them are decorated on the highest wall with three red crescents, like horseshoes…They are the first in the village to know about the slightest political event. And the State is kept informed. Apart from four or five old people, no one knows how to speak Kurdish. Almost all the teachers sent to the village and bigots and fascists…

Mustafa Kemal is a crown on their heads…

The poor, sitting at the foot of the walls, listen in deathly silence to the words of the “great ones”:

“In faith, when the massacre occurred in Dersim, Atatürk didn’t know, all that was Alpdoğan’s doing, if truth be known Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is a Qizilbash, what can you do, he has to hide it…

In short, in Ankara, there was work to be done! He heard it would be the end of the Qizilbash. He cried out “quick, find Fevzi Çakmak!” 12 The call went out, Fevzi Çakmak arrived and gave him such a salute that fire surged out of Mustafa Kemal’s eyes…

Then he ordered “act now Fevzi, they are massacring our Nation”. Either Fevzi Çakmak was a Qizilbash also, or Mustafa Kemal told him his secret,  to him only. So Fevzi jumped into a train and arrived in Elazig in one day. He looked and saw Dersim in the smoke of cannons and gunfire. He then said to those of us who were over there “quick, find me a horse. This is an order from our Atatürk…”

Sent by God, a horse with a black coat arrived and stopped in front of Fevzi Çakmak. The horse became Jolly Jumper, Fevzi became Xızır 13, they took the road to Pertek… Jolly Jumper galopped so fast that, just outside Pertek, he fell, his  lungs blown out. As for Fevzi Çakmak, he passed in front of the regiment, and arrived as a savior. “What are you doing, oh perfidious ones? Order from Atatürk: Stop the massacre! ” he said.

The massacre stopped cold…

If we are still alive today, there you are, cough cough, it is thanks to Atatürk. Let this be known.”

What need for a State, after such poison has been served to the people?…

Ali, take care of the horse.
Fatma, to the ovens…

Now, I will name Geyik. Where is Geyik?

Follow this link for the full series

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Suna Arev
Née en 1972 à Uzuntarla (Elazığ).Dans une famille de huits enfants, elle est immergée dès son plus jeune âge, parmi les travailleurs agricoles à la tâche. Tel un miroir qui date de son enfance, la période du coup d’Etat militaire du 12 septembre 1980 a formé sa vie politique. Diplômée de l’École professionnelle de commerce d’Elazığ, elle a vécu, en grandeur nature les comportements fascistes et racistes dans sa ville. Mère de quatre enfants, depuis 1997, elle habite en Allemagne, pour des raisons politiques.
Suna Arev was born in 1972 in the village of Uzuntarla, Elazığ district. From a family of eight children she became one of the agricultural workers at an early age. The military coup d’état of September 12 1980 served as a mirror in shaping her political outlook. After obtaining a diploma from the Elazığ Professional Business School, she experienced the full force of fascist and racist behaviours in her town. She has lived in Germany since 1997, for political reasons. She is the mother of four children.