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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.