Turkey marks 25 years since mob attack on Alevi intellectuals

04.07.2018

Turkish activists and opposition on Monday marked a quarter of a century since the massacre of 33 intellectuals largely from the Alevi minority in a mob attack on a hotel, one of the most shocking crimes in Turkey's modern history.

The writers and artists, along with two hotel staff, were killed on 2 July 1993 when an angry mob set fire to the Madimak hotel in the Anatolian city of Sivas, where they had been holding a conference as part of an Alevi cultural festival.

The Islamist protesters had been angered by the presence of the writer Aziz Nesin who had questioned the authenticity of the Koran and also sought to translate Salman Rushdie's controversial novel "The Satanic Verses".

Nesin survived the massacre but died of a heart attack in 1995. Two protesters were also killed, bringing the total death toll to 37.

The massacre has become a major cause for Turkey's community of Alevis who adhere to what is usually seen as an offshoot of Shia Islam and make up the biggest religious minority in the mainly Sunni country.

After a long and convoluted legal process, 33 suspects were eventually given life sentences although activists contend that many of those responsible escaped justice.

Turkish opposition MPs joined thousands marching through the centre of Sivas on Monday, watched by a heavy contingent of 2,600 police, reports said.

At an official ceremony, the government-appointed governor of the Sivas region Davut Gul laid flowers by a memorial at the former hotel, now a cultural centre. He said the grief was shared by Sivas and all of Turkey.

"It is not possible to change the past but it is in our power to build a peaceful and happy future with unity and togetherness," said Muharrem Ince of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), who last month ran against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in elections.

"From taking lessons from the suffering we experienced, we will all rebuild Turkey," he wrote Twitter, where the hashtag #unutMADIMAKlimda ("I didn't forget Madimak, it's on my mind") was trending.

The main association for Turkey's Alevis, the Cem Vakfi, said in a statement that "we will not and must not forget Madimak to protect peace and brotherhood in society and to look to tomorrow with hope".

The opposition Cumhuriyet daily said on Monday that several defence lawyers for the suspects in the case had gone on to key roles in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The mayor of Sivas at the time, Temel Karamollaoglu, is now the leader of the Islam-based Saadet (Felicity) Party.    (AFP)

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