Notes from Munzur Festival
05 August 2012The Munzur Festival in Dersim ended with a quest for justice
We demand justice, from Dersim Genocide to Roboski Massacre”, read a banner hanged in the center of Dersim whose name was changed into Tunceli after tens of thousands of Alevi, Qizilbash and Kurdish people were slaughtered by the Turkish army in 1938 within the knowledge of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.
Dersim territory is made up of a unique geography not fitting into usual descriptions of culture, religion or beliefs in Turkey.
The history of the Alevi sect in Turkey dates back to the depth of human history, according to a new book by historian Erdoğan Çınar. He said the Alevi's origins need to be found as back as to Luwian people whom many texts introduce as an ancient community having mainly lived in western and ancient southern Anatolia in the Late Bronze Age, before the era of Hittites. Çınar writes in his book “Aleviliğin Kökleri (Origins of Alavism)” that the name Alevi comes from Luwi which later changed into Aluwi and Alevi. The book is rising interesting new questions as to the origins of Alevism. The extinct Luwian people were of a different religious belief other than four main world religions as they didn’t have a single or certain God who they believed had created the universe and given life to people. The Luwians whose name refers to ‘People of the Light’ in the Hittite language were leaded by spiritual leaders dealing with exploring the universe, nature and humanity as well as leading their community on the way to scholarship and philosophy. Their language was the one used on Hittite hieroglyphics.
Historian and author Çınar claims that the Luwian culture and tradition is the resource of all other religions and beliefs and he says that these people have however faced continuous attacks and slaughters since Ottoman-Safavid War because of their belief as they worshiped the sun and believed light and energy to be the source of existence, constituting a contradiction to the arguments of Islam and Christianity.
The matriarchy and gender equality as well as culture, tradition and belief of today’s Alevis also come from matriarchal Luwians who have had to cover their characteristics up in order to survive in the face of attacks and slaughters they suffered from, says Çınar, revealing the fact that nothing has changed up to date as the Alevi people in this age have in the same way been killed or exiled from their territory because of the different way of life and thinking they have created since the very beginning of their existence tens of thousands of years ago.
Thousands of Alevis were once again slaughtered in Dersim in 1938. The number of slaughtered people is around 12 thousand according to official figures, and 70-90 thousand according to the people of Dersim. More than 10 thousand people were exiled from their territory.
Young and old alike were killed in Dersim genocide by the mentality that considers people with different characteristics as a threat and brutally slaughters them, causing a great trauma to those left behind or to those who are lucky enough to survive. People were sabered and thrown into the Munzur River which was turned into a bloodbath and bled for weeks.
The trauma and pain of this crime against humanity is however still alive in the territory where victims have never been forgotten and are remembered with a great heartache every year as none of those responsible have been brought to account or admitted the genocide of thousands of innocent people going after their own culture and life.
The victims of the genocide were once again remembered at the 12th Culture and Nature Festival of Munzur in Dersim on 26-29 July by thousands of people attaching importance to this specific region and to what happened there 75 years ago. People left flowers into the Munzur River from Halvori Headwaters where around 500 people were deceived by state authorities and gathered together, then thrown into the river.
The festival in Dersim passes in a traditionally warm and friendly environment in the traditionally beautiful nature, with concerts, panel discussions, presentations, meetings and protest demonstrations lasting four days.
This year’s agenda in protest demonstrations has once again been the construction of dams in the territory where the natural life faces the risk of destruction because of the dams and hydroelectric power stations to be built in Munzur Valley and in the region regardless of all strong reactions displayed by not only local community but also by environmentalist organizations and sensitive circles.
As the government insists on dam constructions which have already submerged some religious centers of Alevis in Dersim area, people in the region stage continuous protest demonstrations to defend their living area which will witness remarkable migrations and nature destruction in the event of dam constructions. Demonstrators demanded renewable, clean and inexhaustible sources, saying that the construction of dams and hydroelectric power stations is a government policy aiming to leave this unique region without people. The people of Dersim and demonstrators said they will not allow authorities to give way to natural disasters in the natural richness of the territory which –they said- has been intended to be evacuated and to be used as a source of benefits for a very long time.
One other demo against dams was staged in the construction area of Pembelik Dam in Peri Valley which is located between the borders of provinces of Dersim, Elazığ and Bingöl. The people of 12 villages around the valley have already been in a continuous vigil action in a barrack in the area for the last one year to not to allow construction vehicles spoil and destroy the nature of the region where many villages, as well as belief centers of Alewis, will be submerged after the termination of the construction. Five dams have already been built in the last five years in the valley which has also lost its arable lands eligible for organic agriculture. The construction works in the valley continue uninterruptedly despite the suspension order of the council of state issued in April.
The local community however doesn’t seem willing to end their resistance against dams which will lead to a great irreversible ecocide in the territory of a unique plant diversity and wild life. It is understood they will neither stop asking for justice for those they have lost.
D.F. - ANF / DERSIM
ANF NEWS AGENCY