Dersim Bayragi..
Sey Riza

Dersim jenosidini
Anma Gunu
Her Yil

12 Temmuz



“turklerle ayni gökyüzü altinda yasamak istemiyoruz”


Netherlands Kürdistan Society (SNK) Amsterdam-Hollanda Raporu (1995)


1994 Tuklerin Dersimdeki Köylerimizi Yakma ve bosaltma raporu,


1994 yili hem Dersim icin hemde Kürdistan icin onemli bir yildi, türkler Dersimde ve Kurdistan da, resmi olmiyan verilere gore toplam 3 bin 3.500 koy yakip- bosalttiler.

Türklerin koy yakmalari ve bosaltmalari Dersimde yeni degildi. Dersim 1938 Jenosidinde de türkler Dersimdeki koylerin buyuk bir bolumunu yakip bosalttilar.

Onlar, yakmak- yikmak ve öldürmekle meshurdurlar. Dersim dilinde türk kelimesi ve türk devletinin diger ismi „zülüm ve ölümdür“, onlar „atesin ve ölümün“ habercisidirler ancak gittikleri yere ölüm getirirler.

Dersimde türk demek: Dersime yanliz ölümü yanliz yok edilmeyi isteyen ve hep zülüm getiren bir devlet, bir halk demekti.

Onlar zülmün ve kanin, haksizligin, isgalin temsilidir. Dersimin kutsal topraklarin da, onlar Kutsal topraklarimizda, her gun ruhumuzu cigneyen kara bir lekedirler.

Zülüm, yikim ve kan ve gözyasi ve yakilan binlerce yillik köylerimizdeki postal izleri ve ates, kan izleri onlara aittir, yikik duvarlar, pepuk kusunun öttügü bom bos koylerin marifeti onlara aittir.

Ve yer ve su ve gökyüzü sahidimizdir ki ;

Kalbimizde ki o ses “turklerle ayni gök altinda yasamak istemiyoruz” diyor, bunca zülümden sonra, adiniz zülüm olsun, kan ve yok etme olsun
 “kilicla gelen kilicla gidecektir”


Rapor hakkinda:


SNK raporu olarak gecen bu rapor Dersim köylerinin türkler tarafindan yakilip bosaltilmasini, gün be gün tesbit etmis, ve Koylerimizi hem yeni isimleriyle (türkce) hemde eski isimleriyler (Kirmancki) yazmistir

Raporun girisi ve Dersim hakkinda genel bilgi yazi olarak ektedir. Köylerin tablolari da PDF olarak ektedir.

Raporun okunmasi ekteki SARi tablolari takiple mümkündür.

Rapor toptan 68 sayfadan olusmakta, (A4 kagit formati) ve Dersim acisindan son derece kapsamli onemli bir Rapordur.

Raporun Dili : Ingilizcedir.


Dersim Koylerinin turkler tarafindan bosaltilmasi SNK Raporu 1995



Trouw Newspaper

Gazete Arka Kapak

1Okuma Tablosu

2Okuma Tablosu Arka tarafi







Report prepared by the Stichting Nederland-Koerdistan (SNK), Amsterdam, 1995







This report details the wave of village evacuations and demolitions, as well as the forest fires that swept across the Dersim region in Turkey, i.e., the province of Tunceli and neighbouring districts, during the autumn of 1994.[1] Over a period of two months, around a third of the villages in that province (but in some subdistricts as many as 80 to 100 percent) were evacuated under severe military pressure, and many of them were destroyed and burned down by the army. Thousands of families lost their houses. Moreover large stretches of forest, which only recently had been designated as a nature reserve, were deliberately burnt down. The rationale for all this destruction was the presence of guerrillas of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), believed to be hiding out in the forests of this province. The inhabitants of the destroyed villages were suspected of giving food and shelter to these guerrillas.


Tunceli was not the first province to fall victim to large-scale village evacuations orchestrated by Turkish security forces. The first instances of forced village evacuations in recent years took place in the 1980s, and since 1992 evacuations followed by demolition have been standard practice in sensitive zones of Turkey's Kurdish-inhabited provinces. The Human Rights Associations of Turkey have repeatedly published lists of villages that had been evacuated and destroyed, adding up to well over 2000 names of villages and hamlets. The present report concentrates on the events in Tunceli. The evictions and village burnings were carried out here even more systematically and at a greater pace than elsewhere. The developments in Tunceli, moreover, are relatively well documented. Many villagers there have relatives in western Turkey or even in western Europe, whom they could contact, thus bringing out the news in spite of a military blockade of the area preventing outside observers visiting it.





1.1.   Emergence of the Kurdish movement in Turkey


Estimates of the number of Kurds living in Turkey vary from 5 to 20 million, depending on the political views of who makes the estimate, and on the definition of who is a Kurd. Moderate Kurdish as well as non-Kurdish circles nowadays frequently state a figure of 10 to 12 million (out of a total population of some 60 million in 1994). Around half of them still live in Eastern and Southeastern Turkey; the other half or perhaps even more have for various reasons migrated to western Turkey or to western Europe.


The first decade and a half following the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 witnessed a number of Kurdish nationalist rebellions, that were violently suppressed by the Turkish armed forces. The last great Kurdish rebellion, and the one most bloodily suppressed, took place in Dersim in 1937. A policy of forced assimilation, of which deportations to other parts of the country constituted an essential element, effectively silenced Kurdish aspirations until, in the 1960s, a new Kurdish movement emerged.


The political demands of this new movement, which began and found its strongest support among urbanized and relatively well-educated Kurds, concerned recognition of the existence of the Kurds as a people distinct from the Turks, the right to speak, write and read their own language and to maintain their own cultural traditions, and remedies for the increasing economic backwardness of the Kurdish-inhabited provinces (which was in part attributed to a policy of deliberate neglect). The Kurds in those years found a certain degree of sympathy and moral support in Turkish oppositional circles.


Moderate though these demands were, in the climate of the late 1960s the authorities considered them as a subversive threat to the integrity of the state. In the wake of the military intervention of 1971, severe reprisals were taken against the Kurdish movement and its sympathizers. This failed to have the desired effect of eradicating the Kurdish movement, but it did cause the Kurds to loose many of their erstwhile Turkish supporters. Repression and increasing political isolation radicalized the Kurdish movement and caused a number of splits, but did not prevent it gaining ever more widespread support among the Kurds themselves. By the end of the 1970s, there were a dozen Kurdish parties and political organizations, most of them considering Kurdistan an internal colony of Turkey and claiming the right to self-determination. Like Turkey's radical left and right youth movements, sections of the Kurdish movement also armed themselves and were involved in shootouts with security forces or with rival groups.


In 1980, the Turkish military staged another coup and carried out a drastic overhaul of Turkey's legal and political system. The army presence in the Kurdish provinces was stepped up even further, the villages were searched, and tens of thousands arrested and routinely tortured. Much of the Kurdish movement (as well as the radical left) was physically destroyed in the following years. Only the most radical, most strictly organized and most violent of the Kurdish parties, the PKK (Workers' Party of Kurdistan), succeeded in maintaining a clandestine presence inside Turkey, in spite of the arrests and mass trials of thousands of its members and sympathizers.



1.2.   The PKK and the guerrilla war


The PKK found itself a base abroad in the Bekaa valley in Lebanon, where it received Palestinian and thinly veiled Syrian support. It later also established camps in the mountains of northern Iraq, not far from the Turkish border. In August 1984, the PKK began a regular guerrilla war against the Turkish state with an attack on military targets near the town of Eruh (Siirt province). During the ten years that have since passed, violence from both sides has only escalated. Major military campaigns and air raids on supposed PKK camps in northern Iraq have failed to eradicate its guerrilla forces. It has been primarily the civilian population that became victims of the army's counter-offensives; instead of alientating the village and town population from the PKK, the behaviour of the security forces appears to have made the PKK even more popular.


The PKK's activities remained initially restricted to the provinces directly bordering on northern Iraq, but gradually spread to an ever-wider region. Whereas the PKK in 1984 was estimated to have four to five hundred armed men active inside Turkey's borders, the estimate for 1994 was several tens of thousands, moving relatively freely through the mountains and communicating with their base camps and central command by radio. The number of security forces present in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey, most of which are involved in the fight against the PKK, is in the order of two hundred thousand to a quarter of a million. Nevertheless, the PKK has been able to kidnap tourists and soldiers and hold them as hostages inside Turkey for weeks.


The PKK has directed its violence not only against Turkish military installations and personnel but also against civilians. It has repeatedly attacked families of so-called village guards (korucu), who are Kurdish militias armed by the government to fight the PKK (see below). It has allegedly recruited village youths into its guerrilla army by force, and threatened violent reprisals against villages withholding it support. In 1994, following a ban that it proclaimed on Turkish schoolteachers in Kurdish villages, it has allegedly killed several teachers. It should be noted, however, that the PKK is not responsible for all the violence attributed to it in the Turkish press. Murder, rape and arson committed by members of the security forces, when reported in the press at all, is almost routinely attributed to the PKK as well.



1.3.   The Turkish security forces


The Turkish security forces have been acting like most armies when hunting down a guerrilla force that has some popular support. Unable to distinguish clearly between the guerrilla fighters, sympathizers and the population at large, they have harrassed the village population with a brutality long not seen in Turkey. The shooting of people on sight, rape and arson on a large scale, and the systematic humiliation of nearly everyone in the area have alienated almost the entire local population from the state and legitimized the PKK in their eyes. Two sections of the security forces have gained an especially bad reputation: the village guards and the so-called special teams.


The largest forces in the area are the regular land forces and the gendarmerie. The gendarmerie is a fourth wing of the armed forces (besides the land, sea and air forces) that carries out police functions in the countryside. It has a permanent presence in the countryside, each central village having at least a small gendarmerie post (karakol), the district and subdistrict centres having larger ones. The land forces, most of whose personnel are stationed at a number of large army bases in the region, have as their main function to guard the country's borders, but they have also often been used to suppress internal rebellions, for which it is better equipped than the gendarmerie.[2] Special mention should be made of the elite troops or commando forces, which are better trained and equipped than the other soldiers. Commando units of the land forces are regularly deployed in campaigns against the PKK, and they have played an important part in the village evictions and burnings in Dersim as well as elsewhere.


The Turkish air force also has several bases in the region, and it has been actively involved in the war against the PKK, carrying out bombing raids into northern Iraq but also allegedly bombing Kurdish villages inside Turkey. Combat helicopters are routinely deployed in virtually all campaigns in (Turkish) Kurdistan. In recent years, Turkey has spent enormous sums buying modern equipment and ammunition for its land and air forces, notably armoured vehicles, combat helicopters and cluster bombs.[3] All of these are used in the operations in Kurdistan.


The ‘special teams’ (özel tim) are a paramilitary force, specially established in the 1980s to fight the PKK using guerrilla tactics. According to reports in the Turkish press, many if not most members of these teams are recruited in circles of the ultranationalist Nationalist Action Party (MHP) of Alpaslan Türkeş, which is very hostile to Kurdish aspirations. These teams, whose members are nicknamed ‘Rambos’, have become notorious for their brutal abuses of the village population.


The ‘village guards’ (korucu) are another irregular force recruited among Kurdish tribesmen, who receive arms and a salary from the state to keep the PKK away from their area. According to some reports, they are paid a high bounty for every guerrilla killed. There have been numerous reports of the korucu using their arms against neighbouring villages as well, extorting money or appropriating land. Initially the state recruited volunteers as korucu, often in large numbers from the same tribe or clan, led by their chieftain. Korucu have also been required to take part in large-scale military operations, taking on PKK forces at close quarters, which resulted in high casualty levels among them. Retaliatory PKK raids on korucu villages, in which women and children were killed, also gave many korucu second thoughts about their jobs; there have been numerous reports of korucu villages returning their arms to the local military authorities. The recruitment of korucu has increasingly necessitated coercion by the military. Over the past years, the inhaitants of hundreds of villages have been told to choose between taking up arms as korucu or losing their villages, property and possibly their lives. Reports of torture and severe abuse of villagers who refused to become korucu have become common. The total number of korucu around 1990 was just over 20,000; at present it is well over 50,000.


Besides the various official forces listed here, there are several unofficial units whose very existence, or whose relationship with the state, is often denied. The oppositional Turkish press commonly refers to these units by the blanket term ‘Kontr-gerilla’ (‘counter-guerrilla’). Many, if not all, of these units appear to belong to the ‘Bureau for Special Warfare’ (Özel Harp Dairesi) that answers directly to the Commander-in-Chief; the gendarmerie appears to have its own intelligence and secret operations divisions, which may act independently. These units appear to specialise in torture, murder, and provocation. ‘Kontra’ units, disguised as PKK guerrillas, have been reported as roaming the countryside, dealing random violence out to villagers or demanding food and shelter, after which those complying were punished. These units allegedly are also responsible for the large numbers of unsolved assassinations of prominent personalities and ‘disappearances’ of suspected PKK sympathizers.






2.1.   ‘Spontaneous’ and forced village evacuations


There had been a steady trickle of migration from the villages in southeastern and eastern Turkey to the district and provincial capitals and to the west of the country, for mainly economic reasons, well before 1980. Following the 1980 coup, this migration sped up as a result of the military pressure on the region, which impeded normal economic life. The situation further deteriorated with the onset of guerrilla warfare, in which both the PKK and the state demanded that villagers take sides. Families whose sons were absent and therefore suspected of having joined the PKK were subjected to severe abuse. Entire mountain pastures were declared forbidden areas; other parts were so severely mined that shepherding became impossible. Rapidly deteriorating living conditions caused many to leave their villages without being physically compelled to do so.


In the early nineties, the pattern of village evacuations changed. In the districts near the Iraqi border, villagers were told that they had to become village guards or else disappear. This choice was enforced with brutal methods: random shooting, severe beatings, arson, destruction of property. Such forced village evacuations began to occur systematically and on a large scale in 1992, initially in the zone north of the Iraqi border but soon also in other regions where there had been PKK activity. A wide area around Mardin and the districts north of Diyarbakir have been severely hit by these evacuations, usually followed by destruction of the village so that people could not return.


Different forces have been involved in these forced evacuations. In some cases, it was gendarmerie units stationed in the neighbourhood that came to the village and delivered an ultimatum that the men had to report as korucu within a week or else risk being killed themselves. Other villages were not even given the choice but simply told to move their belongings out if they did not wish to loose everything when the village was burnt down. The regular army and special commando troops also took part; some villages were reportedly attacked from the air, with helicopters firing at them. In other cases, özel tim came and kicked and beat and humiliated the villagers, destroyed food stocks and household goods and chased the villagers away under death threats. Villages in the Çukurca district (Hakkari province) were reportedly repeatedly raided at night by özel tim firing at the houses at random and shouting death threats.


The Human Rights Associations (İHD: İnsan Hakları Dernekleri) of Turkey have compiled and published statistics of the numbers of villages that were in whole or in part evacuated and/or destroyed. Because many of the areas where these events take place are no longer accessible to outsiders (and certainly not to human rights activists), these statistics can only be approximate. It is noteworthy, however, that the figures given by the İHD are not contested by the government, only the interpretation of what has happened. In their report on the human rights situation in 1993, the İHD published a list of 874 villages and hamlets that had been partially or completely evacuated during that year, many of them consequently being destroyed by the army in order to prevent the inhabitants returning.


This number was, surprisingly perhaps, confirmed by the Turkish government, in response to parliamentary questions from a Kurdish delegate.[4] The Minister of the Interior, Mr. Nahit Menteşe, stated that 288 villages and 366 hamlets had been evacuated in their entirety, and another 178 villages and 39 hamlets partially, adding up to a total of 871 settlements. Of the 164,460 inhabitants of these settlements, according to the Minister, 126,454 had left. Mr. Menteşe did not explicitly confirm that these persons were forcibly evicted by the security forces; he attributed the evacuations to the presence of ôan illegal separatist terrorist organization" and to economic factors.


By the end of 1993, entire districts, such as Silopi, Şırnak and Eruh, all north of the Iraqi border, had lost all their villages, with the exception of a single korucu village. Forced evictions continued throughout 1994, if anything at a higher pace than the preceding year. The cumulative number of settlements evacuated by force may exceed 2000. There is now a wide divergence, however, between the figures quoted by different bodies; even different spokespersons of the government have given widely different numbers. Özgür Ülke repeatedly spoke of “over 2000 burned villages” (by which it apparently referred to villages that were in whole or in part evacuated or destroyed). The Turkish Human Rights Association gave in October 1994 a figure of 1,334 evacuated or destroyed villages.[5] The Minister of the Interior stated in December 1994 that under the present government (i.e., since 1992) a total of 2,215 villages and hamlets had been evacuated, and that 2,424 families had been given alternative housing.[6] Deputy Prime Minister Murat Karayalçın, however, quoted significantly lower statistics during a recent visit to Europe: according to him, 1046 villages had been evacuated, 812 of them under pressure from the PKK and only 76 at the request of the local administration.[7]


It has become more difficult to keep a detailed record of evictions and village destruction, because the military authorities have become more careful to hide the extent of destruction from public view. A book published on the issue by the Human Rights Associations was immediately banned, and charges were brought against the board of the Human Rights Associations for publishing it.[8] Even the Prime Minister herself and the Deputy Prime Minister were recently prevented from visiting districts where the army was reported to have carried out extremely brutal campaigns (the Lice area in October 1993, and Hozat district in October 1994, respectively). In spite of these restrictions on the flow of information, and the self-censorship practised by most of the Turkish press, it is clear that forced evictions have been adopted as a deliberate policy at the highest political level.


On June 2, 1994, the Minister of Defense, Mehmet Gölhan, announced that the council of ministers was soon to ratify a ‘security measure’ already decided upon by the National Security Council, which involved the evacuation of no less than fifty settlements at once.[9] This measure targeted the slopes of the Ağrı (Ararat) and Tendürek Mountains, near the borders with Armenia and Iran, which were to be declared ‘forbidden military zones’ (askeri yasak bölge) in order to prevent infiltration by PKK forces. The fifty settlements in this zone, with a total population of around 10,000, were to be evacuated, and their inhabitants resettled in larger settlements in a more secure area. Access to the entire zone will henceforth be strictly forbidden, also to the nomads who have always used these mountain slopes as their summer pastures; trespassers are to be shot on sight.


    This measure is ominously reminiscent of the Kurdish policies of Turkey's southern neighbour Iraq during the late 1970s and

     1980s. Iraq too declared such forbidden zones, which gradually came to encompass a larger proportion of the

     Kurdish-inhabited region. Ultimately some 4000 (out of around 5000) villages were destroyed, their population resettled in

     camps or ‘collective villages’; in the final phase of the evictions, up to a hundred thousand Kurds were killed in mass



We are not aware of later press reports on the ratification and implementation of this measure; it was unusual for Minister Gölhan to be quoted in the press on this subject. We cannot therefore judge at which level it was decided to carry through similar ‘security measures’ in a few other districts, for instance the districts of Lice and Kulp, north of Diyarbakır.[10] Settlements here have during the past two years been repeatedly bombed and shelled, and the villagers subjected to extremely brutal abuses by the security forces. The two district centres have been virtually destroyed in full-blown military attacks. At present, there are hardly any inhabited villages left in Kulp and Lice. This report presents detailed information on yet another region where forced evictions have been highly systematic, massive, and rapid, i.e., the province of Tunceli.



2.2.   Problems of resettlement and finding new employment


One factor that has made it difficult to gather systematic information on these village evacuations is that the people from any one village have not usually stayed together but have in most cases immediately dispersed. According to Minister Menteşe’s statement in parliament, the government had in 1993 supplied 500 families with substitute housing.[11] He was probably referring to the pre-fabricated emergency dwellings that are commonly sent to the region following earthquakes (which occur frequently in eastern Turkey). We are not aware of any group of evicted villagers before the autumn of 1994 being given such dwellings, nor other forms of compensation. Virtually all evacuees of whom we are aware had to find a new place to stay by themselves. (In this respect, the village evacuations in Tunceli were exceptional, for here the government did provide some of the evacuees with shelter and even compensation; see chapter 4).


Many evacuees initially stay in nearby villages and towns, bringing some of their animals and hoping to return to their own village when the storm passed over. The population of Diyarbakir, the major city of southeastern Turkey, has increased two- or threefold since 1990 (from 380,000 to approximately a million) with the recent influx of evacuees from the villages. Because of the shortage of housing (and, obviously, lack of money to pay the rent), several families often have to share one single room here — which is especially hard on the women in this rather strict Muslim society. Those who can find nowhere to stay nearby or have given up the hope of returning to their villages migrate to other parts of the country, especially to the Adana-Mersin region near the Mediterranean coast and the big cities in western Turkey.


Those who have relatives living in any of these cities are relatively fortunate; they can impose themselves on those relatives, stay in their houses and demand their help in starting a new life in a new environment. Those who lack such support have to depend on their own wits; and the new environments are not hospitable. Employment is almost non-existent; men of all ages try their luck as construction workers, shoeshiners or street vendors, or are reduced to begging. Everywhere these displaced people are subject to police harrassment and pressure to leave; none of the cities is eager to accommodate more unemployed and unemployable people; moreover, the newcomers are routinely suspected of PKK sympathies. The prospects for rapid integration, economic and cultural, of these displaced Kurds in the western cities are not promising.


In the summer of 1994, several thousand Kurdish families fled from southeastern Turkey into northern Iraq. One reason why they opted for this insecure region rather than western Turkey was probably that they did not wish to loose their animals, which constituted their major source of livelihood. (Northern Iraq is ecologically similar to the region they fled from.) Having crossed an international border, they legally became refugees, and therefore a little more conspicuous than the others who had been forced to leave their villages. Turkey has accused the PKK of organizing this exodus in order to have a supportive population in civilian northern Iraq. From the point of view of the evacuees, however, this was perhaps the most rational choice they could make. Moving to western Turkey would have meant giving up an entire way of life, the only one they were familiar with. Their opting for northern Iraq suggests that they have not yet entirely given up the hope of returning to their villages.


Attention should be drawn here to a ‘solution’ that was proposed by government circles during the Dersim operations. The establishment of easily controllable ‘centre villages’ (merkez köyler) was presented as a benevolent solution that would make it possible to resettle the evicted villagers in the same region. This project will be further discussed below.






The maps and tables that follow provide a detailed overview of the scale of the village evacuations and forest fires in Dersim and the time frame in which they took place. A brief look at the special character of Dersim and its place in the modern history of Turkey may help to throw light on the reasons for the suddenness and thoroughness of this campaign, as well as on some of its implications.



3.1.   Dersim: its cultural and historical significance


Dersim, comprising the province of Tunceli and parts of the neighbouring districts of Erzincan, Sivas and Bingöl, is a mountainous region in eastern central Turkey with a long tradition of resistance to outside interference. Until the 1930s, it had never been brought under effective government control. The tribes of Dersim managed their own affairs by traditional tribal law, without caring much for the laws of the state. In the 1970s and 1980s, several of Turkey's radical left movements concentrated their efforts at finding grassroots support especially on Dersim, in part because of the geography of the region, in part also because of the reputation of its people for independent-mindedness.


Most of the inhabitants of Dersim speak Zaza, a language related to Kurdish (or, as Kurdish nationalists prefer to say, a Kurdish dialect); a minority speak Kurdish proper (Kurmanji). They adhere to the Alevi religion, a heterodox variant of Shi'a Islam with clear traces of pre-Islamic Iranian religion and Christianity. The Alevis are a large religious minority in Turkey, constituting perhaps as many as 15 to 20 percent of the population. Most of the Alevis, however, are Turks, their religious literature and hymns are mostly in Turkish, and many of the saints they venerate are (or are believed to be) Turks. The Dersim Alevis differ in this respect from the other Alevis; within the same Alevi religion, they traditionally have their own saints, and many beliefs and practices not found among the Turkish Alevis. Even to the highly secularized younger generation, the Alevi identity (as distinct from even equally secular persons of orthodox Sunni Muslim backgrounds) remains important. Their language thus connects the Dersimis with the Kurds, their religion with the Turks, but in both respects they remain a minority within a minority.


    This ambivalent ethnic and religious identity — and there is an ongoing debate among Dersimis as to what they ‘really’ are

      — constitutes an important background to the events of 1994. Since the mid-1980s, the Turkish government has been making

     efforts to accommodate the Alevis and to bring their long-standing alienation from the state to an end. The Alevi religion was

     acknowledged as an authentic, Turkish, form of Islam. The PKK and other Kurdish nationalists have been at pains to

     emphasize the Kurdishness of the Zaza or Kurdish-speaking Alevis, and to dissociate them from the Turkish Alevis. The

     government and the Kurdish movement are engaged in an ideological war over the identity of Dersim: is it Turkish or is it

     Kurdish (or perhaps something else altogether)? The increase of PKK activities in Dersim therefore was in itself a political

     statement of a different impact than its activities elsewhere in Kurdistan.


As mentioned before, the province of Tunceli does not include the entire region of Dersim (as culturally defined). The autumn 1994 operations also did not remain restricted to Tunceli province but spilled over into neighbouring Bingöl (to the east) and possibly Erzincan (to the north), parts of which belong to the same geographical and cultural area. We therefore include in this report data on village evacuations in western Bingöl, insofar as these could be compiled.



3.2.   Earlier forced evictions and deportations from Dersim


The autumn 1994 military operations in the Dersim area do not constitute the first case of massive evictions from this region. A half century earlier, the young Turkish Republic adopted a policy of mass deportations as a means of assimilating its Kurdish population, and Dersim was designated as a key region for implementing this policy.


The legal instrument regulating deportations was the Law on (Re)settlement (İskan Kanunu) of 1934. This law defined three types of inhabited region in Turkey. Of the first type, evacuation was, "for health, economic, cultural, political or security reasons", deemed desirable; in the second, the non-Turkish population element had to be diluted by the settlement of Turks; and in the third, where Turkish culture was dominant, non-Turkish elements could be resettled to facilitate their assimilation. In 1935 a special law concerning Dersim was passed, placing it under military rule and giving the military governor extraordinary powers to arrest and deport individuals and families. Roads, bridges, police posts and government mansions were built throughout the province. A few acts of resistance in 1937 provoked a massive military ‘pacification’ campaign, lasting through the summer seasons of 1937 and 1938. Numerous villages were burned to the ground and at least ten percent of the population (thousands of people), were massacred.[12] Many of the survivors were consequently deported to western Turkey. The memory of the 1937-38 massacres was still very much alive in Dersim, and the widespread fear of a replay of those events caused many Dersimis to flee once the army began the 1994 operations.


One of the effects of the mass deportation in the 1930s was the integration of subsequent generations of Dersimis into the social and political life of Turkey. By the 1960s and 1970s, we find a surprising number of persons of Dersimi origins (many of whom had grown up elsewhere) active in various political parties and organizations, especially those of the left. The name of Tunceli became in the minds of many in Turkey almost a synonym for left radicalism. Among the most prominent leaders of the Kurdish movement of that period, too, we find several Dersimis. However, in Dersim itself it was not Kurdish, but radical left organizations that found support among local youth. This remained so after 1980; left radicals from elsewhere sought and found shelter in the mountains and forests of Tunceli province. For a long time, neither the PKK nor any other Kurdish organization succeeded in establishing itself in Dersim. The chief radical organization with grassroots support was the TKP-ML (Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Turkey). It has only been in the last few years that PKK guerrilla bands began appearing in Dersim, and it was only in 1994 that they stepped up the intensity of their actions there.[13]


By the 1980s, Dersim was one of the last regions of Turkey with extensive forests. Its oak forests, moreover, were unique, with several tree species that do not exist elsewhere. The forests were, however, receding and their quality declining. The Department of Forestry decided that in order to preserve and rehabilitate these forests, part of Tunceli province should be declared ‘a natural reserve’ and part of the population would have to be resettled. (Such evictions are explicitly provided for in the 1983 Constitution). In early 1987, the headmen of 233 villages in Tunceli (out of a total of 399) were notified that the government would provide those who left with alternative land and housing in southern and western Turkey.[14] No statistics have been published, to our knowledge, on the numbers of villagers accepting (or being coerced into accepting) this offer. The 1990 general census shows, however, that several villages in Pülümür district were completely depopulated. Many other villages in the province had a considerably lower population than at the time of the previous general census in 1980.


Against the background of this apparent concern with the preservation of the forests, it is grimly ironical that the 1994 operations in Dersim began with widespread forest fires, apparently lit to deny hideouts to the PKK guerilla bands that had recently stepped up their presence in Dersim.





4.1.   General overview


The 1994 operations in Dersim began with a series of forest fires in various parts of Tunceli province in July and August, which were almost certainly deliberately lit by security personnel.[15] For most of the summer and autumn, the mountains kept burning. Eyewitnesses described literal conflagrations in the mountains, encircling the valleys like huge torches. Villagers who tried to put out the fires reported that water was ineffective; there are several reports of helicopters spraying incendiary chemicals. It appears likely that the fires were lit to expel guerrilla bands suspected of hiding in the region. (The accusation, occasionally made in the official Turkish press, that it was the PKK itself that had lit these fires, does not make much sense).


The first evictions of autumn 1994 began in the districts of Pülümür (Tunceli) and Yedisu (Bingöl). A number of evictions had in fact already taken place in these same districts earlier that year. In September, large numbers of troops were deployed in this area. People from the region speak of thousands of soldiers, apparently including özel tim as well as regular army, taking part in the operations. On September 9, seventeen hamlets around Kirdim, in the northwestern corner of Yedisu (Bingöl), were reportedly burnt down.[16]


     An eyewitness from Dağyolu (Pülümur) states that on September 15 large numbers of soldiers came to his village and set fire

     to the forest (using petrol) and to the empty houses in his village. Most of the 30 families then still living there left out of fear;

     only a few older people who had nowhere to go remained behind. Four neighbouring villages had already been vacated by

     their inhabitants out of fear.[17]


The troops involved in this operation then apparently moved further east into the province of Bingöl, as during the following week evictions and demolitions are mentioned from the western districts of Bingöl (Kiğı, Adaklı, Yedisu and Yayladere).


During the same period, the PKK carried out a number of spectacularly violent actions in other parts of Tunceli, which may have provoked further large-scale military operations. On September 11, a PKK unit carried out a raid on the dormitory of a teacher training school in Darıkent (Muhundu) in the district of Mazgirt, killing six teachers.[18] Less than a week later, PKK guerillas attacked a military convoy travelling north from the town of Tunceli. Six persons were killed, including three soldiers and one of the teachers whom the convoy was accompanying.


The latter incident appears to have triggered the next wave of forest fires and village demolitions. From September 22 through 25, the entire region to the northeast, north and northwest of Tunceli was combed by helicopters, firing at and bombing the forest and allegedly shooting at settlements too. The bombardment of the small hamlet of Mirik cost the lives of seven villagers. Over the next few days land troops came, lighting the forest (using petrol, as in Pülümür), destroying empty houses, ordering the villagers to leave or scaring them into fleeing. The actions spilled over into the neighbouring western part of Nazimiye. In Mazgirt too, there were evictions during this period, especially in the area around Darıkent, the location of the September 11 PKK raid.


If this phase of the operations appears to be a direct response to PKK attacks, it is not possible to discover such a direct causal connection between PKK activity and the operations in the area that was perhaps most severly hurt: the Ovacık and Hozat districts. There had been some PKK activity in this region — raids on gendarmerie posts, mostly — but at a relatively low level of intensity compared with its activities elsewhere during the same period.[19] In the last week of September, the military operations shifted to the mountainous region between the district centres of Ovacık and Hozat. Forest fires had been raging here since the summer; new ones were lit. The pattern of broad army sweeps across the mountains, searches of villages with varying degrees of pressure on the inhabitants to leave, burning down of emptied houses and sometimes entire villages continued here until the second half of October.


The evictions and village burnings in Ovacık have perhaps received a disproportionate amount of attention because of the vocal protests by village headmen from this district and the activities of national-level politicians with local roots. Two members of parliament for the Social-Democrat Populist Party (SHP), Mr. Sinan Yerlikaya and the deputy speaker of parliament, Mr. Kamer Genç, hail from Ovacık. Both were at once approached by people from the region and spoke up for them. As a result, Deputy Prime Minister Karayalçın went on an inspection tour of the region (where he was jeered at by displaced villagers but apparently not allowed by the army to visit the depopulated villages). Because of the attention that the events in Ovacık have generated, there is a widespread misconception, in Turkey as well as abroad, that the autumn 1994 operations were restricted to Ovacık. The statistics presented in this report prove otherwise.


The operations continued through most of November but the volume of evictions declined, apparently because there were few inhabited mountain villages left. A Reuter despatch from Tunceli, dated December 1, 1994, showed that the operations were, militarily speaking, paying off since hungry PKK guerrillas, whose stocks of food had been destroyed and who could no longer find food in the now demolished mountain villages, were forced to come down to villages near Tunceli town, where some 85 of them were ambushed.[20] A few weeks later, the same agency brought a curious report on starving dogs, donkeys and other animals from the evacuated villages roaming the streets of the central town of Tunceli in search of food - another indication of the food scarcity in the surrounding countryside.



4.2.   The scale of human and material damage


The data on village evacuations and demolitions in the course of the operations from September through November that we have compiled from various sources, are summarized in Table A. As this table (and the more detailed maps and tables that follow) show, it was especially the northern half of Tunceli province that suffered from forest fires and village evacuations and demolitions. It should be noted, however, that the volume of village evacuations and demolitions in the districts of Nazimiye and Mazgirt may have been higher than our tables and maps suggest. We have received a number of unclear and contradictory reports from those districts that we have not incorporated.


Similarly, our data from western Bingöl is very incomplete. The districts of Yedisu, Yayladere and the western part of Kiğı appear to have suffered as much as Tunceli, but it was much harder to find reliable sources there. This region, moreover, has already lost a good deal of its village population in earlier waves of evacuation. Several villages in Yayladere were already listed as uninhabited in the 1990 census results; in the autumn of 1993 there were, in response to a large-scale PKK attack, military operations in western Bingöl (Adaklı; Sancak), that also resulted in village evacuations.


The treatment of the villages in the autumn 1994 operations has not been uniform; some were burnt down or otherwise demolished while people still were living in them, in the case of others the inhabitants were given a few days to leave, and in yet other villages people were not actually evicted (although many left out of fear). The more isolated villages were virtually all depopulated, whereas many villages close to the main roads and in the valleys were spared. Most of the villages in the district of Ovacık that still remain are located in the central valley. These villages are, however, subject to a very strict food embargo (see also section 4.2)


The southern part of the province suffered much less in the operations. The districts of Çemişgezek and Pertek are ethnically somewhat mixed and are culturally speaking not considered as part of Dersim proper. In both there is at least one village with korucu, ‘village guards’, which is exceptional in this province. There appear not even to have been any attempts to recruit village guards elsewhere in Tunceli, possibly because of the Dersimis' reputation for rebelliousness.


Part of the evacuees soon dispersed; those who had relatives elsewhere in the country joined them. Many families moved to the cities of Elazığ (directly south of Tunceli), Adana and Mersin (both in southern Turkey), where there were already substantial numbers of Dersimis. Other families sought temporary shelter in the district centres. By the end of October, it was estimated that there were some 1200 homeless families in these district centres: 600 families in Ovacık, 200 in Hozat, another 200 in Tunceli, around 100 in Çemişgezek, and another 100 in Mazgirt and Nazimiye.[21] Some families were reported living in tents around the town of Ovacık, others were lodged in the few public buildings. The government erected emergency dwellings for some of the homeless near Ovacık, but it was doubted whether these simple structures would be able to withstand the severe winter. There are conflicting reports on compensation: many of the evacuees interviewed in Özgür Ülke had not been given any compensation for their loss of house and property, but according to a report in Turkish Probe, (some of) the families whose houses had been burned down had received TL 4 million (US$ 110) in compensation.[22]


The damage to the forests in Tunceli has been extensive. Forest fires have been lit almost throughout the entire province. Our sources repeatedly mention soldiers pouring out petrol to set fire to forests, occasionally also using other chemicals spread from the air. The actual area destroyed by fire is hard to establish without access to satellite photographs. One politician with close relations to the region estimated that 25 per cent of the forest has been lost.[23] Other informants suggest that this may even be a conservative estimate.


In one respect the 1994 operations differ significantly from those of 1937-38. In spite of all brutality, this time there was no indiscriminate killing. In fact, given the scale of the operation and the number of military taking part, the number of dead is surprisingly low. Newspaper reports, which of course are not exhaustive, mention the names of 18 villagers missing (not counting the village headmen mentioned in section 4.5), of whom four were later found dead.



4.3.   Village burnings by the PKK?


Claims by military and government spokespeople that the PKK was responsible for the burning of villages in Tunceli have not been substantiated. One dubious case, concerning the village of Ulukale in Çemişgezek, was reported by Reuter on October 17 and, following Reuter, by Amnesty International.[24] This village allegedly took part in the korucu (village guard) system and was for that reason attacked and set alight by PKK guerrillas. Five weeks earlier, however, the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Ülke (12-9-94) had reported an attack on this village by what it termed "an armed group", who killed 7 people and set fire to a number of houses. It appears likely that both reports refer to the same incident. Özgür Ülke has never been reluctant to report violent PKK attacks on korucu villages. It moreover added to its report that the villagers of Ulukale had, several months earlier, refused to accept arms and become korucu, suggesting that the attack was a reprisal by 'Kontra' forces for this refusal.



4.4.   'Food embargo' and access restrictions


As elsewhere, the army imposed a strict food embargo in at least some parts of Dersim. A report from Ovacık mentions that in July 1994, i.e., before the military operations began, people were searched for food in the streets.[25] A similar embargo is mentioned for the western districts Kiğı, Adaklı, Yedisu and Yayladere of Bingöl, and the sub-district of Sancak in the central district of that province (Üzgür Ülke, 12/09/95). After most of the forest villages in Ovacık had been evacuated, in November a very strict embargo was imposed on 15 villages in the central valley of Ovacık that had remained intact. One villager who was interviewed by a journalist told that because of this embargo nobody there had been able to stock food for the winter months (Özgür Ülke, 25-11-94).


Villagers carrying or stocking substantial amounts of food were routinely suspected of supporting the PKK. This happened among others to Ibrahim Aktaş, who later related his experience to a journalist.


    Aktaş, who lived in the village of Aktaş in the Karao\lan subdistrict of Ovacık, had gone to the village of Büyükköy to buy

     potatoes, and while he was there the village was raided and searched by troops. Aktaş apparently aroused their suspicion;

     without giving him any reason, they forced him to come along with them. For two weeks, Aktaş and 15 others, who had been

     taken from various other villages, had to follow the troops through the mountains. They were beaten and accused of being

     PKK supporters but finally released. When Aktaş hurried home, he found that his village no longer existed. It had been

     burned down and all inhabitants, including his wife, had fled. He finally found his wife with relatives in Elazığ (Özgür Ülke



The newspaper report focuses on Aktaş’ ‘kidnapping’ by the army, and the destruction of his village. In the present context, however, it should be noted that he was apparently detained because he was buying food.


Not every suspect detained by the army was as fortunate as Ibrahim Aktaş. The miller of the village of İbimahmut in Darıkent (Mazgirt district), Ali Karaca, was arrested on October 10 because he allegedly had given flour to PKK guerrillas. Three days later he died in a hospital in Elazığ, allegedly as a result of severe torture by the gendarmerie.[26]


During the military operations, the region was virtually sealed off by a blockade. Because there are only two major roads into the province, it is relatively easy to keep a close check on the movements of people into and out of the region. Traffic restrictions have been rather frequent occurrences in Tunceli. In 1994, there were reports as early as the summer that traffic was being restricted. It was still possible to enter the province from the north (i.e., from Erzincan through Pülümür) but after 13.00 the road to Tunceli was apparently closed to traffic.[27] In autumn there were more restrictions, both of movement within and into the province.


Several delegations of human rights activists were prevented from entering the province or allowed to go as far as the central town only. By November, it was reportedly only persons with identity cards stating Tunceli as their place of residence who were allowed to enter the province. The Erzincan-Pülümür road was closed to all traffic. The road to Nazimiye was opened for a brief time only each day. The districts of Çemişgezek and Hozat could only be reached from Elazığ, not from the central town of Tunceli. In Bingöl, the road from the central town to the district centre of Adaklç was reportedly completely closed throughout October and November.


The justification for these traffic and food restrictions of course was the fight against the PKK. They made life especially difficult (and expensive), however, for the ordinary villagers. Both added to the pressure on the villagers to evacuate their villages. The road blockade moreover made fact-finding missions by outside observers impossible, and thus amounted to a blockade of information too. However, since people from Tunceli could still leave the province, reports about the village evacuations and burnings eventually reached the Turkish and international public.



4.5.   Protest actions and reprisals


The military operations in Dersim generated a considerable amount of protest, both inside and outside Turkey. To some extent this was the result of the earlier deportations from Dersim: both in the large cities of Turkey and in western Europe there are relatively large communities of Dersimis, who still maintain contact with their region of origin. It was these ‘diaspora Dersimis’ (who have their own associations in many cities) who publicized what was going on, organized relief aid for evicted villagers, and appealed to political leaders.


The first initiatives, however, came from community leaders in the region itself. It was the village headmen (muhtar) from the afflicted areas who first drew national attention to the plight of their villages.[28]Eight muhtars from Hozat district travelled to Ankara and spoke on October 7 with the president of the Federation of Human Rights Associations and with the social-democrat deputies from Tunceli, Sinan Yerlikaya and Kamer Genç. Four of them were detained upon their return and two days later released.[29] Three of them were then detained again; by the end of October, one of them had been released but the whereabouts of the others were unknown.


Ten muhtars from Ovacık and the mayor of the district centre sent a petition to the Minister of State for Human Rights, Mr. Azimet Köylüo\lu, stating that troops had set fire to their villages without even allowing the inhabitants to save their household goods. Mr. Köylüo\lu, reacting to the reports he had received, spoke of ‘state terror’, but a few days later he retracted his words.


Some time later, another group of muhtars from Ovacık visited Prime Minister Tansu Çiller and Mr. Köylüo\lu, reporting how army troops had burned down their villages and how they had been fired at from helicopters. On this occasion, Mrs. Çiller assured them that it could not possibly be the Turkish army that did those things. As a more likely explanation she suggested that the helicopters might have belonged to the PKK, which could well have been supplied with them by Armenia or Afghanistan.


The actions of these muhtars led to questions in parliament. In his response, the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Nahit Menteşe, stated that a few village houses might have caught fire in the course of clashes between security troops and ‘terrorists’ but denied that the villages mentioned by the muhtars had been burned down by the army. This had been done, he alleged, either by the PKK or by the villagers themselves in the hope of receiving compensation.[30]


Another muhtar, of the village of Kirdim in Pülümür, gave a television interview to the private channel ATV on October 24. He told how villages in his district had been set on fire by the army. Three days later he was arrested, apparently when travelling back to Tunceli.


Besides those mentioned already, at least seven more muhtars were detained in connection with their protests.[31] One of them, the headman of Bilekli, disappeared again after his release and was later found dead.



4.6.   A remedy for the evicted villagers? The 'centre village' project


Not long after the evictions and village burnings in Dersim had received public attention, the government proposed a 'solution' that would allow the villagers at least to stay in or return to the same region. This was the concept of the 'centre village' (merkez köy), a large settlement where the inhabitants from numerous dispersed villages and hamlets were to be resettled.


    Similar projects had been proposed in the 1970s in more peaceful circumstances, both by the left-of-centre Republican

      People's Party (CHP) of Mr. Ecevit and the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party of Mr. Türkeş. Then named 'village-town'

     (köy-kent) and 'agricultural town' (tarım-kent), the foreseen large settlements were to provide the rural population with better

     infrastructure and employment opportunities than would be possible in the myriad of existing villages and hamlets. Never

     implemented, the idea was revived in 1992 or 1993 by the late President Turgut Özal, who in a posthumously published

     position paper on the Kurdish question recommended the massive resettlement of Kurdish mountain villagers in more easily

     controllable large settlements. Government plans for such resettlement were obliquely mentioned in the press as early as

     1993.[32] The concept is shockingly reminiscent of the resettlement of Kurdish villagers under Iraq's Ba`th regime, which

     began as benign measures of modernization from above and culminated in the genocide of 1988.


On November 28, 1994, Prime Minister Tansu Çiller and Deputy Prime Minister Murat Karayalçın gave a press conference at which they announced the government's project of resettlement of the village population in 'centre villages'. Mrs. Çiller emphasized that this project did not exclusively target (Kurdish-inhabited) southeastern Turkey but was to be implemented throughout the country. The population of scattered mountain villages is to be resettled — voluntarily — on state lands close to the major population centres. Houses, stables and arable land are to be made available to the settlers by the state, to be paid back in installments over a 15-20 year period. Mrs. Çiller claimed that within the next few months an agreement was to be signed with the European Resettlement Fund, which would make available TL 10 trillion (US$ 278 million) for the first phase of this project. This would suffice to relocate 12,000 homeless families, and Mrs. Çiller promised that the evacuees from Ovacık would be the first beneficiaries.[33]





5.1    Assessing the damage of the military operations


While the operations in Dersim were in progress no one, not even the civilian wing of the government, appeared to have a grasp of their scope. Information coming from the region was fragmented, and often reached the world outside after some delay. It is only in retrospect that one can attempt to construct an overall view. This is done in the maps and tables that constitute the most important part of this report. These maps and tables are based on a painstaking comparison of reports from a variety of sources with the existing official maps and census data.


Our aim in researching the present report was:

(a) to compile a list that is as complete and reliable as possible of villages that were, in whole or in part, evacuated and/or demolished or otherwise subjected to harrassment during the autumn 1994 operations in Dersim and the contiguous districts of Bingöl;

(b) to identify the location of these villages on the geographical and administrative map of the region, in order to distinguish patterns in the evacuations and demolitions and to gain an insight in the proportion of villages affected;

(c) to similarly compile all references to forest fires lit by security troops and plot them on the map, in order to give an initial impression of the environmental damage.


This task was a complicated one for a number of reasons that deserve brief explanation. Like elsewhere in eastern Turkey, villages in Tunceli have at least two names: a Turkish 'new name' given during the Republican period and a 'traditional name' that may be of Armenian, Kurdish, Zaza or Turkish origin. Local people frequently refer to a village by its traditional name, but official sources of course only mention new names. Two reports on evacuations mentioning two different names may thus in reality deal with one and the same village.


Secondly, there are villages with identical or very similar names in various parts of the province; to identify a specific village it is therefore common also to mention the district and/or subdistrict. However, even local people make mistakes attributing villages to subdistricts; the division into districts and subdistricts is a purely administrative one that does not necessarily correspond with the geographical structure of the region.


Thirdly, there are many more settlements than there are villages. The village (köy) is an administrative unit, the lowest tier of the hierarchy that begins with the province (il), down through the district (ilçe) and subdistrict (nahiye or bucak). Many villages consist of a core, the village proper, and a number of small outlying settlements, mezra (translated as 'hamlet'). Most mezra also have names, and occasionally there is confusion as to whether a certain settlement is a köy or a mezra. For reasons of compatibility, we only speak of villages when we give numbers. If two mezra of a certain village are completely evacuated, we speak of the partial evacuation of that village. In the tables (see below) we list all villages but only those mezra that are explicitly mentioned in our sources.





[click on the map to see an enlarged image]



5.2    Sources


5.2.a. The press

The data compiled here originate from a variety of sources. We have scanned the Turkish mainstream press but it proved almost useless as a source because of the generally practised self-censorship where events in southeastern Turkey are concerned. The only mainstream daily that occasionally carried a useful report was Cumhuriyet (which, unfortunately, we have been unable to use systematically because in Europe only a weekly edition, Cumhuriyet Hafta, is available). Ankara's English-language daily, Turkish Daily News, and its weekly magazine edition, Turkish Probe, used to be quite informative on the Kurdish question but these media too, though less reticent than the Turkish-language mainstream papers, have become reluctant to report news that might embarrass the security forces.


A major source, however, was the Kurdish-owned and left-wing press, especially the daily Özgür Ülke.[34] This newspaper printed almost daily reports on the events in Dersim. Judging by the contents of these news items, many of them were based on phone calls direct from the region, or on interviews with people who had recently left the region, often evacuees themselves. The paper published a number of longer interviews in which evicted villagers related their own experiences.


    One might wonder, of course, whether this newspaper did not, for reasons of political propaganda, greatly exaggerate the

     seriousness of the Dersim operations and attempt to make them look more systematic than they really were. This supposition

     does not, however, stand up to scrutiny of the reports. The editors of the newspaper clearly had only an approximate

     knowledge of the geography of the region and often failed to grasp the relevance of certain items they reported. On many

     villages, there are reports in several issues of this newspaper (sometimes under different names, and apparently originating

     from different informants), which makes a certain amount of cross-checking possible. Altogether, this newspaper appeared to

     be a rather reliable source.


The two other media that reported extensively on the events in Dersim are the weekly Özgür Gelecek (published by the left-wing and largely Dersim-based party TKP-ML), and the Kurdish-owned weekly Dengê Azadi (affiliated with the Socialist Party of Kurdistan in Turkey, TKSP, whose leader Kemal Burkay also hails from Dersim). As most of the information in Özgür Gelecek, however, appeared to be identical with, and clearly copied from, that in Özgür Ülke, it provided but little supplementary information that proved useful. Dengê Azadi, on the other hand, although also partly dependent on Özgür Ülke, contained some independent information but little that was detailed enough for our purposes. The Turkish-language monthly published by the PKK, Serxwebûn, was useful in that it reports extensively on PKK guerrilla activities in each region.


5.2.b.  Lists of evacuated villages

A number of persons and organisations have compiled lists of villages affected by the operations in Dersim. The Human Rights Associations, as usual, compiled a list based on their own independent sources - primarily reports reaching the headquarters or provincial branches directly from the region. This list was published in the Association's report for October 1994.

Another list was compiled by one of the associations of people from Tunceli living in western Turkey, again based on independent fact-finding. A third list that we have been able to use was compiled by a well-connected politician with strong ties to the region.


5.2.c.  Personal contacts

Finally we have collected additional information through personal contacts in the Dersimi community. A person with extensive contacts in Bingöl collected data for us on the present and past populations (in number of families) of villages in the western districts of that province.


5.3.   Processing the information


Each of the cases occurring in any of these lists and newspaper reports was compared with, and then fed into a database containing all the villages of Tunceli and western Bingöl with their traditional and new names, administrative affiliation, and their population. (This database was prepared using official Turkish maps and statistics, published lists of old and new names, and information on names from local sources). In this way, numerous internal inconsistencies and double references could be filtered out, and the relationships between apparently isolated events became visible. Thus we have been able to compile a more systematic overview of the evacuations and demolitions than exists for any other region in eastern Turkey.


Two comments are appropriate at this point: it is quite possible that the destruction has been even worse than our lists and maps indicate. We have been able to weed out incorrect or unreliable reports, but we are of course dependent on the reports that have reached us — not all cases may have been reported. Secondly, the operations in Dersim differ from earlier ones elsewhere in that they took place over a relatively brief period of time and were relatively well reported in the press. This does not necessarily imply that Dersim has been much worse afflicted, or was depopulated more thoroughly, than any other part of the Kurdish provinces.


The tables summarize the information from our sources on various types of events taking place in the villages, under the headings ‘forest fires’, ‘razzias’, ‘evacuations’ and ‘burnings’.


    (a) burnings

The most dramatic of these events obviously is the burning down of entire villages. Our sources, however, do not always differentiate between the demolition of an entire village and the torching of a number of houses in the village. When a village is indicated as ‘burned down’, this therefore means that is was burned down in whole or in part. In the cases where more detailed information was available, this is indicated in the comments column.


    (b) evacuations

When a village is (partially or completely) burned down, this logically implies that some degree of evacuation has taken place. However, since the evacuation may have taken place prior to the autumn 1994 operations during which the houses or villages were demolished, we only indicate evacuation when this is explicitly mentioned in our sources as taking place during September-November 1994.


    (c) razzias (baskın)

The Turkish word baskın, commonly used by our sources, may mean ‘raid’ or ‘attack’ as well as ‘razzia’. An army baskın of a village usually involves a house-to-house search, sometimes resulting in an arrest or the confiscation of goods (food or arms, especially). In practice, a baskın is often accompanied by brutal treatment of the villagers and destruction of property. Forced evictions and burnings by the army evidently occur during such a baskın. In those cases the razzia is not indicated separately. If our tables indicate both a razzia and an evacuation or burning for the same village, this means that at least one more razzia took place there well before or after the other event.


    (d) forest fires

Only forest fires in the direct vicinity of the village are indicated.



5.4.   The Tables


The tables list, for each district of Tunceli province, all administratively recognised villages that existed in 1990 (as registered in the 1990 general census). The columns contain, from the left to the right, the following:

a. a serial number. This is the serial number given to the village in the 1990 census. Those mezra (hamlets) that are mentioned in our sources are listed under the village to which they belong; they do not have a serial number because they are not treated as separate units in the census. (It has not been attempted to list all mezra.) In a few cases, settlements are listed that were, for unknown reasons, not listed as villages in the 1990 census but are indicated as such in other official sources. Like the mezra, the settlements obviously do not have serial numbers.

b. an indication of the administrative status of the settlement. The following abbreviations are used:

      i (il or ilçe):   province or district centre

      b (bucak, nahiye):  subdistrict centre

      k (köy):            village

      m (mezra):         hamlet

c. the new name, as listed in the 1990 census. Variants of this name, when they occur, are indicated in footnotes.

d. the traditional name. Here the name is listed as it occurs on the old 1:200,000 maps of Turkey's General Directory of Maps. Alternative names found in other sources (if sufficiently different to warrant special mention) are indicated in footnotes.

e. the population (number of persons, not families) in 1990, as recorded in the general census of that year. The population figure for each village includes the inhabitants of its mezra (if it has any).

f-i. events in the village during the September-November 1994 operations. Four categories of events are distinguished:

f. forest fires in the direct neighbourhood of the village.

g. razzia/raid and search (baskın)

h. partial or complete evacuation of the village.

i. partial or complete burning down of the village.

It is possible that a source is mentioned for a certain village but there is no entry for any of these four columns. This means that the village was affected by the operations but that not enough information is available to classify the events.

j. explanatory comments. Further detail and/or clarification on the nature of the events is given in the form of a capital letter and number (from A1 to F12). These codes are explained below.

k. sources. Newspaper articles mentioning the village are listed by the name of the paper, date or issue number and page number. The following abbreviations are used:

      ÖÜ :         Özgür Ülke               Ser :         Serxwebûn

      ÖGel :       Özgür Gelecek            CumH :      Cumhuriyet Hafta

The following three lists of evacuated or destroyed villages compiled by others are referred to:

List A: compiled by a well-connected Turkish politician.

List B: compiled by the Turkish Human Rights Association.

List C: compiled by people of Tunceli origins living in western Turkey.

Two particularly well-informed local informants are referred to:

Local source A is an inhabitant of Pülümür district;

local source B is an inhabitant of Nazimiye district.


Explanation of the codes used in columns of the tables:


A: refers to the situation prior to September 1994

A1      mentioned prior to September 1994 as partly or completely evacuated

A2      possibly deserted before September 1994

A3      already burned down before September 1994

A4      uninhabited according to the 1990 census

A5      [only for Bingöl lists:] strong decline of population (>50%) recorded in recent years

A6      [only for Bingöl lists:] strong decline of population (>75%) between 1970 and 1990 as reflected in general censuses.


B: refers to the events taking place during the raid or raids

B1      death of a villager

B2      villager(s) missing after raid

B3      missing villager later found dead

B4      villagers forced to accompany troops on operation (as guides, etc)

B5      dead body (alien to the village) found

B6      villagers forced by troops to cut down fruit trees

B7      village surrounded by troops continually harrassing villagers

B8      raid carried out by special teams (özel tim)

B9      raid carried out by village guards (korucu)

B10     food embargo

B11     muhtar (village headman) detained, later released

B12     muhtar detained

B13     muhtar detained, then missing

B14     muhtar detained, released, detained again, then missing

B15     muhtar detained, released, detained again, found dead


C: refers to evictions/evacuations

C1      villagers told to evacuate before a certain date (it is not known in all cases whether actual eviction followed or not)

C2      evacuation under threat

C3      possibly evacuated

C4      evacuated after blockade and/or occupation of surroundings by troops

C5      villagers coerced into signing statement that troops did not evict them

C6      villagers told by military that there is no guarantee the village will not be evacuated


D: refers to the burning down of villages

D1      threatened with burning down

D2      set alight before completely evacuated

D3      burned down, apparently before complete evacuation; complete eviction possibly following burning

D4      unclear from available information whether forcibly evacuated and/or burned down

D5      burning mentioned in source appears improbable or is contradicted by other sources

D6      possibly burned down

D7      certainly not completely burned down

D8      one house burned down

D9      reports on burning down may only concern mezra

D10     villagers forced to sign statement that village not burned down


E: refers to bombardments (by helicopters)

E1      bombed from the air

E2      deaths as a result of bombing

E3      wounded as a result of bombing

E4      houses destroyed as a result of bombing

E5      area surrounding the village bombed

E6      forest bombed

E7      bombed after evacuation


F: other comments

F1      no detailed information on events available

F2      raid (baskın) by PKK

F3      death as a result of army gunfire

F4      houses demolished after evacuation

F5      villagers fled after being threatened, possibly by village guards (korucu)

F6      arson by special teams (özel tim)

F7      occurrence of army raid deduced from the reported local imposition of food embargo

F8      muhtar went to Ankara in October to protest operations

F9      muhtar signed petition to protest the burning down of villages

F10     muhtar visited Prime Minister Çiller

F11     burning down of this village explicitly denied by Minister of the Interior Menteşe

F12     partial burning down acknowledged by Minister of the Interior Menteşe.


The maps show all villages (but no mezra) with their new names. Underlining of the name indicates partial or complete evacuation, a box around it indicates that the village was partially or completely burned down. Our maps are based on the provincial maps published by Özgül Yayınları, İsparta (no date), which are similar to or identical with the maps used by the civilian administration. Where necessary, minor changes were made to bring them into agreement with the administrative division of the 1990s; these changes are indicated in footnotes. For the identification of villages referred to by their old name, these modern maps were compared with official Turkish maps from the 1940s, which still give the old village names.







Out of 399 villages in the province of Tunceli, 124 or around a third were at least partially evacuated and/or destroyed by fire in the course of the military operations against PKK guerrillas of September-November 1994. In some subdistricts the proportion of affected villages was even above 80 percent. Government spokespersons have mentioned a figure of 1,200 families made homeless; the real number of families affected by the operations may be several times that figure. During the summer and autumn, approximately a quarter of the extensive forests of Tunceli was deliberately set alight, causing grave ecological damage in one of Turkey's last rich forest areas.


Forced evacuations and demolitions of villages have by no means been restricted to Tunceli. This province is only exceptional in that we are relatively well informed about the human and material damage there. Similar military operations have resulted in the virtual depopulation of various other Kurdish-inhabited regions in eastern Turkey. Forced evictions of villagers began on a large scale in 1992. The brutality with which they are carried out has been increasing. This is not surprising, since the security troops have been able to abuse the civilian population with complete impunity. No serious investigations have been made into allegations of systematic mistreatment by the army and the 'special teams'; no disciplinary action taken against officers responsible for arson, torture, destruction of people's property and even manslaughter.


The forced evacuation of mountain settlements, which initially appeared to take place at the initiative of military commanders in the field in the course of counter-insurgency operations, is developing into a deliberate policy agreed upon at the highest level. Twice in 1994 the press reported decisions by Turkey's National Security Council to evacuate entire areas (the Ararat-Tendürek region and the Karakoçan district of Elazığ). The government's ambitious plans for constructing 'centre villages' to resettle the inhabitants of dispersed mountain villages and hamlets are disconcerting in this context, even though it is claimed that resettlement will be 'voluntary'.


Resettlement on this scale goes well beyond counter-insurgency. It systematically violates basic rights of the rural population. Furthermore, it results not simply in the destruction of houses and villages but also in the destruction of the economic and social life and an important part of the culture of the affected population. Half a century ago Turkey deliberately adopted a policy of resettlement of Kurds as a means of speeding up their assimilation. The 'centre village' project represents a thinly disguised return to that old policy; if carried out, it will result in the destruction of a significant part of Kurdish culture, and is obviously in violation of Turkey's obligation, as a member of the Council of Europe, to protect its minority cultures.








baskın             razzia, raid, attack

bucak             subdistrict (same as nahiye)

İHD               İnsan Haklarç Dernegi (Human Rights Association)

kontr-gerilla        popular name of the Bureau for Special Operations, a counter-insurgency outfit answering to

                  the armed forces chief of staff

korucu            village guard (Kurdish militia, armed by the government to fight the PKK

mezra             hamlet

muhtar            elected village headman

nahiye             subdistrict (same as bucak)

özel tim            'special teams': irregular counter-insurgency units, feared for their violent brutality

PKK              Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (Workers' Party of Kurdistan), the largest Kurdish party in


TKP-ML           Türkiye Komünist Partisi- Marksist-Leninist, a radical left organization, most influential

                  among young people in Tunceli





In attempts to deny the militant Kurdish organisation PKK (Workers’ Party of Kurdistan), which has been waging a guerrilla war against the Turkish state for over a decade, access to food and shelter, the Turkish security troops have forced a large part of the rural population to evacuate their villages and move to other parts of the country, usually without any form of compensation.

      ‘Spontaneous’ evacuations on a large scale already took place during the 1980s, when large-scale military operations, accompanied by routine harrassment of the village population, made it increasingly difficult to continue ordinary daily life. Both the security troops and the PKK put pressure on the villagers to support them - and retaliated against those whom they suspected of having joined the other side.

      Forcible evacuations were mentioned incidentally during the 1980s but became increasingly common in the 1990s. By 1992 it became apparent that these were part of a deliberate policy of the Turkish military. The first affected region comprised the districts north of the Iraqi border - a highly mountainous region where the PKK was known to have several bases. Villagers were told to either become ‘village guards’ (a sort of militia, armed by the state, and charged with the task of keeping their own neighbourhood free of PKK infiltration, but later also with taking part in the army’s sweeping operations across the region) or leave. Foodstocks and other possessions of those refusing to become ‘village guards’ were frequently destroyed and their houses set alight. The same pattern of forcible evacuations later spread to other Kurdish-inhabited districts, and eyewitness reports indicate that the coercion used became even more brutal.

      According to the Human Rights Associations of Turkey, which systematically compile information on village evacuations and other violations of human rights, no less than 874 villages and hamlets were partly or completely evacuated in the course of the year 1993 alone, which in many cases was followed by demolition by the army. This figure was not contested by the government, which only claimed that the evacuations had been spontaneous, for economic reasons, and that it was the PKK that had destroyed the villages. The cumulative list of village evacuations now contains the names of well over 2000 villages and hamlets evacuated. These figures by themselves are quite disturbing, but they do not even begin to give an indication of the impact of this policy. Comparison of this list with that of previously existing villages shows that in certain districts, e.g. around şçrnak and between Cizre and Silopi, no villages are left at all (as indeed has been suggested by those who have been able to briefly visit these districts).


During the months of September through November 1994, the Turkish army carried out a wave of village evacuations and demolitions in the province of Tunceli and neighbouring districts that were more systematic and thorough than any before. In just over two months’ time, around a third of the villages of this province were forcibly evacuated and destroyed. Tunceli is a province where until recently the PKK had made comparatively little headway. In the summer of 1994, the first significant PKK activities had been reported here, and it appears that the army was determined to prevent it from getting a foothold in this province, even at the cost of destroying it. There are extensive forests in Tunceli, some of the last remaining in Turkey - in fact, Tunceli had several years earlier been designated to become a nature reserve. A few weeks prior to the evacuations, these forests were set alight. New forest fires were started during the military operations, and villagers reported that the forests were bombed and sprayed with incendiary chemicals from helicopters. Helicopters were also used in some raids on villages.

      Information on what happened in Tunceli gradually filtered through to the world outside, in spite of a military blockade of the area. Village headmen succeeded in visiting Ankara and speaking to politicians and human rights activists. The Minister of State for Human Rights, Azimet Köylüoğlu, initially declared that it was the state itself that was destroying villages but was forced to retract his statement a few days later. The sole medium that reported regularly on the forced evacuations in Tunceli, based on information reaching it from the province itself, was the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Ülke (which has meanwhile been closed down by the Turkish authorities). It is only after a careful comparison of these reports and those from other independent sources on the events (interviews, and lists prepared by the Human Rights Associations and local people) with the population census of 1990 and other official sources that the full dimensions of this depopulation become clear.


Tunceli, especially its northern part, has always been a culturally distinct region; its population constitutes a religious and linguistic minority within a minority. As the maps and accompanying lists show, the rural parts of this distinct region are now largely depopulated; if its inhabitants are not allowed to return to their original villages, far more than forests and a few hundred villages will have been destroyed — we will have lost one of the most distinctive traditional cultures of Asia Minor.













[1] Dersim is the traditional name of this region, and locals still refer to it by this name. In the 1930’s, the Turkish government changed its name into Tunceli. The present province of Tunceli, however, is smaller than historical Dersim. Neighbouring districts of Erzincan and Bingöl are culturally and geographically part of the same region.


[2] Because of the proximity of the (former) Soviet border and the unpredictability of Turkey’s southern neighbours, Iraq and Syria, a large proportion of Turkey’s armed forces have always been concentrated in and near the Kurdish-inhabited provinces. Immediately following the 1980 coup, another army corps was moved from the Aegean region to stay permanently in the southeast - apparently in response to a perceived Kurdish, and perhaps an Iranian, threat.


[3] Brief overviews of the use of foreign-supplied weaponry by the Turkish army in operations against the Kurds are given in the Amnesty International report "Turkey: a policy of denial" (February 1995), pp. 3-6, and in: Human Rights Watch Arms Project, "U.S. cluster bombs for Turkey?" (New York and Washington DC: Human Rights Watch, December 1994).


[4] The following figures are from the written answer, dated April 25, 1994, by the Minister of the Interior to questions posed by Mr. Sedat Yurtdaş (one of the Kurdish members of parliament whose immunity was later suspended and who were tried and sentenced to long prison terms for separatist activities).


[5] Quoted in Amnesty International, “Turkey: A policy of denial”, p. 6. This is not the cumulative total but the number for 1994 alone. In its annual report for 1994, the İHD gave an estimated number of 1500 villages and hamlets evacuated.


[6] Minister Nahit Menteşe, answering parliamentary questions on the human costs of the war (Özgür Ülke, 10-12-94).


[7] Mr. Karayalçın’s press conference in The Hague, March 3, 1995.


[8] Yakılan köylerden bir kesit (Ankara: İnsan Hakları Derneği, May 1994). Mr Akın Birdal, the president of the Federation of Human Rights Associations, against whom charges had been brought because of this book, was acquitted by court decision in January 1995. The book, however, is still banned.


[9] Reported in the respected daily Cumhuriyet, June 3, 1994. The National Security Council, which formally only advises the government, is de facto the most powerful agency of the state. Its members are the five supreme army chiefs, the prime minister, and the ministers of defense, the interior, and foreign affairs.


[10] One other National Security Council decision to evacuate villages has come to our notice. The July 12, 1994 issue of Özgür Ülke reported that the Coucil, meeting on June 29, had decided that a number of villages in the district of Karakoçan (Elazığ province) and western Bingöl had to be evacuated. On October 25, the paper reported that the evacuation of five of these villages had been completed.


[11] Minister Menteşe’s answer to the parliamentary question mentioned in note 4 above.


[12] The figure of 10 percent is based on the numbers of casualties given in the official Turkish military history of the campaign, Reşat Hallı, Türkiye Cumhuriyetinde Ayaklanmalar, 1924-1938 (Resurrections in the Republic of Turkey, 1924-1938), published in 1972 by the history department of the general staff headquarters. Kurdish sources claim that the death toll was much higher, entire tribes being almost wiped out.


[13] An article in Turkish Probe (28-10-94, p. 5) even claimed that the number of PKK fighters in the province in mid-1994 was estimated at 3,000 — which seems rather exaggerated.


[14] See the report "Tunceli göçe zorlanıyor" (Tunceli forced to emigrate") in the weekly İkibin'e Doğru, February 15-21, 1987, pp. 8-16.


[15] In the preceding years there have been several earlier reports of forest fires allegedly lit by security forces, especially in the central part of Tunceli province.


[16] Kirdim used to belong administratively to Pülümür, and most press reports still mention it as such. However, it was, together with a few adjoining villages detached from this district some years ago (probably in the late 1980’s) and joined to villages detached from Kiğı in Bingöl to constitute the new district of Yedisu in Bingöl province.


[17] SNK interview with a migrant worker from the area who was visiting his relatives when the operations began.


[18] The PKK had earlier announced its intention to fight ‘colonial education’ by ‘executing’ schoolteachers. According to a count by Amnesty International, it killed a total of 13 teachers during the months of September and October (see the AI report ‘Turkey: A Policy of Denial’, dated February 1995).


[19] Each issue of the PKK’s bi-weekly journal Serxwebûn publishes an overview of the PKK’s operations of the past weeks.


[20] "Turkish army traps rebel Kurds driven by hunger" by Ferit Demir at Tunceli, 1-12-94 (Reuter).


[21] These figures were provided by a well-informed Turkish politician with ties to the region.


[22] Turkish Probe, 28-10-94, p. 5. The same article quoted Minister Menteşe as claiming that a total sum of TL 236.7 billion (US$ 6.4 million) had been disbursed to 236 families, which seems an improbably high sum.


[23] Interview with a well-informed Turkish politician who prefers not to be named.


[24] Amnesty International, "Turkey: a policy of denial", p. 7. The incident is said to have taken place in mid-October, and the village name is incorrectly given as Ulukaya.


[25] Kemal Astare, "Zwischen den Feuern: Notizen aus dem Krieg im Zaza-Land", Pogrom, October-November 1994; Kemal Astare, "Der Krieg hält an: Menschen sterben, Wälder brennen", Ware, October 1994. Another article in the same issue of Ware (a journal published in Germany by people mostly of Dersim origins, that emphasizes the separate identity of Zaza speakers) suggests that a food embargo has been systematically enforced in Tunceli since the spring of 1994.


[26] The case of this miller was mentioned several times in the press: Özgür Ülke 16-10, 25-10 and 1-11-94; Özgür Gelecek 1/15-11-94.


[27] See the reports by Kemal Astare quoted above.


[28] The muhtar or village head is the lowest-level official of the civil administration. He is elected by his fellow villagers and represents the village community to the civil and military authorities. At the same time he has to put into practice government policy at the local level.


[29] These four were the muhtars of Türktaner, Çaytaşı, Buzlupınar and Tavuklar.


[30] Turkish Probe, 21-10-94, p. 6.


[31] These were the muhtars of Çakmaklı, Bilekli, Dikenli, Eğriyamaç, Güleç, Karaca and Kırkmeşe.


[32] The daily Hürriyet reported in its 23-2-93 issue a decision of the coordination council of the Region under Emergency Law to transfer the population of small settlements to larger ones for reasons of economy and security.


[33] The press conference was extensively reported in the daily Hürriyet, 29-11-94. The sources for the funding of this resettlement project remain mysterious, however. An official of the European Resettlement Fund — which in fact had been renamed European Social Development Fund — told a journalist the following day that the Fund had not received a Turkish request to subsidize a similar project, although recently $100 million had been granted as a guarantee for a housing project for Turks from Germany intending to remigrate (Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, 30-11-94).


[34] The Kurdish-owned newspaper Özgür Ülke replaced an earlier daily, Özgür Gündem, that had been banned in early 1994. It was the sole medium that, at great personal costs to its journalists and collaborators — at least 24 of whom were killed, and 23 of whom are presently in prison — reported daily on events and conditions in southeastern Turkey. Many issues of the newspaper were confiscated upon appearance; in February 1995, the newspaper was closed down, resulting in a serious shortage of information on the Kurdish situation. 

Raporda Yer alan Dersimin Butun ilcelerindeki Koylerin gun gun yakilma ve bosaltilma bilgisi (1995)
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