Yüksel Kalın, whose photograph has been the symbol of deep anxiety of the Alevi community whose houses were marked with red crosses in Turkey’s Malatya province, has said that “These red crosses mean that Alevis will be killed. That is how we see them. Nothing else is coming to our minds other than this.”
Yüksel Kalın and her Alevi neighbours have shared their fears and anxieties with Artı Gerçek reporter Bahar Kılıçgedik following the red crosses marked on the walls and doors of their houses in Cemal Gürsel, Gökalp and Mercan neighborhoods of Malatya’s Yeşilyurt district.
In recent days, Malatya province is on the agenda with the red cross marks on the walls and doors of the 13 houses inhabited by the Alevis. “These concerns were not futile for the Alevis having red cross marks on their houses. Before the massacres in Kahramanmaraş, Sivas and Çorum, the houses belonging to Alevis had also been marked first and then the houses were raided and massacres were committed,” wrote online news portal Artı Gerçek on Saturday.
Photographs of Alevis, whose houses were marked in Malatya, were also shared in social media. One of the pictures was quite different than the others. The deep anxiety of an household, whose house’s door having marked with a red cross, was embodied in a photograph. The photograph was belong to an old woman. The name of this old woman standing next to a door with a red cross is Yüksel Kalın. She was still both scared and worried during the interview, just like in the photograph. Yüksel Kalın told Artı Gerçek what she felt on that day and what she thought after seeing the red cross marks.
Yüksel Kalın, who lives in Cemal Gürsel neighborhood, had also seen what happened in 1970s. She remembers Maraş, Adıyaman, Sivas and Çorum massacres targeting the Alevi people just like today. When asked by Artı Greek reporter that “How did you feel when you saw those red crosses?” Kalın replied “I was scared. I was nervous. Everyone was nervous.”
Of course the cause of their fear and anxiety was not groundless and based on past massacres. “We saw the 1980s. We saw the night of July 15, 2016 coup attempt. We are always perturbed. Maraş events, Çorum events, marking houses in Adıyaman… We experienced Hamido events in 1978. Then our workplaces were burned. Our houses were looted. The Alevis were accused of assassinating Hamido. We used to go to work in the morning and we did not know whether we could return back home in the evening. When we came home we would not know whether we could go to work in the next morning. We were afraid. We still have the same fear.”
On the day of the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 people had targeted Alevis and had rallied by chanting slogans such as “Paşaköşkü, Cemal Gürsel (neighbourhoods, mainly Alevis live) don’t sleep! Don’t exhaust our patience!”
“Hamido events,” which were recorded in the history as “Malatya massacre”, happened after the assassination of Malatya Mayor Hamit Fendoğlu on April 18, 1978. Following the assassination, the houses belonging to the Alevis were marked with red crosses in the city. The attacks targeting the Alevis, which began on the evening of April 17, 1978, continued until the evening of April 20. While 8 people lost their lives, hundreds of people were injured in the events. During the chaos 960 workplaces and houses were destroyed in Malatya. Following these sectarian attacks a large number of Alevis had to leave the city.
Saying that “These red crosses mean that Alevis will be killed. That is how we see them. Nothing else is coming to our minds other than this,” Kalın added that Alevis always felt the policy of oppression and intimidation in Turkey.
Expressing that due to the things happening around them, they have become quite anxious, Kalın said that “I am still nervous. We have been promised by authorities that they would do the things needed. They would find the perpetrators… But I don’t think so. If they wanted they could have found the perpetrators within 24 hours. I am sure that this attack will also be forgotten soon. Because what has been done so far was forgotten. This will also be forgotten. If nothing has been done up to this moment, of course, they won’t do anything for this attack either. As usual they would say ‘OK’ and send us back. However, probably, they will not do anything. As Alevis, we are abandoned. Our ancestors were abandoned and we are also abandoned.”
It is not just Yüksel Kalın that is upset and fearful in the neighborhood. Almost all of the residents in the neighborhood are in the same sentiments. Especially those, who remember the 1978 massacre, are more concerned than young people.
Makbule Demir, who is among the elders of the neighborhood, explained her mood after that morning that “I was scared. I could not get out because of my fear.”
Güllü Yılmaz, another Alevi resident of the neighborhood, who has been living there for 45 years, has said that “It is impossible for us to forget what we have lived in the past. We have always faced with massacres and attacks. We have always been killed. Our perpetrators were never found.”
Saying that she saw the red crosses on the doors when she woke up in that morning, she told that “The red cross sign is used consciously. It is not used randomly. That is not a sign that kids could use. When I saw the marks, the death came to my mind. What is a red cross mark used for? Used for death. What happened to the Alevis in Adıyaman, Maraş, and Sivas, we were scared that the same massacres would happen to us.”
Yılmaz has asked authorities to reveal the perpetrators.
Though exact figures are not present, with its approximately 20 million adherents Alevis constitute the second-largest religious community in Turkey after Sunni Muslims.
Tensions between the Alevi and Sunni communities in Turkey date back to Ottoman times. In 1511, the Ottoman army brutally suppressed a revolt by the Kızılbaş Turkmens of the Alevi faith on Anatolian soil and as many as 40,000 were killed. The Battle of Çaldıran, fought between the Ottoman Empire under Yavuz Sultan Selim and the Safavid Shah İsmail in 1514, resulted in the sultan issuing an edict to kill all the Kızılbaş in the region.
During the republican era, thousands of Alevis were massacred in Dersim in 1937 and hundreds of Alevis were killed in pogroms, which many now believe were masterminded by groups inside the state, in the cities of Çorum, Yozgat and Kahramanmaraş in the 1970s. Thirty-four Alevi intellectuals were burned to death in 1992 inside the Madımak Hotel in Sivas. In other incidents, such as in İstanbul’s predominantly Alevi Gazi neighborhood in 1995, Alevis were targeted by individuals armed with machine guns.