Victims of 1993 Sivas massacre commemorated

Sivas Massacre

Thirty-three Turkish intellectuals who perished in a fire in 1993 inside the Madımak Hotel were commemorated in Sivas on Thursday, the 27th anniversary of the massacre, Turkish Minute reported.

Delegations from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) accompanied victims’ families and representatives from Alevi institutions during the commemoration ceremony.

The organizers of the commemoration reiterated their demand for conversion of the hotel into a “museum of shame.”

The attendees, including the families of some of the victims, said they were still waiting for justice.

In a controversial move, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in February used his presidential power to pardon a man who was given an aggravated life sentence due to his role in the Sivas massacre.

A number of lawyers who defended the suspects in the massacre later became politicians in Erdoğan’s ruling party.

On July 2, 1993, an angry mob torched the Madımak Hotel, killing 37 people, mostly artists and scholars of the Alevi sect, who were there to attend a conference hosted by the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Foundation (PSAKD), an Alevi organization.

In attendance was Aziz Nesin, a left-wing Turkish short story writer, who had become the target of attacks for attempting to translate Salman Rushdie’s controversial novel “The Satanic Verses” into Turkish.

A group of radical Islamists, having been provoked by several local political leaders, gathered in front of the hotel following Friday prayer and accused conference participants of being infidels.

Thirty-three attendees, two hotel staff members and two protesters died in the fire. Nesin was able to escape because the attackers initially failed to recognize him.

The assault took place over eight hours without any intervention by the police, military or fire department. Alevis and most intellectuals in Turkey argue that the incident was triggered by the local government as flyers and leaflets were published and given out for days before the incident.

The attack was seen as a major assault on free speech and human rights in Turkey and significantly deepened the rift between the religious and secular segments of the society.

Among those killed in the Madımak Hotel arson attack were poets Metin Altıok, Behçet Aysan and Uğur Kaynar, writer Asım Bezirci and Dutch anthropologist Carina Cuanna, as well as popular Alevi musicians Muhlis Akarsu, Nesimi Çimen and Hasret Gültekin.

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