Descendants of Massacre Victims in Turkey Seek Justice in Europe
30/04/2012 by SIRWAN HAJI BARKO – RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – After nearly 82 years, descendents of the survivors of the Zilan massacre in southeast Turkey say they will now file lawsuits against the Turkish state in the European Court of Human Rights. Frustrated with what they describe as the failure of the Turkish court to deliver justice, they hope to reclaim their rights through the European court. What exactly happened in Zilan is still unknown. The Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet (The Republic) published a report on July 16, 1930, estimating the number of dead as a result of the Turkish army’s operations in Zilan at 15,000. Entitled “The Annihilated,” the article read: “The villages and villagers who helped the rebels have been totally annihilated and burned down and some of the villagers have been sent to Ardish.”
This story is known among the Kurds as the massacre of the Zilan people. The massacre lasted for four days between July 8 and July 12, 1930. The Zilan region lies in the northern part of the Ardish district in Van city.
Mohammed Gurbuz says his father was one of the survivors of the massacre.
“My father, Ali Gurbuz, was wounded but survived. They were left without a home or shelter. The Turkish state seized their property. My family tried to reclaim what they lost in the Turkish court, but their efforts were in vain,” says Gurbuz.
He says he has all the legal documents that prove his rightful ownership to the land but the Turkish state refuses to give it back. Now Gurbuz hopes to be able to reclaim, through the European court, the 6,000 acres of land that the Turkish state seized back in 1930s. He says Turkey must abide by the decision of the court because it is a member of the European Council. The European Human Rights Court is now dealing with Gurbuz’s case. Gurbuz called on all those who lost family members in the massacre to turn to the European Human Rights Court in Belgium to reclaim their rights. Gurbuz says many of his family members perished in the massacre. “My father took me to a mass grave and told me the story. I was very young and cannot recall everything. At the time, children, women, young and old were all lined up and shot.”
Miral Zilani, a writer from the Zilan area, says the massacre was the response of the Turkish army to an uprising in the region. After the failure of Sheikh Saeed Piran’s revolution in 1925, the armed struggle of Kurds against the Turkish state continued. “For four days and nights, tanks and planes of the Turkish army attacked people,” says Zilani. The Cumhuriyet mentioned 15,000 casualties, but Zilani disputes that figure. He says the real number of victims was 57,000, and 15,000 were children who perished inside caves due to chemical gases used by the Turkish army. “The number of injured and those who managed to escape is unknown,” adds Zilani. Mesopotamische Gesellschaft « Descendants of Massacre Victims in Turkey Seek Justice in Europe