Thousands attended a commemorative march on Tuesday, the 26th anniversary of a massacre which targeted Turkey’s Alevi community in the country’s central province of Sivas.
Chanting the slogan, “we will hold those responsible to account for Sivas,” the crowds commemorated the July 2, 1993 incident in which a mob of Islamic fundamentalists burned a hotel where a convention was being held, killing 35 people, mainly intellectuals and artists from the Alevi faith.
The mob targeted Turkish writer Aziz Nesin, one of the Alevi intellectuals at the hotel, for his translation of Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses”, which included sections deemed offensive to Islam. Nesin survived the attack, but he was unable to overcome the shock of the event until his death of a heart attack two years later.
Alevism is the second most widely held belief in Turkey following Sunni Islam. A branch of Islam that combines Shi’ite, Sufi, and Sunni traditions, Alevis are not recognised as Muslims by many groups in Turkey due to their secular beliefs and acceptance of drinking alcohol, among other practices.
One group at Tuesday’s march gathered in front of a cemevi, an Alevi place of worship, belonging to the Hacı Bektaş Veli Anadolu Cultural Centre and another branch of the centre, independent news outlet Medyascope reported.
Another group also convened in front of the Madımak Hotel, the site of the massacre, which is now a cultural centre. Madımak Hotel has not been allowed to serve as a museum and annual commemorations take place with the presence of security forces.
Representatives of different Alevi groups and political parties, including the main opposition Republica People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were also in attendance.
‘’We did not forget Sivas,’’ the group chanted.
Commemoration ceremonies also took place in other provinces, including the Western province of İzmir and Istanbul, Medyascope said.
The mayor of Sivas during the massacre and current head of opposition Islamist Felicity (Saadet) Party Temel Karamollaoğlu released a statement on Twitter, condemning the atrocity.
”The pain of this incident will not subside, despite the years that have gone by,”Karamollaoğlu said.
The newly elected opposition mayor of Istanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu attended a commemoration ceremony in Istanbul and shared footage of the event on his Twitter account.