This article discusses a century-long denial of historic genocide targeting Kurdish Alevis in Turkey. Firstly, I argue that the state-sponsored killings and forced displacements that occurred in Dersim in 1937-38 constitute genocide. Secondly, I use census numbers and other available documentation to suggest a possible figure for the causalities, while pointing out the methods by which the state has tried to cover up these numbers, indicating state planning and preparation. Finally, I show that as a part of the continued denial of such genocide, Turkish leftist organizations have been manipulated by the state, and thus have ended up supporting much of the same rhetoric as the right nationalist Turkish state.


I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Nancy Postero, for suggesting the title for this article, and for reading the article and providing me with great feedback. I would also like to thank the Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) and Scholar at Risk Network (SAR) for their great support. Thanks to Leanne W. Green and Morgen A. Chalmers for their English language editing.


This article is dedicated to Nuri Dersimi, a Dersimian Kurdish intellectual and politician, who spent his life struggling for Dersim and, as a result, died in exile. Today, he is still helping us understand what took place in Dersim.



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