The events in Kahramanmaraş lasted from 19 to 26 December 1978. It started with a bomb thrown into a cinema attended mostly by right-wingers. Rumors spread that left-wingers had thrown the bomb. The next day, a bomb was thrown into a coffee-shop frequently visited by left-wingers, In the evening of 21 December 1978 the teachers Hacı Çolak and Mustafa Yüzbaşıoğlu, known as left-wingers, were killed on their way home. While a crowd of some 5,000 people prepared for the funeral, right-wing groups stirred up emotions saying that “the communists are going to bomb the [mosque, and will massacre our Muslim brothers”.
On 23 December 1978, the incidents turned into a pogrom: crowds stormed the quarters where Alevis were living, attacking people and destroying houses and shops. Many offices, including that of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK), Teachers’ Association of Turkey (TÖB-Der), Association of Police Officers (Pol-Der) and Republican People’s Party (Turkey) (CHP), were destroyed. During the incidents, over 100 people were killed, and more than 200 houses and approximately 100 shops were destroyed. The figures on casualties vary slightly. The Independent Communication Network Bianet claim that 111 people were killed, while the daily Zaman puts the death toll at 105.
Opinions of witnesses include the following observations:
- Seyho Demir: “The Maraş Police Chief at the time was Abdülkadir Aksu. The massacre was organised by the Turkish secret service MIT, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Islamists together… As soon as I heard about the massacre, I went to Maraş. In the morning I went to Maraş State Hospital. There, I met a nurse I knew… When she saw me, she was surprised: ‘Seyho, where have you come from? They are killing everyone here. They have taken at least ten lightly-wounded people from the hospital downstairs and killed them.’ This was done under the control of the head physician of the Maraş State Hospital. The lawyer Halil Güllüoglu followed the Maraş massacre case. The files he had were never made public. He was killed for pursuing the case anyway.”
- Meryem Polat: “They started in the morning, burning all the houses, and continued into the afternoon. A child was burned in a boiler. They sacked everything. We were in the water in the cellar, above us were wooden boards. The boards were burning and falling on top of us. My house was reduced to ashes. We were with eight people in the cellar; they did not see us and left.”
Sorgente: Maraş massacre – Wikipedia