A document suggesting that the Turkish military may have used chemical gas during an operation in Dersim in 1938 has been revealed in a new documentary film.
A senior soldier’s letter saying he asked for burning and suffocating gas bombs from National Defense authority is presented as one of the documents shedding light on the operation, as part of the documentary “Hay way Zaman” (Unblocking Memory), filmed by Turkish couple Nezahat and Kazım Gündoğan.
“I asked for fire from the Air Regiment Commander and burning and suffocating gas bombs from the National Defense authority,” high-ranking military official Abdullah Alpdoğan wrote in a letter dated March 1937. The letter was sent to the Interior Ministry, the Prime Ministry and the General Staff.
In the province of Dersim, now known as Tunceli, in eastern Turkey, the Turkish Armed Forces launched an operation in 1938 in which over 13,000 people were killed, many were exiled, and numerous girls were seized from their families by force.
More than two years ago, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized “on the state’s behalf” for the Dersim killings in the late 1930s, marking the first time a representative of the Turkish Republic had ever apologized for the attacks.
“Even if the Turkish prime minister used the word ‘massacre’ for the Dersim operation, there are more thing to be done by the administration. We are still not able to face our traumas,” one of the directors of the new documentary, Nezahat Gündoğan, told theHürriyet Daily News in an interview. She did, however, hail the country’s “progress,” and said that as people started to talk about their traumas, they would overcome their pain.
The Gündoğan couple brought the issue to the public eye again in 2010 with the ground-breaking documentary film on the Dersim Operation, “Dersim’in Kayıp Kızları” (The Lost Girls of Dersim). They also published a book.