The film-making couple behind the ground-breaking documentary film on the Dersim Operation, “Dersim’in Kayıp Kızları: İki Tutam Saç” (Lost Girls of Dersim: Two Strands of Hair) have recently published a historic book titled “Dersim’in Kayıp Kızları-Tertele Çeneku” (Massacred Girls).
Nezahat and Kazım Gündoğan’s book includes 150 different stories and historic documents detailing the experiences of soldiers and their families who adopted girls from Dersim.
“We are narrating the state’s Turkification and Islamification policies implemented in Dersim between 1926 and the 1950s with documents. We met the relatives of ranked soldiers’ families who took the girls away from their families in Dersim during the massacre period. They are now feeling a great sorrow since they felt responsible for their predecessor’s acts,” Gündoğan said in an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News.
Gündoğan said many girls between ages of 5 and 10 were removed from their families by force and adopted by other families. “It is impossible for these children to forget the traumas they suffered. There are broken lives, lack of memory, rootlessness and the inability to speak there. We had great difficulty unveiling the stories,” Gündoğan said, adding that this book would fill a considerable gap. “We will be very pleased if we contributed even in a small degree to unveiling a bleeding wound, which is buried in the darkness of history,” he said.
In Dersim, now known as Tunceli province in eastern Turkey, Turkish Armed Forces launched an operation in 1938 in which over 13,000 people were killed, many people were exiled and numerous girls were taken away from their families by force.
The Gündoğans’ book was published by İletişim Publishing.
A man in search of his lost sister
In an exert from “Lost Girls of Dersim: Two Strands of Hair” Hıdır İlter tells the story of his search for his missing sister.
“My sister was 2 or 3 then. Her name was Xece, or Hacer. They collected us in Ovacık and were carrying us to Elazığ through Hozat in groups. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people. They were all wounded, thirsty and hungry; in miserable conditions. I was 13 then and I remember everything as if it happened only yesterday. The military officers wanted to take beautiful girls with them and my sister was very beautiful. One officer forcibly attempted to take my sister from my mother, but my mother resisted and did not give her up. When we reached Pertek Bridge we stopped to take a break. The same officer came again and managed to take my sister from my mom by force despite my mom’s resistance and tears. The officer said “I will adopt and raise her” and gave his address to my mom, adding “you can come and see her.” But my mom tore the address paper into pieces out of helplessness and anger. There was a wound on my sister’s groin. The scar of that wound would hardly disappear. We could recognize her by that scar if we found her now.”