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3.9.13

Leave Our Dead Alone!

Suleyman Guven

Who would have thought that one day the unclaimed dead buried for a century in Mount Hope Cemetery in Brantford, Ontario would capture Turkey’s attention. Everything started with the research of Bill Darfler.
Isıl Acehan, who was working on her thesis in the United States, was doing research on people from Turkey who had arrived in Northern America in the past century. After Ms. Acehan finished her thesis, she returned to Turkey.  Some Turkish newspapers published the work of Ms. Acehan who is now assistant professor at the University of Ipek.  For instance, the “Bugun” newspaper carried the headline “Turks took to the internment camp” with reference to Isıl Acehan’s work. The story also drew the attention of the “Sabah” newspaper on 13 August of this year, under the title “Heart wrenching tragedy of the slaved Turks”.  “Slave” here does not have its old meaning, but refers to wrongful and forceful imprisonment.  According to the newspaper Cem Fakir made a documentary titled “Diary of Captivity”.
[Another] newspaper reported the story under the title “They just discovered the slaved Turks”. The news coverage in Turkey’s media lamented the fate of the internees.  The Turkish Consul General in Toronto was closely involved with the issue. It was rumored that Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag of Turkey would come to Canada for the unveiling ceremony of the statue or plaque, following Ramadan of this year.
The first reaction came from the Armenian community media. They revealed that the Brantford internees sent to the Kapuskasing camp were not Turks. The Armenian Keghart website launched a petition campaign and published articles exposing the Turkish phony version of this issue. I sent a letter to the Mayor of Brantford on behalf of our newspaper. The “Brantford Expositor” reported that there is a pause in the plans to unveil the plaque or statue. The issue is not limited to Brantford anymore and the city officials did not want to make any decision before consulting the federal officials. Since we wanted to learn the story of the Kurdish Alevis, who were buried in the plot, either called Turkish or Muslim of Mount Hope Cemetery, we decided to go to Brantford.
Three friends and I, two activists from Alevi association, travelled, on August 10, to Brantford which is 100 km west of Toronto. It was a sunny and warm weather.  As a first step to our journey, we went to the house of Bill Darfler located at William Street. Although the house was built in 1905, it looked much older. Darfler said that he had purchased it 20 years ago. We then went to the Mount Hope Cemetery and stopped at the northeast corner of the cemetery. I paced the plot (33 ft. x33 ft.)  where the 16 graves lie. Because the people buried there came from Turkey the plot is called Turkish or Muslim Cemetery. It was not difficult to figure out from the names that the people buried were Kurdish Alevis. Just outside the Alevi area, there are several tomb stones with Armenian lettering: The unbreakable bonds of Armenians and Kurdish Alevis, who were neıghbours and friends to each other in Turkey, continue in the cemetery.
Researcher Bill Darfler indicated that those who were buried in the plot called “Turkish Cemetery” are Kurdish Alevis. Mr. Darfler further indicated that the last burial had taken place in 1963. Because the burial had observed Muslim rites, the plot was called Muslim Cemetery. Darfler told us that those who were buried in the plot–called Turkish or Muslim Cemetery– were frıends and neighbours of Brantford Armenians. Mr. Darfler stressed that there was no possibility that Sunni Kurds were among the group who arrived from Turkey.
Like every country, Turkey has a right to claim its citizens. I have doubts about the sincerity of the representatives of AKP government in Canada while the Turkish government supports the radical gangs of Al-Nusra Front who have massacred Kurds in Rojava and Alevis in Latakia, Syria. I would like to tell those who try to implement their political agenda on the Kurdish Alevi dead: Please leave the dead Kurdish Alevis alone…. the buried whom your ancestors accused of being “rebels, heretics, perverted” and subjected them to regular massacres.
 
"Yeni Hayat," August 23, 2013

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