Survivor of Dersim genocide Bıra Çorak passes away

Bıra Çorak, a survivor of the Dersim genocide between 1937 and 1938, has died at the age of 100.

Bıra Çorak, a survivor of the Dersim genocide, has passed away. He was one of the last eyewitnesses to the massacres in the Kurdish province in 1937-38, in which an estimated 70,000 people were murdered by the Turkish army. On Sunday, he will be laid to rest in his adopted hometown of Elazığ.

Bıra Çorak was born in the village of Ortinik (Yoncalı) in Dersim’s Ovacık district. He was one of a few who kept alive the communicative memory created by the direct exchange of witnesses to the genocide. He knew many of the protagonists of the resistance to the massacres, including the spiritual and tribal mastermind Pîr Sey Rızo - also called Seyit Rıza or in Kurmancî Seyîd Riza, the Alişêr and Zarife couple who led the armed struggle, or Nuri Dersimî, who organized the Koçgiri uprising as early as 1920. Kımıl Aziz, who fought alongside Nuri Dersimî at the time, was Bıra Çorak's godfather.

That Çorak survived the genocide was pure luck. He was one of a group of about 800 women, men and children who had been driven to the area around Qarexlan (Karaoğlan) for execution in 1937. Because the officer in charge of the troop unit lost his weapon at a rest stop, Bıra Çorak escaped certain death. Later, his family was exiled to Gölpazarı in the western Turkish province of Bilecik. In 1947, the expelled and forcibly resettled residents of Dersim were allowed to return as part of an amnesty issued. Bıra Çorak also returned to his homeland. Later, he was driven to Germany as a "guest worker" where he was to live for many years to come. Shortly after he retired, Bıra Çorak settled in Elazığ. His funeral will take place tomorrow, Sunday, at Gülmez Cemetery.