His customers knew Vahit K. as operator of a mobile phone shop, later on because of the flat filled flatbreads, Gözleme, which he sold in his restaurant in Berlin-Wedding. The Berlin justice he was accused of triviality, in a case of assault, he was acquitted. Yeter Gültekin, on the other hand, knows him because he was there when her husband, along with 34 others, was incarcerated and tortured in a burning hotel.
Vahit K. is a murderer – sentenced in Turkey for a massacre on Friday, July 2, 1993, in the central Anatolian city of Sivas. The victims were artists and Alevis, a spiritual community rejected by many Muslims. Vahit K., who escaped imprisonment, lives as a free man in Berlin.
Yeter Gültekin also lives here today, in 1993 she lived in Cologne. Her husband, the father of her son, suffocated in the flames that had sparked an Islamic mob. Vahit K. is jointly responsible for the mass murder in Sivas, says Gültekin. "And he has to be punished for that."
There was a mood of optimism in Turkey at that time. The military stood in the tradition of state founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and defended its secularism. They had opened the country – some believed that Turkey would be admitted to the European Union. But Sunni Islamists and right-wing nationalists called for the hunt for liberals, Kurds, Alevis. In Sivas at that time met artists, to which all three were true: Alevitische, liberal Kurdish singers, caricaturists, poets. At a non-commercial festival they wanted to exchange views, to combine art and politics.
"Suspicion of crimes against humanity"
Today, more than a quarter of a century later in Berlin, Gültekin finally has hope that the death of her husband is still atoned for. Two Berlin MPs have announced Vahit K. on Tuesday. Him and eight other men, who were in the Sivas pogrom and then appeared in Germany. The Green Party politician Fatos Topac herself comes from an Alevi family, she and Benedikt Lux, the legal expert of the group, write to the Attorney General in a letter on the "suspicion of crimes against humanity" and "all eligible offenses, in particular Murder and manslaughter ", to determine.
In July, the German government's scientific service declared that the German judiciary could extradite the men convicted in Ankara to Turkey – or punish the massacre itself according to the principle of world law. From the point of view of the bereaved, there is much to suggest that the German judiciary should take on the case.
Yeter Gültekin is sitting in the café of the Chamber of Deputies, she has just told Topac and Lux what she knows about the massacre. When Gültekin, a feisty, fast-moving woman in her early fifties, talks about her husband's death, her eyes fill with tears. "That will not go away," says Gültekin, raises his head, takes a deep breath: "These criminals belong in court and in jail – in Turkey, but also in Germany."
From three Moses stream fanatic to the hotel
Her husband, Hasret Gültekin, hails from a village near Sivas and was 22 at the time, living as a musician in Istanbul and Cologne. In Turkey, he had published an album of Kurdish folk songs when Kurdish was still banned in public. Hasret Gültekin brought out the songs as an instrumental version. He also professed Alevite authority criticism when many of them lived only in secret. Alevis were persecuted as heretics in the Ottoman Empire.
Many Alevis are Kurds who are being harassed by nationalist Turks anyway. In Dersim, east of Sivas, tens of thousands of Alevi Kurds were murdered in 1938. How many Alevis live in Turkey is unknown. It is estimated to be 13 million people, in Germany 500,000.
Two days before the pogrom Yeter Gültekin's husband traveled from Cologne to Turkey. "Hasret absolutely wanted to participate in the festival," says Gültekin. "It was not only artistically important to him, but also politically important." And so he booked a flight to Ankara, from there it went with friends in the car to Sivas, meeting point was the festival place, the Madimak Hotel.
"Long live Sharia!"
Yeter Gültekin stayed in Cologne. She had to spare herself, was pregnant with her son. Upon his arrival, her husband answered. On Thursday, July 1, it was said in a Turkish news program on WDR then that there were protests against the festival. On Friday – Hasret had his solo concert behind him – Yeter Gültekin waited in vain for a call in her apartment.
Sunni Islamists and the far-right Gray Wolves had also come to Sivas, with thousands of them occupying the pensions, populating the streets of the city's 250,000-strong population. After the Friday prayers, 15,000 fanatics moved out of three mosques in front of the Madimak Hotel.
Thousands of throats echoed: "Long live Sharia! Down with secularism! "The crowd encircled the festival participants in the hotel. The besieged called the Social Democrats' headquarters – the Kemalist party ruled in Ankara. They asked Deputy Prime Minister Erdal Inonu to free the trapped. But the police and called soldiers deployed could not or did not want to protect the hotel. Pictures of that day show uniforms walking in small columns through the crowds. Soon, the Islamists invaded the building, spilled gasoline, set it on fire, and the flames hit the third floor. In the turmoil, officials shot and killed two attackers.
Why could the convicts leave the country?
In Cologne, Yeter Gültekin, who was studying electrical engineering at the time, sat in front of the television. The news said that a hotel had been burnt in Sivas and that many people had lost their lives. Finally, her husband's name fell. Gültekin collapsed, she says. And yet later that night she organized a flight to Turkey. Passport controls, searches – the country was in turmoil. She took the bus for nearly 450 miles from Ankara Airport to the hometown of her in-laws near Sivas. The body of her husband was laid out in the presence of his family, Hasret Gültekin buried in the village of his parents on 4 July.
The security forces arrested 190 suspected attackers. The trials lasted for years, 130 defendants were convicted. Dozens of them were sentenced to life imprisonment, yet at least nine men, including Vahit K., escaped incarceration. Meanwhile, Necmettin Erbakan was Turkish Prime Minister, an Islamist. The fact that ultra-conservative officials sympathized with the Sunni mob was well-known. But could the convicts leave the country?
Several months after his conviction, Vahit K. appeared in 1997 in the initial reception center for asylum seekers in Eisenhüttenstadt, Brandenburg. Since then he lives in Germany. The newspaper "Cumhuriyet" reported that the verdict against K. 2006 was confirmed and in 2010 an international arrest warrant was issued. Germany did not execute it. So far, the authorities have stated that military judges are involved in the judgments, that the procedures are not fair, and that the specific involvement was unclear. In fact, many arrest warrants – not only from Turkey – are not enforced because of doubts about the rule of law.
"Certainly, the standards of Turkish military judges often do not satisfy our sense of justice," says the member of the Berlin House of Representatives. "However, there is sufficient evidence to reopen the case from Germany." The situation on 2 July 1993 was confusing, but not unnoticed. It was a bright day, TV reporters were there. Topac and her faction colleague Lux hope that a new generation of German investigators will take on the case. Request files, interview witnesses, evaluate images, interrogated interrogated. Lux asks lawyers in other states to also search for Sivas assassins.
He paid the BMW immediately
Soon after his arrival in Germany Vahit K. moved to Berlin. He received a blue passport – that's how the German travel documents for refugees are named. The holder no longer has to seek papers from the country of origin. Alevitische activists made attentive also in Germany on Vahit K., its residence status did not harm that. On the contrary: Germany even campaigned for him abroad.
When Vahit K. traveled to Poland in September 2011, local officials arrested him there. After all, the arrest warrant had been issued from Turkey. A few days later, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs turned to the Polish government – and K. was released. The surprised reporter of CNN Türk, who was then regarded as critical of the government. CNN Türk reported that K. was traveling unhindered through Europe, just bought a BMW X6, which he had paid 55,000 euros immediately. His complicity in the Sivas massacre K. denied according to the report.
"We were always horrified that the perpetrators had it so easy," says Yeter Gültekin. "There were rumors that he was an informer, a V-man." Does Vahit K. work for a security agency? German secret services, the Turkish? The Federal Government announced in April 2019 to the living in Germany Sivas men: "The persons involved were not used as V-people or informants."
On the wall of the house is: "Get lost, Alevit"
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who once said: "The mosques are our barracks, the minarets our bayonets, the domes our helmets and the faithful our soldiers." In Ankara after the failed coup in 2016 tried one in Istanbul Crowd from which "Allahu akbar" screams sounded to storm a Alevi district. A few days ago, the house of an Alevi family in Izmir was marked with an "X" and smeared with the words "Disappear, Alevit".
Vahit K. is in his mid-40s. He sold the cell phone shop two years ago, the new operator says on the phone. Although two restaurateurs know his name in Weddinger Lokal, they say he is not available. Also for K. the presumption of innocence applies.
Yeter Gültekin worked as a teacher in integration courses after the death of her husband. Islamists have met her in many forms. Once an eight-year-old told her that he did not learn the Latin letters, that is German letters – because jihad would soon start, and then everybody in Europe would have to speak Arabic anyway.
In Germany Alevis are threatened again and again. Turkish right-wing extremists often appear in front of their clubhouses. Nevertheless, Alevis have achieved a lot in this country. Some schools offer Alevi religious instruction, At the Berlin Humboldt University, there is a chair for Alevi studies, again and again Alevis demonstrate in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne against Erdogan's conquest policy.
Yeter Gültekin does not want the Sivas offenders being transferred from Germany to Turkey, she says. The danger was great that Vahit K. would be released there again, the international arrest warrant, which originates from Ankara, so would not be implemented in today's Turkey. She likes to live in Germany, says Gültekin, she trusts his institutions. "And in a legal state of Germany these killers should not be allowed to run around."