May 24, 1993, PKK attack

Massacre in Turkey

24 May 1993 PKK attack
Part of Kurdish–Turkish conflict
Elazığ - Bingöl Turkey Provinces locator.png
Locations of Elazığ and Bingöl Turkey
Date24 May 1993
Result Inadvertently end of first cease-fire.
 Turkey Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
Commanders and leaders
Şemdin Sakık
33 unarmed soldiers[1][2] 150 militants[3]
Casualties and losses
33 soldiers and 2–5 civilians[1]
22 soldiers briefly captured[2]
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Kurdish–Turkish conflict
First insurgency
Second insurgency
Third insurgency


Peace process and peace efforts


The 24 May 1993 PKK attack,[4][5][6] sometimes referred to as the Bingöl massacre[7][8] was a Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) attack on unarmed Turkish military soldiers on the Elazığ-Bingöl highway, 13 km (8.1 mi) west of Bingöl. 33 Turkish soldiers and varying conflicting accounts of civilians were killed (two,[9] four[10] five[1]). This occurred following the breaking of the first ever PKK-Turkish ceasefire when Turkish forces attacked the PKK in Kulp.[11][12]


In late 1991, Turkish president Turgut Özal attempted to establish dialogue with the PKK. He had said the idea of a federation could be discussed and a Kurdish language TV channel could be opened.[13] He also passed a bill, partially unbanning the use of the Kurdish language.[14] In response the PKK declared a cease-fire on 20 March 1993.[15] On 17 April 1993 Turgut Özal died under suspicious circumstances.[16] The Turkish military began to increase their attacks on the PKK, in particular on 19 May, in Kulp killing around a dozen rebels.[11] Under the control of the provincial commander of the area at the time, Şemdin Sakık reported to Abdullah Öcalan that the soldiers were losing respect. Öcalan responded by stating you may retaliate if attacked to defend yourself, unaware of what would be planned.[17]

The attack

Sasik decided on a show of strength, ordering units to block all main rounds to the Diyarbakir which was a favored operation by the rebels as it asserted authority. Due to the remoteness of some of these stretches of highway, the Turkish military were not eager to confront the PKK so sometimes sent off-duty soldiers via unmarked buses to avoid being targeted or identified at any roadblock.[17]

One of these roads was the Elazığ-Bingöl highway which was allegedly manned by over 150 PKK militants,[3] who had come down from the mountains to the southeast.[1] The PKK stopped several buses transferring unarmed Turkish soldiers in civilian clothes, and then dragged[3] 33 soldiers and five civilians[1] (including four teachers)[17] from the vehicles and executed them.[3] Some 22 soldiers were spared by the PKK and taken prisoner, before being released.[2] The military was criticized for the fact that the soldiers were unarmed and there were no units protecting them.[13] Sakık, later captured by the Turkish security forces, testified during the Ergenekon trials that deep state elements in the Turkish military had sent the soldiers unarmed in the hope they would be killed, as part of the Doğu Çalışma Grubu's coup plans.[18]


On the 8 June 1993, Abdullah Öcalan announced the cease fire it declared in March was over.[19] The Turkish military intensified its anti-insurgency operations against the PKK during the following months.[1] A total of 92 Turkish security forces, 203 Kurdish rebels and 29 civilians were killed during anti-insurgency operations in May and June, an additional 120 Kurds were arrested during these operations.[2]

Turkish claimed that Kucuk Zeki, the PKK's commander in Muş at the time, described the attack as a turning point in the conflict, as the state stepped up its operations against the PKK and "the war got much worse".[17]


On 24 May 2012, the 33 Martyrs Memorial near Bingöl was dedicated to the 33 victims of the attack.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Turkey - Atlapedia® Online". Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Kurds in Turkey (page 11) Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c d "1993 Human Rights Report: TURKEY". 16 July 2011. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  4. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld | U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Turkey". Refworld. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  5. ^ "Usta birliklerine giderken PKK'lı teröristlerce şehit edilen sivil ve silahsız 33 asker anılıyor". Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  6. ^ "Secret witness reveals identity, shady ties between PKK and Ergenekon". 19 November 2012. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  7. ^ Cemal, Hasan (2010). Türkiye'nin asker sorunu: ey asker, siyasete karışma! (in Turkish). Doğan Kitap. ISBN 978-605-111-628-0.
  8. ^ yazdı, Gülden AYDIN. "33 şehitli o günden beri hiç kahkaha atamadım". (in Turkish). Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  9. ^ "TURKS SAY KURDS KILLED 33 TROOPS - The New York Times". The New York Times. 31 August 2021. Archived from the original on 31 August 2021. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  10. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 7 October 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  11. ^ a b Gunes, Cengiz (11 January 2013). The Kurdish National Movement in Turkey: From Protest to Resistance. Routledge. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-136-58798-6.
  12. ^ PKK has repeatedly asked for a ceasefire of peace since their establishment in the past 17 years Archived 2011-11-25 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ a b "TURKEY - History of PKK in Turkey". Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  14. ^ Kurdish Language Policy in Turkey Archived 2012-07-27 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Phillips, David L. (5 July 2017). The Kurdish Spring: A New Map of the Middle East. Routledge. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-351-48037-6.
  16. ^ "Remains of Turgut Özal reinterred - Turkey News". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  17. ^ a b c d Page 214 Archived 2014-10-07 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Secret witness reveals identity, shady ties between PKK and Ergenekon". 6 November 2012. Archived from the original on 6 November 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  19. ^ Özcan, Ali Kemal (2006). Turkey's Kurds: A Theoretical Analysis of the PKK and Abdullah Ocalan. Routledge. p. 206. ISBN 9780415366878.
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