Ali Duran Topuz

Ali Duran Topuz

My 30-year longing for Hasret Gultekin

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Hasret’s death. Unfortunately, we didn’t confront the Madımak massacre*.

Pir Sultan, I was born to be a servant.

Is it meant to die in the hands of tyrants?

His voice is still ringing in my ears.

“Rabe em herin wî tay.”

“Get up. Let’s go to the other side.”

“Wî tay,” the other shore, the other side of the river or the mountain. Hasret used to think of “wî tay” as the Kurdish equivalent of “utopia” (which he translated into Turkish as “utay”). Every spring in Koçgiri, and in the “Han village” (Gundê Xanê) where Hasret was born, young men are eager to cross the river, which is swollen by the melting snow. For their families, this desire is a nightmare. According to Hasret, to achieve our “utopias,” we must have the courage to cross the river.

The test of crossing to the “wî tay” is the first important test for the spring period. Hasret took this test in music, as he would later say: “Poets write poems, painters paint pictures, and we sing folk songs. And why do we do all this? So that the world does not continue to spin out of habit but out of love and happiness.


To say that he loved music would be an understatement. He had a bond with music that went beyond love. He became music and he grew with music. He was constantly trying to get to the “other side” with a music note, a song, a melody. He packed an incredible amount of work into his short 22 years.

Hasret was born on May 1; he always lived up to what his birthday symbolizes. He was not only a dedicated musician but also a determined communist. As a Koçgirian, the grandson of Alişan Bey, he was very sensitive to the Kurdish language. He spoke it well. He also understood Zazaki and Sorani. The intersection of Kurdish, Kizilbash, and Communist musical cultures formed his music. As for his knowledge of languages: He had one foot in Germany and spoke German. He studied at Anatolian High School and spoke English. You already know his knowledge of the Turkish language.


In his class at Kadıköy Anatolian High School, he used to stand behind the teacher with his saz. Yes, he went to school with his saz. Hasret was a follower of the “meşk” tradition. Whenever he noticed someone whose style he liked, he would reach out and work with them. He studied with Haydar Acar. He worked with Talip Özkan. He worked with Nesimi Çimen. He worked with Arif Sağ. Gani Nar and Musa Eroğlu and Abuzer Karakoç and Hasan Hüseyin Demirel... His involvement with music made him drop out of school. Music was already in his world where he was both a student and a teacher. He acknowledged Haydar Acar, one of the master musicians from Koçgir (shamefully called a “local artist”) as his master and worked hard to learn “Deli Derviş”.

He had great love for the revolutionary musician Nesimi Çimen. He called him “Baba”. He learned the shelpe from him. Once he even woke him up in the middle of the night to show him a music technique that had stuck in his mind.


His love for Kızılbaş sayings and Kurdish songs as a child in Koçgirili was complemented by his passion for the socialist music world. He loved to work with socialist artists; besides the three solo albums he released in his 22 years, he also collaborated with them on many albums. He liked to be involved in collective works; he was in the “Gökyüzü” team with Kadir Karakoç and Ali Rıza Özkan. He worked incessantly. One of his most important works is the two Newroz albums he released besides the ban on the Kurdish language, which he never stopped worrying about. His signature was also on the (instrumental) album released by Şivan Perwer during the post-1980 coup period in Turkey. However, he did not have the time to make a Kurdish album, he wanted to do it very much, but he was waiting for the time to make it “perfect in everything”. As Tolga Çandar says: “He was a musical worker in search of perfection”. Early on, he gave concerts in many European countries and worked with artists from neighboring Greece.

When he went to Sivas, he was about to become a father; his beloved wife Yeter was in Germany. He had chosen the name “Roni” with excitement. But he wasn’t meant to meet Roni. Yeter added the name “Hasret” to the name of the son of this elegant artist from Koçgiri.


This year marks the 30th anniversary of Hasret’s death. Unfortunately, we didn’t confront to the Madimak massacre. The trial was nothing but a theatre where legal and political evils were staged. The identity and motives of the murderers are still unclear. The first theory was very popular among those who did not want to see the “secular republic” directly involved in the massacre. The second theory has been repeated in every vicious attack against Alevis since the Ortaca attack in 1966.

The expression “Madmak is not only an attack against Alevis” is frequently used; naturally, it is not “only against Alevis,” but by saying this, we don’t make the situation any clearer! Emphasizing “not only against Alevis” risks underestimating both the history and reality of the animosity against Alevis, given that the festival that sparked the outrage was called “Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Festivals”.

From my perspective, the Madımak massacre is like Suruç’s case and the Ankara Gar massacre. These are targeted attacks against “Kızılbaş, Kurdish, socialist, democratic” people, groups that come together and try to make the world spin differently. These are attacks against Alevis, Kurds, artists and democrats. Compassion shown to the attackers rather than the victims helps us understand the source of violence.

Ibn al-Muqaffa’s observation from 1300 years ago has similarities with the Madımak massacre:

“The worst time is when the evil of the ruler and the people are united.” This unification of evil is the source of genocides and pogroms. From Koçgiri to Dersim, from Ortaca to Elbistan, from Çorum to Maraş and Madımak, the perspective of the “secular republic” was the same.

Let me finish with a personal anecdote before I get too serious: He was a Koçgiri lover. He paid special attention to Alişer Efendi, who was also involved in music. He would call me “Gundî” and add: “Gundis cannot do chauvinism, leave Koçgiri chauvinism to me!” A friend of mine recently said, “Hesret, Qoçgîrî ye” (Hasret is Koçgiri). He was right.

Hesret, Qoçgîr

*The events of July 2, 1993, at the Madımak Hotel in Sivas, Turkey, are known as the Sivas Massacre or the Madımak Massacre. On that day, a group of intellectuals seeking safety from a lynch mob in the Madımak Hotel were attacked by nationalist and conservative organizations. 37 people, mostly Alevi intellectuals, died after the attackers set fire to the hotel.

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