Mention Sivas to any Turk, and you’ll likely receive an abbreviated account of the events of 2 July, 1993 – a tragic massacre that has given the city an enduring notoriety, especially given the current friction between its secular and religious elements.
A group of Alevi intellectuals had gathered inside the Madımak Hotel for a small festival, celebrating the work of a sixteenth-century Alevi poet. One of their number, Aziz Nasin, had recently published translated extracts from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and a vengeful mob of over a thousand Islamic fundamentalists gathered outside in protest after Friday prayers. The hotel was set alight; 37 perished, including hotel guests and employees. Aziz himself managed to escape.