And the Mountain said to Munzur: You, River of my Tears

Miriam Stanke



‘You, River of my Tears’ is the story of Dersim, a remote mountainous area of Eastern Anatolia with the Munzur river and valley at its heart. Dersim is the historical heartland of the Kurdish Alevis or Kızılbaş, a very heterodox religious group that has been oppressed and attacked throughout the past centuries and is still fighting for its heritage. The word ‘Dersim’ is closely connected to ‘genocide’ and ‘resistance’ for most Kurds and Alevis in Turkey. Continuous struggles against the state climaxed with the massacre of 1938, where ten thousand were killed by Turkish military. During the second half of the 20th century Dersim also became a melting pot of leftist political dissent and an important centre for several communist movements. Its mountains have served as a hideout for guerrilla groups since this time and still today the region has one of the highest concentrations of military presence in Turkey.


The Dersim people’s dissent is pitted against state manipulation of local ways of living. The building of new Mosques - not part of Alevi culture - and countless dam and mining projects throughout the region, especially at the Munzur river, have provoked new clashes and caused further alienation.

The project captures glimpses of a society which cultural and religious history, in its particular diversity and isolation, reveals itself not only in special prayers, rites, or structures of society today, but also in clear political actions for autonomy and equality of different social groups and for the support and development of its own identity.

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  • White path seen out of the window of Dersim revolutionary Seyid Riza's granddaughter

  • Little boy in in a Cem Evi (gathering house) which are used instead of mosques by Alevi people. Men and women are gathering and praying together.

  • Woman lying on the holy rocks of Düzgün Baba, which are said to heal back pains.

  • Slaughterer at the holy springs of Munzur after the sacrifizing of several goats. Families mostly gather on weekends at the springs to sacrifice and share their meals.

  • Preparing tea on a cast iron oven in a temporary guerrilla camp.

  • The mayor of a little village which will be flooded due to the Pembelik dam project, sits in front of his house

  • Mao flag put up by one of the operating guerrilla groups in and around Dersim

  • Little boy taking a rest while supporting his family by taking care of the cows and sheeps

  • Father playing with his daughter at the holy springs of Munzur. Families gather here mostly on weekends to sacrifice goats and share their food with others. The family came to sacrifice a goat for their ill son, who suffers from a genetic disorder.

  • Picture of the boy Berkin Elvan who died in March 2014 after being injured during Gezi protests in Istanbul. Berkin became a symbol of resistance: ‘Berkin Elvan is immortal'

  • Couple dancing on the village square during the first of their three day wedding celebration.

  • A woman and her dog in the mountain village Sorsvenk.

  • Information board in a PKK guerrilla camp.

  • Horse of a nomad family waiting for watering.

  • City walk, Dersim

  • Halbori springs and rocks used to commit suicide to escape the genocide of 1937/38 on Alevi people

  • Woman leaving the region of Dersim by a ferry boat

  • Munzur valley

  • Two friends getting try after a bath in the Munzur river

  • Munzur River