Mahmut Yıldız is an 86-year-old Raa Haq spiritual guide and was one of the survivors of the Dersim Massacre. He moved to Germany as a gastarbeiter (guest worker) in 1965. He lives alone in his apartment in Berlin and due to coronavirus, he is in self-imposed isolation.
He feels responsible for passing down, to the next generation, all of his knowledge about the Raa Haq path of Alevism. “I'm happy for getting older because this is the journey of the soul to refresh itself in a new body. The soul of the body that dies in the Alevi belief, continues to live. I don't think I will live too much longer, but I am happy to be renewed.”
Dersim, located in the mountainous part of Northern Kurdistan. Known for being the homeland of the ethnoreligious group known as Alevi-Zaza, Dersim is associated with its desperately tragic history. In the early years of the Turkish Republic, as a result of creating a Turkish nation-state, the Republic's armed forces responded brutally to the Zaza tribes revolting and around 14,000 people were brutally murdered during the genocidal incidents that took place between 1937-1938. As a result of the state-sponsored violence, Zaza people were subjected to mass forced displacement and exile.