News / Europe

Istanbul Residents Skeptical of 'Risk Area' Declaration

Alevi demonstrators shout anti-goverment slogans during a protest against the latest violence in Okmeydani, a working-class district in the center of the city, in Istanbul May 25, 2014
Alevi demonstrators shout anti-goverment slogans during a protest against the latest violence in Okmeydani, a working-class district in the center of the city, in Istanbul May 25, 2014
Dorian Jones
Istanbul city authorities have announced the destruction of an area containing thousands of people's homes because they say they are unsafe.

The decision has caused outrage because the area is a center of anti-government unrest and home to a minority religious sect.

Istanbul’s Okmeydani district is a hot bed of anti-government protests, many walls are covered in graffiti critical of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  There also are written names of people who have been killed here by security forces.  

But the residents face a new threat.  The ruling AK Party has designated the area an earthquake risk and ordered the destruction of buildings.
 
For Hasan, a shopkeeper, there is no doubt as to what lies behind this decision.  He says he believes it is absolutely a political move because the prime minister wants to break up the fabric of the society here. 

He said in the current political environment the government sees this place, and the Alevi people living here, as a threat and an enemy.   
 
The Okmeydani district is home to many Alevis, who follow a progressive form of Islam that allows men and women to pray together and does not require women to wear religious headscarves.

Traditionally, many Alevis, who make us as much as a fifth of the population in Turkey, support left of center political parties.

Analysts say it is a coincidence the dozen or so people killed by security forces in a year of political unrest were Alevis.  

But they warn the coincidence is exacerbating deep suspicions of the sect by the ruling AK party and its supporters, many whom are pious orthodox Sunni Muslims.
Professor Istar Gozaydin of Istanbul's Dogus University says the current political strife is stirring ancient tensions.  

"They (Alevis) are sort of heretics in the eyes of Sunni Muslims.  The Alevis have been experiencing all sorts of atrocities, discriminations.  Unfortunately that is still continuing today," he said.

Tensions are on the rise as Prime Minister Erdogan hits the campaign trail.  He is expected to run for president in elections this August.

Critics accuse him of using increasingly sectarian language to drum up support among pious supporters and of implying that Alevis are part of a plot against him.
  
In response, thousands of Alevis have been on the streets of Istanbul protesting prejudice and police brutality.

This teacher who did not give her name says she is worried the AK party is stoking a religious polarization. 

"I feel that I am not a part of this country.  I feel the government wants us to live the way they want.  Some conservative Muslims do not like Alevis.  Alevis (have been) massacred in this country, 50, 100, 200 people were killed.  It can happen to us to, so I am afraid."
 
The religious affairs directorate that administers the Muslim faith in Turkey is the Diyanet.  Its deputy head, Mehmet Pacaci, says the tensions need to be confronted. 

"Actually the Diyanet, will have a role to ease this tension.  Of course there is a tension.  There is a kind of stereotype.  Misconceptions are on both sides as well.  So yes there are many things to do, for Diyanet as well, and we will find a way to solve this problem," he said.

Last year’s mass protests were provoked by a plan to redevelop Gezi Park, and now that the homes of the Alevis are due to be pulled down, Turkey's next battleground could be the Okmeydani district.

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid