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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.