News / Europe

Tensions Rise Between Turkey's Government, Alevi Minority

FILE - Thousands of Alevi Muslims, members of Turkey's largest religious minority group, with some holding banners that read "Let's make peace and stop bloodshed" rally in Ankara.
FILE - Thousands of Alevi Muslims, members of Turkey's largest religious minority group, with some holding banners that read "Let's make peace and stop bloodshed" rally in Ankara.
Dorian Jones
Alevi Muslims, Turkey's largest religious minority, are widely seen as the biggest losers in the government's recent package of democratic reforms.

Recognition of Alevi religious rights was widely expected to be included among the reforms, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said such a step could be taken after the issue is further studied. But the issue of Alevi religious rights remains deeply contentious, with many of the prime minister's grassroots Sunni supporters viewing Alevis, who do not pray in mosques, as heretics.

Prime Minister Erdogan’s democracy package included few reforms for the Alevis other than renaming a state university after an historical Alevi figure.

Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist and columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf, says religious prejudice is behind the lack of such reforms.

"Nothing came out except one name of a university, because they don’t consider and they don’t want to consider the Alevis as a religion. They consider it as a deviation," said Aktar.

Alevis practice Islam in a manner very different from the mainstream. There is no segregation of men and women during prayer, and Alevis pray in cemevis - which are prayer houses - rather than mosques.  The Turkish state views cemevis as cultural centers rather than places of worship.

Professor Istar Gozaydin, an expert on religion and the state at Istanbul’s Dogus University, says the ruling AK Party has been groundbreaking in opening a dialogue with Alevi spiritual leaders. She doubts, however, that it will introduce any major reforms in this area.

"When they perceive Alevis as a color in the [Turkish] culture, that is perfectly all right. But when it comes to perceiving them as (a) different perception of Islam, that makes it difficult. It is important, because unless they start accepting it as another understanding of the religion, it's out of the question to come to an understanding of each other," said Gozaydin.

Alevi leaders have strongly criticized the government's failure to meet their demands. And even before the government’s democracy package, criticism had already been growing in the Alevi community over the prime minister’s comments on Syria.

Ali Kenanoglu heads the Hubyar Sultan Alevi Cultural Association.

"Whenever Mr. Erdogan talks about Syria, he refers to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as an Alevi, which legitimizes the view in Turkey that Alevis are responsible for massacring Sunnis in Syria. And the Turkish prime minister's audience is Sunni Turks, who already have very troubled relations with the Alevis," said Kenanoglu.

In the past few months there have been clashes between protesting Alevis and security forces in various parts of Turkey. Some government officials have voiced support for recognizing Alevi cemevis as places of worship.

But AK Party parliamentary deputies have expressed strong opposition to such a move.

Kadri Gursel, diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, warns that sectarian tensions are on the rise.

"It's becoming most serious, because there is a patchy Alevi rebellion in Turkey right now, in the Hatay region, in Ankara, in Istanbul. There is a deepening resentment among Alevis, and the Alevi question is a threat to the public order in Turkey right now," said Gursel.

While Alevi leaders have called for mass protests in Istanbul next month, the government has promised to examine the issue of Alevi rights. But the findings of an inquiry initiated by the government two years ago still remain unenforced. Observers point out that Turkey is entering a period of political campaigning 18 months ahead of the next general election, and Erdogan may therefore be reluctant to introduce significant Alevi reforms.

You May Like

Photogallery Kyiv: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dr. Hanif Mustafa from: Canada
October 22, 2013 5:03 PM
Turkey is fast becoming the Islamic disaster everyone knew it was... they betrayed Israel - the first sign that Satan has taken over... then they started suppressing their proud military - incarcerating thousands of their top military officers for trying to mount a coup against the "Government" ... no freedom of speech... oppression of minorities... illegal occupation of Cyprus... actively trying to undermine Egypt... actively trying to contract alliance with Iran... sponsoring Al Qaida in Syria...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Weeki
X
August 29, 2014 2:18 AM
The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid