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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid