Alevis are a
religious, sub-ethnic and cultural community in
Turkey, numbering in the tens of millions.
Alevism is considered one of the many sects of Islam. However, Alevi worship
takes place in assembly houses (cemevi)
rather than mosques. The ceremony, âyîn-i
cem or simply cem, features music and dance (semah) which symbolize the main planets revolving around the Sun (with men
and women turning in circles) and the liberation from ego and unity with God.
Unlike most other Muslim practices, Alevi rituals are conducted mostly in
Turkish, and some in Kurdish.
In contrast to
as well as to the Shia Muslim orthodoxy Anatolian Alevis
accept shariah, the Islamic judicial system for religious and worldly problems.
In addition, Alevis call for a
renunciation of violence, equality of woman and man in their communities, the
significantly from the teaching
Turkey and Shia Islam in
There was suppression and violence against the Alevis under
empire, however, I will deal, because of lack of time only with
Turkey, in 1993.
Ottoman Empire lies and rumors are spread against Alevis.
"Mum söndü" (The Candle is extinguished) is an Alevi principle,
expressed in their religious meetings and their ritual sexual practices. Once
these and other rumours were used as pretexts to crush the
Anatolia exercised a major influence on the population during the
period when the Bektashi Sufis were a pillar of the state. Sunni
threatened by the power of the Bektashis
and after the spread of rumours pogroms and killings followed, which have not
ceased today. Still today, although 20
Million Alevis live in
Turkey, they are not accepted as an independent
confessional community. Besides, the Alevis are regularly denounced as devil
worshippers and classified as “sects,” so that they are deprived of state
subsidies. The Turkish state promotes
Islam from the Turkish budget and pursues a religious ministry,
Islam is the Turkish state religion. By this non-acceptance of the Alevis, and
the construction of
mosques in Alevi villages the Turkish regime obviously intends
to reeducate the Alevis as Sunnis, which amounts to an attempt to
as a whole.
The 2nd of July 1993 has become a synonym for the inhuman face of the
This date reveals the weakness of democracy in
Turkey. To honour the poet Pir Sultan Abdal,
poets, authors and publishers gathered in a hotel in the city of
Sivas. Best known among them was Aziz Nesin, an author
and satirist who criticised Islam and the Koran publicly
Sivas and described a large part
of the Turkish population as stupid. Religious circles were stirred up by
religious fanatics. A mob of up to 20,000 people assembled before the Madimak
Sivas. There is a video of it.
Taken by police who only stood and watched, refusing to stop the mob. Many hours long.
They did not intervene, fired no warning
shots. “The state has come along as a accomplice.” An impression which increased
in the months after the massacre. None of
the perpetrators was arrested. The Islamists put on trial showed neither remorse
nor compassion for the families of the victims. They grinned at the cameras and
made statements supporting the action - only three years later the Refah party,
to which many of them belonged, became the government party.
martyrdom of several hours was broadcast live on TV: Before the Madimak hotel
Sivas appeared thousands
of Sunnis, they said
since generations, they are unbelievers and heretics. The Sunnis
fists heavenward in God's names, we have enough of you.” They had just come from
the Friday prayer.
The Alevis in the burning hotel had a choice: die in the
flames or jump into the mob. Police and fire department intervened hours later -
why, is unknown today.
Before the Alevi festival was held pamphlets were distributed throughout the city
to the Sunni public. Sunnis were
summoned to denounce and demonize Aziz Nesin and other participants in the
festival as well as providing alleged Quranic citations supporting violence.
The dominance of the Sunni clerics, their values, norms, and behaviour patterns
Sivas made this distortion of their frame of reference
possible, justifying, for them, violence on the pretext of religious differences
against alleged enemies of Islam as defined by small, personal cliques and
After Friday prayers and the assembly of fanatics in front of the hotel they
is Muslim!,” “We want shariah!,” “The
Republic was established here and here it will crush its enemies!” But Alevis have never been enemies of
Turkish media treated the victims as culprits.
The chief columnists of the biggest newspapers held Aziz Nesin
responsible as a provocateur and exculpated the murderers.
The killers are still free. Many of them now live in
Germany. The Turkish state speaks of a sad
incident. Many Turkish officials would be pleased if the massacre were
forgotten. But Alevis do not forget.
They demand justice, investigation of the massacre and a museum honouring 35
dead victims. The
Sivas massacre remains in Alevi minds and souls. The
graves of the
Sivas victims in
devastated in November 2007 and a commemorative wall there was destroyed. This
act of destruction showed that the memory of the victims has not vanished
Sivas is criticised
by the state. They say it promotes hatred among
Alevis. The memory
Sivas is an important condition
for Alevis and
Sunnis to live together in peace. A peaceful community
existence cannot be based on forgetting.
Today the Alevis continue to demand erection of a