Alevi-Sunni tensions stir grave concern

Alevi-Sunni tensions stir grave concern

Alevi-Sunni tensions stir grave concern

A group of demonstrators gather in Ankara to protest an incident in which the home of an Alevi family (inset) was stoned and their stables burned by an angry mob in Malatya. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

News reports suggesting rising Sunni-Alevi tension in Malatya have led to serious concerns in Ankara as deputies from the ruling and main opposition parties headed to the eastern Anatolian province to speak with Alevi families.

Due to past Sunni-Alevi tension in the area, deputies of both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) met with members of an Alevi family that was recently attacked by a large group of people in the village of Sürgü. The deputies also held talks with Sürgü Mayor Faruk Taşdemir and Ercan Geçmez, the president of the Hacı Bektaş Veli Anatolian Cultural Foundation.

Number of attackers

CHP Malatya deputy Veli Ağbaba said one-fifth of Sürgü's 5,000 people were Alevi. “We learned that the number of attackers was something between 300 and 500 people on the first night of the events. Attackers were not only local – approximately 50 people came from neighboring villages,” Ağbaba said, adding that the family had stayed in their home even though they had been terrorized.
Geçmez said he feared that such attacks could be repeated and could lead to an Alevi massacre akin to the one in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş in 1978.

The home of the Evli family was stoned and their stables were burned down by an angry mob on July 29 after the family allegedly told a Ramadan drummer not to wake them for sahur, the meal before sunrise during the month of fasting, since they were not observing Ramadan and had work early in the morning. The two sides quarreled after the drummer rejected the family’s request. News of the incident was heard throughout the village and a mob of around 60 people gathered in front of the family’s house, hurling stones at the home and shouting that they were "Kurds and Alevis.” Security forces were able to disperse the crowd after reinforcements arrived.

A family member who spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity said they lived in a mixed neighborhood with an Alevi-Sunni population and added that some Sunni friends were alarmed about an upcoming attack and had consequently informed the gendarmerie in the region as a precaution.

“He [the gendarmerie commander] visited us after the attack and proposed that we move to another region temporarily. If we leave, how can we return in the future? We have lived in Sürgü 15 years, more than five years at this address. We do not want to leave our home. If the state cannot provide for our security here, how will it be able to do so in another region?” he said.

Taşdemir, however, has accused the family of provocation, a family member said, adding that he had also urged them to leave the area.