Turkish courts have reportedly arrested 16 members of the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association (PSAKD), an Alevi community organization in Turkey.
According to a statement from the PSAKD, Turkish courts have arrested 16 of its members since March 16. Erol Yeter, deputy chair of the PSAKD, and Akın Demir, local director of the PSKAD in Erzincan, are among the arrestees.
Members of the Alevi organisation were accused of “providing support to a terrorist organization,” but the indictments failed to associate them with any form of violence, the PSAKD said.
Chair of the PSAKD’s Erzincan branch Salih Ürü said their activities are limited to maintaining and protecting Alevi culture. “We are working for Alevi belief along with NGOs in the region. We are an organization of faith. Our colleagues were arrested for these activities,” Ürü said.
Although there are no precise figures, with its approximately 20 million adherents Alevis constitute the second-largest religious community in Turkey after Sunni Muslims.
Tensions between the Alevi and Sunni communities in Turkey date back to Ottoman times. In 1511, the Ottoman army brutally suppressed a revolt by the Kızılbaş Turkmens of the Alevi faith on Anatolian soil, and as many as 40,000 were killed. The Battle of Çaldıran, fought between the Ottoman Empire under Yavuz Sultan Selim and the Safavid Shah İsmail in 1514, resulted in the sultan issuing an edict to kill all the Kızılbaş in the region.
During the republican era, thousands of Alevis were massacred in Dersim in 1937, and hundreds of Alevis were killed in pogroms, which many now believe were masterminded by groups inside the state, in the cities of Çorum, Yozgat and Kahramanmaraş in the 1970s.
Thirty-four Alevi intellectuals were burned to death in 1992 inside the Madımak Hotel in Sivas. In other incidents, such as in İstanbul’s predominantly Alevi Gazi neighborhood in 1995, Alevis were targeted by individuals armed with machine guns.