Fear have been raised in Turkey’s Malatya province after the doors of several homes in an Alevi neighborhood were “marked” red in the early hours of Wednesday. Red crosses were painted on the front doors of 13 homes where Alevi families are living in the Cemal Gürsel neighborhood by unknown assailants, prompting the owners of the homes to notify the police.
According to a report by Hürriyet daily news, police have reportedly launched an investigation into the incident, which has stirred worries among Alevis, who follow a syncretic form of Islam.
Upon learning about the incident, Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association Malatya head Mehmet Topal visited the neighborhood and spoke to residents, who he said are “tense.” “We can only guess what kind of violence or massacres these Alevi citizens may face in the upcoming period. We, as Alevis whose faith, philosophy and ways of living are being tried to be fit in a certain pattern, do not have to comply with others,” Topal said. “We will live our faith and culture. We will continue to try to establish peace in this land,” he added.
However, according to a report by pro-Kurdish news agency ANF, Topal has said that “We didn’t know about the markings. The police came to our home early in the morning and informed us. It is interesting that we hear about this from the police, even though it was our home that was marked. We believe it was the police who did the marking. The perpetrators must be brought to light at once, otherwise we will continue to blame the police for the incident.”
Topal said Alevis constantly struggle to build peace and that they will not stray from the path of resistance despite all attack attempts. Underlining that they will not stay silent in the face of the homes being marked, Topal added that “It is suspicious and significant that the police came in for investigations before the neighborhood residents were aware of the incident. That is why we Alevis demand that the officials explain this situation at once and bring the perpetrators to light. Otherwise the security officers and the police will be held responsible for the incident.”
Though exact figures are not present, 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.