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Turkey’s Alevis on edge after homes vandalized

Aykan Erdemir
28th November 2017 - Quoted by Ayla Jean Yackley - Al-Monitor

Members of the Alevi religious community are on edge after vandals targeted several homes in eastern Turkey, recalling earlier violence against the country’s largest minority and rousing fears that a surge in nationalism is stoking ethnic tensions.

Late last week, assailants painted an ominous red “X” on 13 homes in the predominantly Alevi district of Cemal Gursel in Malatya, a conservative city of nearly 800,000 people, said the head of a local Alevi group, adding police had yet to make any arrests.

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“There is a toxic environment in Turkey for all ethnic and religious minorities, especially since the aborted coup with the surge in jingoism,” Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told Al-Monitor.

“Alevis have also become victims of scapegoating and hate crimes. What compounds the problem is Turkey’s culture of impunity. Perpetrators of hate crimes know that they will be treated extremely leniently by courts and often walk free,” said Erdemir, a former lawmaker in the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who drafted legislation with tougher penalties for hate crimes that parliament failed to pass.

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Alevis tend to espouse a more liberal lifestyle than their Sunni peers and see secularism as their best safeguard against Sunni dominance. Erdemir estimates that 90% of Alevi voters support the opposition, with two-thirds of those casting ballots for the secularist CHP and the rest backing the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) traces its roots to a banned Islamist political party.

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