On anniversary of Sivas massacre, reposting a ten-year-old, loooong, confusing thread-posts on Alevi, Alawite, Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Shia––unfortunately, key video is no longer available.

2 Jul

The Turkish Islamist’s frightening animus toward Alevi 19 Sep

“Teomete”, a dude with whom I had a Twitter fight a few years ago over Turkish Alevis and Syrian Alawites, happily climbs out of the drainage pipe to show his true AK-fanatic’s colors (please check out his Twitter page with Erdoğan portrayed as a Cross-bearing, flogged and martyred Jesus Christ).  In response to my take on the AL Monitor’s piece “Why are Turks flocking to Greece?“ he cheers us up today with this:

Teomete تيومته‏ @THansarayli 2h2 hours ago Replying to @jaddeyekabir: :) A piece (of shit) written by filthy sectarian pseudo Turk, Safavid Alevist shiite for a sym-sectarian Asadist shiite news portal @AlMonitor

My Shia sympathies have been made clear pretty often, but my spiritual sympathies––buoyed by personal love-friendship experiences––for Alevism, one of the hipper forms of Islam, are even stronger.  “Teomete” is scary, but can someone tell me what about Zülfikar Doğan makes him a “Safavid sectarian” for the gentleman?  Is it just his name?  Is he known as an Alevi journalist in Turkey? Below are cut and pasted my posts with my exchange between Teomete and me from 2015, where I point out that the added hatred for Alevis on Turkish Fundies’ part comes from the fact that they so often overlap with Kurdish-Zaza speakers. Enjoy.  And if Teomete responds I’ll let you know and please just follow him on your own on Twitter because I won’t be responding.  Δεν μπορώ να ασχολούμαι.  But he’s interesting, both in discussion with me and on his Twit page, for how modern he is in terms of mastery of internet language and slang, or in the photo of his puppy…

…(doesn’t he know keeping dogs are haram?) and what a neo-pious reactionary he still is in all his ideas and everything else.  For most, social media changes nothing, liberates nothing, problematizes nothing; it just gives you a bullhorn.


Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis closer than I thought 5 Aug

From The New York Times: “As Syrian War Roils, Sectarian Unrest Seeps Into Turkey” As Syria’s civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the government’s Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions are increasing across the border between Turkey’s Alawite minority and the Sunni Muslim majority here. Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria’s embattled strongman, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey’s government, and many Sunnis, supports the Syrian rebels. The Alawites fear the sectarian violence spilling across the border. Already, the sweltering, teeming refugee camps along the frontier are fast becoming caldrons of anti-Alawite feelings. “If any come here, we’re going to kill them,” said Mehmed Aziz, 28, a Syrian refugee at a camp in Ceylanpinar, who drew a finger across his throat. He and his friends are Sunnis, and they all howled in delight at the thought of exacting revenge against Alawites. Many Alawites in Turkey, especially in eastern Turkey where Alawites tend to speak Arabic and are closely connected to Alawites in Syria, are suspicious of the bigger geopolitics, and foreign policy analysts say they may have a point. The Turkish government is led by an Islamist-rooted party that is slowly but clearly trying to bring more religion, particularly Sunni Islam, into the public sphere, eschewing decades of purposefully secular rule. Alawites here find it deeply unsettling, and a bit hypocritical, that Turkey has teamed up with Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive countries in the world, and Qatar, a religious monarchy, both Sunni, to bring democracy to Syria. The Alawites point to the surge of foreign jihadists streaming into Turkey, en route to fight a holy war on Syria’s battlefields. Many jihadists are fixated on turning Syria, which under the Assad family’s rule has been one of the most secular countries in the Middle East, into a pure Islamist state. More: The Alawites here are worried they could become easy targets. Historically, they have been viewed with suspicion across the Middle East by mainstream Muslims and often scorned as infidels. The Alawite sect was born in the ninth century and braids together religious beliefs, including reincarnation, from different faiths. Many Alawites do not ever go to a mosque; they tend to worship at home or in Alawite temples [cem evi] that have been denied the same state support in Turkey that Sunni mosques get. Many Alawite women do not veil their faces or even cover their heads. The towns they dominate in eastern Turkey, where young women sport tank tops and tight jeans, feel totally different than religious Sunni towns just a few hours away, where it can be difficult even to find a woman in public.” [my emphases]


Turkish Alevis and Syrian (or Lebanese…or Turkish?) Alawites — a Twitter exchange

13 Sep I recently stumbled on a tweet on my account that I had somehow missed from August 2012 about an article from the Times around that time (“As Syria War Roils, Unrest Among Sects Hits Turkey” August 4, 2012)    The post — mine — was called: “Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis closer than I thought”  (August 5th, 2012 on the Jadde) I’ll just paste the Tweet exchange all here even if it’s kind of messy-looking:

Teomete تيوميته ‏@THansarayli 14 Aug 2012 Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis closer than I thought @jaddeyekabir aracılığıyla   Wrong! @NYTimes corrected their fault yesterday. Checkit

Nicholas Bakos ‏@jaddeyekabir Sep 12 The NYTimes didn’t “correct” their “mistake.” They most likely got a call from their guy at the Turkish consulate asking them to retract assertion

Nicholas Bakos ‏@jaddeyekabir Totally obvious Alevis and Alawites are part of one Turkish Kurdish Arab quasi-Shia continuum  10:06 AM – 12 Sep 2012

Nicholas Bakos ‏@jaddeyekabir Sep 12 Have met numerous Alevis in Turkey who identify with Syrian Alawites. Turkish Republic simply terrified of growth of minority consciousness

Nicholas Bakos ‏@jaddeyekabir Sep 12 Especially if it fosters identification with groups in neighboring countries

Teomete تيوميته ‏@THansarayli 6h Ontologically correct epistemologically wrong

Nicholas Bakos ‏@jaddeyekabir (confused face emoji) have to ask Pelagia @Ljiljana1972 about this one.

Teomete تيوميته ‏@THansarayli 6h That was the pseudo Turkish Republic who used to scare of minority consciousness the current republic is our second republic + who do not scare of their minorities conversely they support and encourage minorities,beliefs and different life styles.


Ok, lot’s of stuff there.  First, there’s this article from The Independent just yesterday (not two years ago) the heading on which doesn’t even refer to Alevis as such, but as “Turkish Shias:” “Turkish Shias in Fear of Life on the Edge” (September 12, 2014).  Upon reading the article it immediately makes clear they’re speaking of Turkish Alevis. There’s so much one can say.  But let me give one personal example.  When Syria started its descent into hell in 2011, I told an Alevi friend of mine from Istanbul, “You do know that Assad and his Alawites in Syra, they’re Alevis essentially? just Arabs?”  And she said, “No, I didn’t know that.”  And this is a politicized, intelligent, critical-minded woman who is very interested in Alevi and wider progressive issues in Turkey. This summer, 2014, when I was in Istanbul during the Soma mining disaster, she said, in a long role-call of complaints against Erdoğan: “He’s funding Sunni groups in Syria who are just killing and massacring Alevis.”  Not Syrian Alawites.  “Alevis.”  The Syrian crisis, had, in two brutal years, made her realize her connection to that group in Syria, that she was one of them.  This sharpening of consciousness––on the part of perhaps 10 to 20 million Turkish citizens––is clearly what makes Erdoğan and the Turkish Republic nervous and unhappy.  Another Turkish Alevi friend works tightly with Arab-speaking Alevis from the Antakya region of southeaast Turkey––which, then, of course, raises the issue of why we don’t just call them Alawites too! There are problems here.  First, I don’t even know if Alevis/Alawites even like or appreciate being called Shia and lumped together with the Shia of Iran or southern Iraq or southern Lebanon––except when they’re being armed and aided by them.  Or, if more “orthodox” Shia, like those mentioned above, even approve of Alevism entirely: it has a set of very un-‘orthodox’ practices that they, mainstream Shia, might consider heretical, and when they stop needing them to wage their proxy wars for them against Sunni powers in other parts of the Middle East, they may abandon them to their fate.  Second, like I said in my tweets, Alevism/Alawitism, the supposedly Shia set of practices and beliefs that I’m just going to call Alevism from now on, runs across a region and through a Turkish-Kurdish-Zaza-Arab-speaking group of ‘population-continua’ that are perhaps very heterogeneous in one way, but definitely a spiritual, confessional and even cultural unit in many other ways. The border between southeast Turkey and Syria and Iraq and and along the Mediterranean littoral along which these communities are largely to be found is precisely where the border between the Arab/Muslim Umayyad/Abbasid states and the Byzantine Empire ran for centuries, a region which created the strange inter-ethnic frontier world of the Greek “Akrites” ballads,* and seems like perfect territory where some of the more syncretic, vaguely Christian (?) elements of Alevism––what’s essentially its trinitarianism, its constant impulse towards Ali&Hussein deification (SHIRK) and “the sacrificed young god” narrative, shared semi-sacramental meals, music and dance (HARAM)––would have entered into a marriage with more standard Muslim practices. So are they all the same?  Obviously not.  Are they completely different?  The answer to that is an even more resounding ‘no’.  And I question the impulse, like that of my imaginary guy at the Turkish consulate calling the Times with his complaint, to emphasize their differences.  There’s obviously nation-state identity borders being guarded there, and the fraternizing and developing of too much solidarity with groups in neighboring states on their citizens’ part is unlikely to make any regional government very happy. What probably makes the Turkish government even more nervous is the further mixing and crossing of boundaries again, the many Alevis, for example, who are also Kurds (just the idea must give any AKP politician a migraine), the many Arabs of the southeast that are Alawite and who, though heavily Turkified already, might be tempted by a sense of community with an extra-territorial group of Arab religious brethren, to re-examine the process of Turkification they were subjected to when Turkey strong-armed that little corner of Syria out of French protectorate hands just before WWII in a process I still don’t understand; the usual plebiscite theory given just smells bogus to me.  It’s certainly clear from The Independent article that Turkish Alevis are considering the Syrian Alawite refugee influx into Turkey a group they need to care for and look after:

“Doğan Bermek, the president of the Alevi Foundation, a lobbying group mostly made up of better-off Alevi, asserts: “In Syria and in Turkey we are all the same Alevi. The differences between us are only regional because we have developed in different regions without contacts. We are on the same road though it has a thousand paths.’” [my emphases]

Finally, with all due respect to “Teomete’s” Second Turkish Republic, set up in 1961 (and set up and backed by the military coup that ousted and hanged Menderes and his crowd I believe? right? wrong? No tears shed on my part for that crew, believe me, I’m just asking…), it’s rather an exaggeration to say that they respect Turkey’s minority rights.  To begin with, by the time it was established in the early 60s, Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities had already been ‘taken care’ of essentially: the Greeks of Istanbul had been chased out by vicious discriminatory taxation and imprisonment in the 40s, and then a one-night pogrom in September of 1955 that effectively destroyed most of the still some 100,000 strong community’s commercial, ecclesiastic, academic and domestic infrastructure and that killed about 30 people as well.  After this, the Armenians and Jews made a point of keeping quiet and keeping their heads down, but a slow hemorrhaging of their numbers has continued to take place to this day.  (See my post: “Nobody really cares about Gezi Park: Greek thoughts on the protests of 2013“ from last November.) But it was under “Teomete’s” Second Turkish Republic, that Istanbul’s remaining Greeks suffered the practically overnight expulsion of almost half their community who held Greek citizenship in 1964.  And it was under the Second Turkish Republic that the Greek populations of the islands of Imbros (Imroz) and Tenedos (Bozca Ada) were driven out of their homes through a campaign of terror and thuggish violence and West-Bank-style settlements of mainland Turks and appropriation of property and land, all in violation of the Lausanne Treaty.  It was under the Second Turkish Republic that the Orthodox Theological Seminary on the island of Khalke (Heybeli Ada), crucial to the Church’s functioning and central in the hearts of the entire Orthodox world, was closed––because the Second Turkish Republic suddenly remembered in 1971 that no institution of higher education, according to the Turkish Constitution, was allowed to be in non-governmental hands, and though all of Turkey is now full of private universities run and owned by any Yörük goatherd-turned-millionaire who has the funds to open one, the Seminary has still not been reopened.  And it was under the Second Turkish Republic that Turkey continued to prosecute a vicious war against Kurdish language, cultural and political rights that is only finally drawing to a close…we hope. So, give me a little bit of a break on your “second” republic, please.  I’m sorry, but this persistent belief in Turkey’s––especially Istanbul’s––essential “multiculturalism” and the persistent both popular and sold-to-tourists belief that it still exists under the second Turkish Republic that “do not scare of their minorities conversely they support and encourage minorities, beliefs and different life styles…” is so irrational and Orwellian that I mostly don’t even know how to respond to it any more. As for Alevis, and the Second Turkish Republic’s record of defending and respecting their rights or even just physically protecting them, I’ll just close extensively with another quote from The Independent article:

“How great is the danger of Sunni-Shia hostilities that have torn apart Iraq, Syria and Bahrain in the last decade erupting in Turkey? There are marked differences in religious observances between the Sunni majority and the Alevi who do not use mosques, but worship in some 3,000 prayer houses where men and women dance and sing during services. As a large Shia minority under the Ottoman Empire, the Alevi were persecuted and massacred as dissidents and potential sympathisers with the rival Shia Safavid empire in Iran. Oppression of the Alevi was much like that of Roman Catholics in Ireland by Britain from the 16th century on and it continued after the foundation of the modern Turkish state, with at least 8,000 Alevi Kurds of Dersim in the south-east being slaughtered in the late 1930s. The Alevis became the bedrock of opposition movements in Turkey and make up much of the membership of leftist parties. In 1993 their spiritual leaders, intellectuals and artists held a festival in the eastern city of Sivas to celebrate a 15th-century poet. Trapped in a hotel by a mob of thousands of Sunnis protesting, among other things, at the presence of the Turkish translator of Salman Rushdie, some 35 people were burned to death without the police intervening. Three years later there was an assault on Alevis by the police, killing 20 people in the same Gazi quarter where Syrian Alawites are now taking refuge. Since Erdogan won his first general election in 2002 there has been less state violence. But during the protests that started in Gezi Park in Istanbul this summer, all five of the demonstrators killed across the country came from the Alevi community. This is probably as much a token of their prominence in protests as it is of the police targeting them. It is also a sign that Alevi anger is growing because of memories of past violence against them; discrimination which turned them into second-class citizens and lack of state recognition or support for their religion.”

The bold emphases are mine, because they cover key points in Alevi history in Turkey (before and during the Second Republic) that I couldn’t get into: the perception of them as Persian “fifth-columnists” in Ottoman times, when they were known by the much-hated epithet “kızılbaş”, the reason they are Turkey’s staunchest secularists and therefore Erdoğan’s staunchest opponents, and finally their sense of community with Alevis/Alawites in different countries. Alevis_in_Turkey

Demographic distribution of Alevis in Turkey


And distribution of Alawites in the Levant, which clearly shows major concentrations in Turkish Antakya and also northern Lebanon

And please “Teomete.”  I’ve tried to be as respectful as I could on this topic.  Our tweeting was going fine till this last tweet:

Teomete تيوميته ‏@THansarayli: No one likes defamations and lies

Nicholas Bakos @jaddeyekabir   I spend much of my time on this blog supporting and defending Turkey and Turks against the genuine defamations and lies of ignorant imbeciles.  I don’t need to prove my credentials.  My Greek enemies all have large files on me they can provide you with.  As do all Arab agents of the MESA Thought Police, who used to all be convinced that I was incorrigibly anti-Arab and a closet anti-Muslim….because it used to give them a sense of professional purpose and something they could snarl about.  (As they say about academia: “the competition is so fierce because the stakes are so low.”)  Probably “God and the Serbs” are my only friends. But if you consider the assertion that a certain religious-cultural-language group in your country is connected and related, and feels connected and related, to another religious-cultural-language group in a neighboring country…a “lie” or “defamation,” then you’re talking a nationalist language that I don’t have conversations in with anyone. I hope I haven’t hurt or offended you or anyone else. (See also: Alevis and Alawites addendum: a “p.s.” from Teomete) .

* “Akrites”: Like during the Reconquista in Spain, or during the competing Russian/Polish/Cossack struggles over Ukraine, or the two-centuries long Russian offensive against the peoples of the Caucasus, or the centuries of Montenegrin-Albanian feuding, or right here on the U.S. border with Mexico, Roman/Byzantine-Arab conflict gave rise to an ethnically, culturally, religiously not-particularly-observant (despite stated purpose of their cause) and linguistically mixed warrior culture, that shared more similarities than differences and waged war more because that’s just who they were socially (or existentially), or for its material perks (or just for fun really and/or male acting out) than out of any real conviction of their enemy’s evil-ness. The “akrites” were the Byzantine border warlords who defended the Empire’s southern frontier — the άκρη or “edge” — which as I mentioned here is what the word “krai” or “kraj” in Ukraine means, or in Serbo-Croatian Krajina — but were half-Arab culturally and every other way themselves.  The most famous is the ballad of “Digenes Akritas” who was born of a Greek father and Arab mother. You will still find this attitude among professional soldiers, or men who have lived long military lives even today, and even coming from scary mercenary/contractors like I met in Afghanistan or one man I talked to at the Serbian monastery of Hilandar on Athos who had gone to fight with some shadowy group in Kosovo in the 90s: the line between hate and respect––even love––between you and the enemy is razor-fine.  Plus, the “Blackwater” phenomenon––see one of my journalist-hero’s, Jeremy Scahill’s gripping Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (they’re now called “Academi” after trying out “Xe” for a while) is not new in history and all of the above conflicts were fought by men who much more resembled today’s mercenary/contractor fighters than they did a regular, state army. These truths about war is why we will always have paramilitary groups operating somewhere in the world, who do the dirty work that the nation-state hypocritically ‘can’t’ because it has to save face.



Teomete تيوميته ‏@THansarayli 14h – “My rejection to the article of @nytimes just was bcoz of their evil mind on manipulation by distorting the fact about Alevis + – It’s natural 2 call & ask editorial 2 make correction when they lied or manipulated the facts. U and yr country shld do diz too. ***********************************************************************************************Yeah.  Well.  I don’t have a country, abi.  I’m the citizen of a couple.  And I’m kind of an honorary-guest-citizen of (I think, at last call) about twenty-seven others.  But they’re not mine.  And they don’t belong to me any more than I belong to them.  And I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead running around hiding the truth about any of them and calling it “lying” and “defaming” if others state that truth clearly.  And that’s one thing for which I honor American society and Protestant conscience and self-examination for having taught me, even though it’s usually honored only in the breach.* Greeks call what you do “hiding behind your finger.”  In Spanish they have the more poetic phrase: “The sun can’t be blocked with one finger.” In this blog post of mine: “Magnificent Turks’ and the origins of this blog“ I talk about several Greek brothers who actually think just like you, a Turk.  Imagine.  They think that if you don’t speak the historical truth that it’ll go away somehow.  They think that if you speak that truth it’s because your intent is “evil” — just like you do.  They tell you to “go fuck yourself” when you speak the truth — which you don’t do because you’re Turkish and polite, which I appreciate, and not a foul-mouthed Neo-Greek who thinks he’s oh-so-clever-and-articulate because he’s always got three or four nasty epithets ready on the tip of his tongue to hurl at you.  And they call you κομπλεξικό — that you’ve got ‘neurotic hang-ups’ to translate roughly — because you say and write things that “aid and abet the enemies of our fatherland.”  Who’s got the hang-ups there: me or someone who walks around in 2014 AD using the term “enemies of our fatherland” is up to you to decide.  But I can put you in touch with them if you like, because you all think exactly the same. Here’s my one country:roosevelt-avenue-jackson-heights-little-india-micro-neighborhoods-nyc-untapped-cities-brennan-ortiz

Photo via Netizen. (click) …and as you can see most people here have better things to do than be thinking about your kind of närrischkeit.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

*********************************************************************************************** * As an ESL teacher in New York City’s CUNY system for over ten years I frequently had the experience of my foreign students perplexed that Americans were constantly rehashing and criticizing their history.  I’d have read the devastating attack on American self-righteousness and paranoia that is Arthur Miller’s Crucible with my students; then we’d read his thorough moral trashing of American capitalism in Death of a Salesman.  Then show them Apocalypse Now or parts of the Burns’ documentaries, Eyes on the Prize or New York: A Documentary Film or even South Park’s Team America: World Police or the brilliant documentary about Iraq by Charles Ferguson, No End in Sight. And if I were still teaching I would be taking them to see Twelve Years a Slave.  Till finally a Brazilian girl said to me: “I dunno, teacher…if you came to my country to study Portuguese, no one would ever tell you that anything bad ever happened in Brazilian history…” both amused and baffled at her own observation. Checking out this post on the “nationalism of little countries“ might add another dimension to this.


More on Alevis and Alawites…or Alevis and Kurds…or Iraqi Kurds…or…Christian Kurds…or Assyrians…or… 27 Sep A video interview from 2011 of a smart, cute, articulate Kurdish guy from near Maraş that’s a good primer, as it claims, on all the intricacies of the above.

Note the graphic at around 5:08: “Alevi = Alawite”.  And then the interviewer pops the million-dollar question: “So, who are you loyal to?  You’re an Alevi Kurd from Turkey.  Where do your loyalties lie?” — that kind of nails the whole issue on the head.  Because, not being the sharpest tool in the shed, he doesn’t realize that the Kurdish guy never even gives him an answer.  Because there is none.  Because the question betrays, again, the Westerner’s incapacity to understand that multiple identities can co-exist in not just one nation or one community, but in a single individual.  And you can tell that the interviewer is getting bombarded with a complexity that he can’t even begin to make sense of — largely because he’s trying to make some sense of it in all the wrong ways. Sad, prescient comment at the end concerning Syria: “It’s going to be a disaster…”

FINALLY…don’t try and find Teomete rتيوميته @THansarayli on Twitter. His account has been suspended.

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