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Birey Toplum

The Review of an Interview About Alevism

According to Zygmunt Bauman there is a "social distance" among people to the degree of the proximity of their social relationships. As long as the distance increases, fellow-feeling (perceiving other persons as subjects like us), empathy and commiseration decrease. In other words other person becomes more stranger, thus the distinction between "us" and "them" emerges. 


In the case of Alevism, the issues are about both the term of social distance and the conflict between majority and minority. Most of the religions have different interpretations and the all interpretations perceive itself as orthodox (conforming to the original principals of a religion) and the others as heterodox (not conforming to the originality of a religion). These approach leads to disintegration and disintegration also leads to oppression and inequalities.


In the consideration of these point of views, I made an interview with an Alevi person and I asked some questions about the relationship between the identity and the society mainly, such as the ease of expressing her identity and reproduction of the identity in the society.

To begin with, most of the Alevi people abstain from telling their religious identity, this situation valid for both formal and more private spheres. Even friends of an Alevi person usually learn about his/her identity from an other person by hearsay. Likewise other minorities in the society, there is an issue that we can define as invisibility of a certain group. Alevi people do not want to disclose themselves because of the all discriminatory and accusatory attitudes in the society and the majority also is pleased with the fact. They pretend as if Alevi people do not dwell in the same society as long as they do not confront a problem that results from this ignoring. For instance, there are some controversial issues such as compulsory religion lesson and its content, the form of burial and the status of "cemevi" (djemevi). The person with whom I made the interview said that in Sivas where she grew up there was no cemevi notwithstanding the large Alevi population. Only, after many years, about fifteen years ago, building of a cemevi started. The tension between Alevi community and Presidency of Religious Affairs that results from the status of cemevi and the other issues about the state carry the struggle to a political sphere from a social one. The problems that Alevi people come across are both social and political.

These political problems mostly arise from the "official discourse" of the state. The Republic of Turkey is based on national foundations and this kind of state is against local autonomy and significant differences among citizens. Within the context of national state, Alevism can be seen as a threatful element by the sovereign authority, accordingly the state develops a discourse against the identity. This discourse tries to define Alevi identity differently from how Alevi people explain themselves, by determining the roots of Alevism and some interpretations that is based on Sunni point of view. For instance, there are some statements such as "Cemevi is revel house." or "All Alevis are Turkmenians." Because of the invisibility of Alevism that is mentioned above, the acceptance of the official discourse by the society is very easy and this situation leads a cultural separation.

There is a separation between the Alevi population and the rest of the society both physically and culturally. In some regions of cities, Alevi people live together in some neighborhoods, in economically lower conditions, apart from those places Alevi population is not visible. Furthermore, in the marriage between an Alevi and a Sunni person, problems may be undergone or the marriage may be avoided from the very beginning by one of the families. The woman whom I talked is married with a person who comes from a Sunni background. At the beginning, her mother did not want to get married with him, they had to wait for four years to get married and finally they succeeded in convincing the mother of the fact that the man can be a good husband for her daughter. Also she told me some tragic narratives about divorced couples that suffered from these segregation and the side that is exposed to maltreating is usually the Alevi one.

Naturally the all negative and atrocious conditions affects the reproduction of Alevi identity. The interview demonstrates the fact that a lot Alevi people are doubtful about that their identity reflect to their children -if they have children-. The person whom I made an interview with has two children and these children are not knowledgeable about Alevism peculiarly, although they are grown up through some kinds of religious education. Their mother said that she did not want that they are any extreme points in their lives. The children do not qualify themselves as Alevis people, probably they did not even think about it.

Consequently, in Turkey there are a lot of groups of people who have different ethnicities, religions and languages and most of them are seen as minorities in the society. Alevi people are also included these groups. Because of different reasons such as social distance, religious conflicts and official discourse they are otherized by the majority (in this case, mostly Sunni people). These otherizing causes a lot of problem in the people's lives. They cannot express their identity easily, cannot benefit from the right to worship freely and also the identity cannot be reproduce facilely.


• Bauman, Zygmunt. "Us and Them.", "State and Nation." Thinking Sociologically. Oxford, OX, UK: B. Blackwell, 1990. N. pag. Print.
• Öktem, Niyazi. Anadolu Aleviliğinin Senkretik Yapısı, Hukuk-Siyaset. Kavacık, İstanbul: Truva, 2011. Print.
• Ecevitoğlu, Pınar, and Ayhan, Yalçınkaya. Aleviler ‘Artık Burada' Oturmuyor!: Alevi Çalıştayları Nihai Raporu Üzerine Bir Değermendirme. Ankara: Dipnot Yayınları, 2013. Print.


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