Alevis are Turkey’s largest religious minority (about a fifth of the population) and today we visited an Alevi derga on Asian side.
The Alevis have suffered oppression from the Sunni majority in Turkey. For example, in Turkey the state pays Imams and trains them. However the government does not pay or train Dedes who lead the Alevi community. Then there are the subtle ways in which the state attempts to undermine the Alevi community.
When we visited the Derga I noticed that there many Sunni mosques built very closely to the Alevi derga. This is not a terrible huge problem but those mosques could have been built anywhere else. Then there is the more blatant ways in which the state attempts to undermine the Alevis such as by building a bridge named after Yavuz Sultan Selim also known as “the executioner of Alevis.”
The historical background of Alevis, as a persecuted minority, have caused them to vote for more secular candidates, meaning they do not favor parties such as the AKP.
Before I went to the derga I didn’t know much about Alevis aside from the act that is a sect of Islam and Bashar al-Assad is Alevi. As a Sunni Muslim, I’m glad that I got the chance to learn about and see the customs the Alevis practice.
One of the most noticeable distinctions between Alevia and Sunnis is that men and women do pray in separate spaces. Another distinctive aspect of Alevi customs I noticed at the derga was that they play music during worship. I like this aspect a lot because I reminded me of all the times I have fallen asleep at mosque because it’s so boring and quiet.