Ever since Ataturk became the leader of Turkey and established a secular country, the Alevi people were able to speak out openly and say: “Yes we are Alevis. We have our own practices and, indeed, we pay taxes like everyone else.”
For years we have been asking for more rights but the government just ignored us. However, as a lot of Alevis began to migrate to European countries, they came to know of their human rights and that there are other people out there who can support them. Today there are lots of new Alevi centres in Turkey, where before there weren’t.
In regards to the current AKP government in the country, for the Alevis there are both negatives and positives. I am a secularist. I don’t like the hijab because I think in this type of Islam there is no tolerance. Will they tolerate me if I wear shorts or if I go swimming or even if I go out with my bare head?
I know they will force women to cover-up. In Turkey most men make their wives to cover their heads. Further, the number of women covering-up is on the increase. And they are not just content with covering them up. They are covering the woman and keeping them in the house. We are looking at a future where the woman’s place will be at home because this is a male-dominated religion. These people do not want women to do anything. They are taking advantage of their religion in order to keep the woman inside.
However it is not just the Sunnis. There are even extremists among Alevis, specifically those who grew up in mixed societies. If you live in a place which is homogenous in terms of religion, such as my town of Tunceli where close to 90 percent are Alevis, then there is more tolerance for other people. Personally I have lots of Sunni and Alevi friends but I don’t like extremists on both sides.
Some people say that if a person is not an Alevi, then they are not going to marry them or even talk to them for that matter. So there are also extremist Alevis.
In Turkey people respect my Alevi side more then my Kurdish. When people ask my mum about who she is, she will tell them that she is an Alevi. This is because her Alevi side has a stronger effect on her personality then being Kurdish.
One more thing about the Alevis is that they are very keen on education. This includes girls education. Amongst the Sunnis families however, girls are covered-up and placed under pressure. But in Alevi culture there are greater gender rights. A women has more voice then in a Sunni society. Male dominance still exists, partially because of the effects of the Ottoman empire.
If someone has a naked head they don’t think she wants sex – its normal.
*The author of this article is writing under a pseudonym