By: David Rice Re: Another nation undr God ISTANBUL, Turkey (ITN) Sectarian differences ha
By: David Rice
Re: Another nation undr God
ISTANBUL, Turkey (ITN) * Sectarian differences have added
more bloodshed to this country already troubled by ethnic
Kurdish violence and held at a distance by its Western allies
because of accusations of human rights abuses.
The fighting that began Sunday centered on a shantytown
inhabited by members of a secular Muslim sect, known as
Alawites, who have grown increasingly uneasy over the rise of
Islamic fundamentalists in Turkey.
Two radical Sunni Muslim groups, who advocate strict Islamic
rule, claimed responsibility for an attack by gunmen that
killed three people in the Gaziosmanpasa district of Istanbul.
The attack triggered an uprising by Alawites against security
forces, who took more than an hour to respond to Sunday's
attack. More than 30 people have been killed in the violence,
according to Alawite sources.
"It is not difficult to provoke a community that has been
humiliated and alienated by the state for years," said
international law professor Izzettin Dogan, a prominent
Alawites, who comprise one-third of Turkey's 60 million
people, have been treated as a minority group by the Turkish
state, which promotes the Sunni belief.
Religious classes with a Sunni curriculum are compulsory in
elementary and secondary schools.
"Alawite children lived through harassments from their Sunni
religious class teachers for years," said Ilhan Selcuk, a
writer for the leftist newspaper Cumhuriyet.
"The secular state became a Sunni state," Selcuk added. Even
though the two religious denominations have lived in peace in
the past, Sunnis always looked upon the Alawites as heretics,
avoiding intermarriage and in most cases keeping to separate
The Alawites, predominantly inhabiting Anatolia, the central
Turkish plain, maintained some of the characteristics of
shamanism, the original religion of Central Asian tribes.
The rift between the Alawites and the Sunnis began to widen
two years ago. Thirty-seven people were killed when Muslim
radicals set fire to a hotel in the central city of Sivas,
where a group of writers, poets and singers was staying to
celebrate an Alawite festival, in July 1993.
The Alawites' nervousness grew after an Islamic
fundamentalist party, the Welfare Party, polled well in local
elections across Turkey a year ago, doubling its votes to 20
With the party's victory in Istanbul, the country's biggest
and fastest-growing city, tension was soon sparked between
the new Islamic radical mayor and the Alawite community.
Mayor Recep Erdogan's attempts to demolish Alawite mosques,
used also as charity houses, caused a furor last year.
Alawites stood vigil at their mosques for weeks until Erdogan
The rise of fundamentalist Islam in Turkey also irks moderate
recent public opinion poll showed that 78 percent of Turks
supported a recent customs union agreement with the European
Union. But Europe has
balked at embracing Turkey, which stands accused of
committing widespread human rights abuses in the Kurdish war
in its southeastern region. More than 15,000 people have been
killed in the violence. Reports in February by Amnesty
International and the U.S. State Department allege forced
evacuations and destruction of villages in the
"Turkey cannot handle religious fighting in addition to the
southeastern (Kurdish) terrorism. And neither can any other
country," wrote Oktay Eksi, chief columnist for the daily
I hope someone is sending these articles to "Pat"
Robertson. -- drice
... Remember, Religious Right: Rome was Christian when it fell.
ISTANBUL, Turkey (ITN) * Protesters battled security forces
near Parliament and police poured into a slum outside
Istanbul Tuesday to control demonstrators angered by the
police killing of government supporters.
Throughout Turkey, thousands turned out in heavy snow and
rain to protest the deaths, and one of the demonstrations
turned violent. The death toll from Monday's gunfire was in
dispute, with the government saying 15 people died and a
community leader saying 25 were killed.
Violence began to convulse the Istanbul area on Sunday, when
radical Islamic gunmen killed three people and wounded 25 in
the outlying Gaziosmanpasa shantytown, populated by members
of the Alawite sect of Islam that supports Turkey's secular
Responsibility for that attack has been claimed by two
radical Sunni Muslim groups, who advocate strict Islamic rule.
On Monday, police fired shots in the slum to break up a crowd
that was protesting Sunday's attacks.
Ali Riza Tali, secretary-general of the Gaziosmanpasa Alawite
Association, said the bodies of 25 protesters were identified
at hospital morgues from Monday's clashes. Seventy people
remained unaccounted for, he said, although at least some
were believed to be in police custody. About 150 people were
Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said 15 demonstrators died. In
marches around the country Tuesday, protesters blamed the
government for heavy-handed tactics. In Gaziosmanpasa, about
1,000 police, backed by soldiers, headed off protesters on
the street where Monday's shooting occurred. The neighborhood
remained under a curfew.
Protesters hurled a firebomb in the neighborhood later
Tuesday, killing a woman and wounding three people, the
Anatolia news agency said.
In the capital, Ankara, police blocked roads with armored
personnel carriers to prevent protesters from approaching
parliament. Anatolia said 17 policemen and 13 protesters were
injured and 20 marchers were detained.
In the Aegean port of Izmir, protesters attempted to raid the
ruling True Path Party building. Police found a firebomb in
the building and seized four more firebombs in a bus used by
protesters, Anatolia reported.
Demonstrations in the western cities of Bursa and Edirne
ended peacefully. Alawites make up an estimated one-third of
Turkey's 60 million people. Almost all of the rest of the
country belongs to the Sunni cult of Islam.
The Alawites have been at odds with Istanbul's fundamentalist
mayor over its attempt to close down their mosques.
Yet another one nation under God. -- drice
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank