By: David Rice Re: Another nation undr God ISTANBUL, Turkey (ITN) Sectarian differences ha

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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 Alawite spokesman. 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 neighborhoods. 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 percent. 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 backed down. The rise of fundamentalist Islam in Turkey also irks moderate Sunnis. A 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 Kurdish-dominated southeast. "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 Hurriyet. ======================================================= 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 system. 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 reported wounded. 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


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