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Syria Crisis Prompts Turkey's New Openings to Its Alevis

Turkey’s new liberalization package for its largest religious minority is linked to Syria.
Anti-government Alevi protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in Istanbul June 23, 2013. The European Union is on the verge of scrapping a new round of membership talks with Turkey, a move that would further undermine Ankara's already slim hopes of joining the bloc and damage its relations with Brussels. Germany, the EU's biggest economic power, is blocking efforts to revive Turkey's EU membership bid, partly because of its handling of anti-government protests that have swept the country in the last
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Everyone in Turkey agrees that one of the most vital issues facing the country is the situation of Alevis. It is a top-priority societal issue that has to be handled with urgency.

Alevis constitute the country's largest minority, estimated between 12 and 15 million people. Given Turkey’s population of 76 million, this is a significant number. In short, Alevis are generally considered to be a part of Islam, with a syncretic and esoteric belief system that has incorporated many pre-Islam tenets of Anatolia. Only a tiny minority of Alevis see themselves outside of Islam. Although some of the beliefs of the Anatolian Alevis resemble doctrines of Shiite Islam, their roots are not the same. Almost none of the tenets of Sharia are accepted by Alevis. Recognized as a branch of Shiism, Arab Alawites in southern Turkey are known as Nusayris. Almost all of Turkish Nusayris have relatives in Syria. In today’s Turkey, when we say Alevis, it covers all the Turkish, Kurdish and Arab Alawites.

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