The Alevi and questions of identity, including violence and insider/outsider perspectives


  • Tina Hamrin-Dahl University of Stockholm


Alevis, Islam -- Turkey, Islamic sects, Violence -- Religious aspects -- Islam, Group identity, Politics and Islam, Turkey -- History


Alevilik is the second largest religious movement in Turkey after Sunnite Islam. The Alevi worship Ali and the twelve Imams of his family. Ali is more or less deified and therefore Alevis are considered as being ghulat (‘exaggerated’, ‘extremist’) and heterodox. The elevated Ali personifies an aspiration to justice and righteousness. He fought on the side of the weak and oppressed against those with power in society. Theologically, Ali is assumed to be blessed by the divine light and is therefore able to see into the mysterious spirituality of Islam. Many Alevis today however totally dissociate themselves from Shi’ism. Still, the degrading­ abel kızılbaş (‘red-head’) is associated with Ali and thus is something alleged to be anti-Osman, since Isma’il fought against the Osman Empire. The colour red represents the blood of Mohammed: he was wounded in battle and Ali saw the prophet’s blood flowing. As Ali grew older, he wanted to remind people of Mohammed’s struggle and therefore started wearing red headgear. Red thus became the colour of the Shi’ites and over time a symbol of Shi’ite martyrdom. Later red also gained political significance for the Alevis. The religious and the political are closely intertwined, but despite this, neither the Left nor Shi’ism does simply stand on one side and the Right/Sunni on the other – there are no such simple dichotomies in reality.

How to Cite

Hamrin-Dahl, T. (2006). The Alevi and questions of identity, including violence and insider/outsider perspectives. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 19, 108–125.