Located on the European side of Istanbul, Sultangazi consists of three precincts called Sultançiftliği, Habibler and Gazi. This crowded district is mostly inhabited by migrants from different regions, nations and religions. The name of district comes from two important precincts. ‘Sultan’, being the word part of ‘Sultançiftliği’ and the other from neighbourhood named ‘Gazi’.
Gazi, known with its political colour and riot of 1995, is home for minorities in Istanbul. After some specific political events such as Turkish Coup headed by Kenan Evren on 12th September 1980, Gazi neighbourhood became a new home for Kurdish and Alevi minority. Some of them came from Sultançiftliği and some of them from south-eastern part of Turkey. They had to leave their villages which were burnt or emptied.
Alevism is the main colour of Gazi neighbourhood. Alevism is authentic expression of Turkish Anatolian Islam. It refers a religious group combining Shias with Sufism, especially Bektashi tariqa. Alevism is an alternative to an Orthodox Islam. An Alevi loves the family of the Prophet Muhammad with an extra emphasis on Chalip Ali. Today, it’s impossible to say how many Alevi people there are. They speak Turkish as a native language, they live almost in all the province of Turkey and they don’t have any special physical characteristics. Alevis are very modern community. Alevis are known as monogamous. Alevi women worship together with men. Alevi women are free to dress in modern clothing. They get the best education they can and they can go into any job they want. Alevis are always best fighters for democracy in Turkey. Their wish is always for tolerance, freedom and equal rights for all religions and minorities. It’s impossible to find an Alevi talks unrespectful about Atatürk. Even, you can see the pictures of Atatürk beside photos of Chalip Ali and Haji Bektash in their homes or offices.
Alevis are not officially recognized in Turkey yet. Even from time to time they were the main target of fascists and Islamists both during the Ottoman and Republican periods. Sivas Massacre happened in 1995 in Gazi Neighbourhood is one of an example that happened in recent history.
Gazi Riots began right after a provocative armed attack at several cafes on 12 March 1995 simultaneously. Dede Halil Kaya (religious leader) was killed and many people were injured. Right after the attack, numerous Alevi residents gathered and riot began. Next day, Alevis from other districts also came to Gazi neighbourhood to join protests. Police roughed up and killed many protesters. The fight became heavier. The government understood that polices were not enough so they sent the army to quarter. Residents welcomed army but went on fighting against police. After riot ended, trials started and following the court decision, families of people who died during riot made an application to European Court of Human Rights.
Gazi neighbourhood has still been dealing with fights as Gazi neighbourhood also became home for some radical leftist organizations. But, the main reason of these attacks are not about leftist organizations. Main reason is the adopted policy to Gazi which has never changed.
Photo Credits: Sultangazi Municipality