vendredi 17 septembre 2010

The Iraqi Bektashis at the Haci Bektaş-i Veli Celebrations

The Iraqi Bektashis at the Haci Bektaş-i Veli Celebrations

Hasan Kanbolat, Director of ORSAM ,

The annual Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli remembrance ceremonies and the corresponding arts and culture activities have been cheerfully celebrated in the town of Hacıbektaş since the 1960. The celebrations, which gained a brand new meaning following the political interventions of the 1980s, are co-organized by the Hacıbektaş municipality and Alevi nongovernmental organizations. Hundreds of thousands of Alevis share messages of unity and brotherhood at this event. However, since the victory of independent candidate retired Gen. Ali Rıza Salmanpakoğlu as the mayor of Hacıbektaş the annual celebrations have turned into a crisis.

This year, two separate celebrations organized by the NGOs and the municipality are taking place, from Aug. 14-15 and Aug. 15-18, respectively. I don’t wish to engage in a debate over who is right or wrong, but it’s a fact that there has been a “celebratory crisis” for years. And this crisis cannot be overcome.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, Turkey’s interest in the 2000s in its relatives from former Ottoman soil, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq all worked to unveil the new dynamic developing around Turkey. In the Balkans, Cyprus and the Middle East, the Alevi-Bektashi tradition began to revive. In these areas, and particularly Iraq, the Bektashi-Alevis began to organize, re-opening their dervish lodges, taking part in the annual celebrations and meeting the Alevi-Bektashi organizations in Turkey. This new dynamic caught the Alevi-Bektashi organizations in Turkey off guard. Turkey’s organizations don’t have external affairs departments. However, they were warm in welcoming the Alevis who had come to meet with them and they helped them as much as they could.

While two people from Tal Afar, Iraq participated in last year’s Hacı Bektaş celebrations, this year 20 will be attending. Their names are: Abbas Muhsin Ali (Tal Afar), İbrahim Süleyman Yusuf (Tal Afar), Muhammed Salih Naki (Tal Afar), Vaad Hüseyin (Tal Afar), Muhammed Tahir (Tal Afar), Zeynel Hüseyin Ali (Tal Afar), İhsan Ali (Mosul), Hüseyin Hassan (Mosul), İbrahim Shahod (Mosul), Akeel Ghab (Mosul), Abdul Amer Abbas (Mosul), Enver Abdukrezzak (Mosul), Ali Ekber Kanber (Mosul), Ali Yusuf Ali (Arbil), Esam Rahim Karem (Arbil), Hazım Sleyman Ali (Kirkuk), Abdullah Ahmed (Kirkuk), Hammed Ashor (Kirkuk), Abbas Fadel Abbas (Kirkuk) and Arsan Mardan (Kirkuk).

In Iraq, the Alevi-Bektashi tradition can be found among the Turkmen, Chaldean and Shabak peoples. The Shabak people have an autochthonous population of 400,000 and live in 70 villages tied to the province of Mosul. They have a language and culture that is peculiar to them. The Kakais, similar to the Shabaks, are a small population that lives in Mosul and some northern provinces of Iraq.

Almost all of the Turkmens in Iraq who have a Shiite identity, and almost all of the Chaldeans and Shabaks, were in fact Alevi-Bektashi during the era of the Ottoman state. Following World War I and in the 1940s, through the efforts of Iran, the Iraqi Alevi-Bektashis began to identify with Shiite beliefs.

This transformation quickened in the 1970s and 1980s. Shiite mosques were constructed and solidarity among Shiites increased. The basic texts of Shiite beliefs were translated from Arabic and distributed. Thus, the Alevi-Bektashi belief was blunted. The democratic initiative in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein and the decrease in the influence of Iran resulted in a revival of the Alevi-Bektashi identity.

Today, the Alevi-Bektashi organizations that have formed in Iraq’s main cities have finished all of the preparatory work. They are waiting on the Baghdad government and formal acknowledgment.There is a new dynamic forming in Iraq, which is stuck between Shiite and Sunni beliefs. The Alevi-Bektashi belief sides with the unity of Iraq. It is also for dialogue and understanding with other schools of religious thought and other religions. Thus, the Alevi-Bektashi belief will continue to work toward decreasing the polarization of Iraq.

* This article was published by Today's Zaman on 17.09.2010.

September 16 2010

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