The Alevis are a religious and cultural minority population in Turkey, numbering about 15 million people. They have historically been discriminated against and intermittently persecuted by both the Ottoman state and the Turkish Republic. There are now substantial Alevi communities outside Turkey, especially in Germany, and also a small community in the UK.
The Alevis share many features of Shi’a Islam, and are also linked to the Bektashi Sufi tradition. Alevi religious practice is noted for its tolerance and humanism, and also for the fact that men and women pray side by side in Alevi ritual, and women have a high degree of equality in Alevi society. Alevi teachings are passed down mainly through songs (nefes) rather than through written texts.
We are showing a recent documentary on the Alevis, Canlar: The Alevis/Bektashis, by the Turkish woman film-maker Nurdan Arca, on Thursday 12th May from 3 to 4 p.m. (Humanities Building Room 2.03, Cardiff University). The showing is part of the RT1217 Religion and Gender module, but anyone is welcome to attend. Canlar includes an extended presentation of a cem, the main Alevi ritual gathering, along with much other ethnographic material. The film also includes interview material with the late Irene Melikoff, the distinguished French scholar of the Alevis and Bektashis to whose memory Canlar is dedicated.
Further information on Canlar and on Nurdan Arca’s films can be found at
Some recent books and articles on the Alevis include
David Shankland, The Alevis in Turkey: The Emergence of a Secular Islamic Tradition, RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2003.
Martin Sökefeld, Struggling for Recognition: The Alevi Movement in Germany and in Transnational Space, Berghahn 2008.
Tord Olsson, Elisabeth Özclalga and Catharina Raudvere (eds.) Alevi Identity: Cultural, Religious and Social Perspectives, 1998. Distributed by RoutledgeCurzon. (Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, Transactions No.8.)
Ron Geaves ‘Religion and Ethnicity: Community Formation in the British Alevi Community.’ Numen 50 (2003): 52-70.