Mobs attacked a Kurdish Alevi family, stoned their house and torched their barn in the eastern province of Malatya over the weekend after family members objected to a traditional street drummer who wakes up the faithful for their pre-dawn ritual meal in the month of Ramadan. The incident that took place in Sürgü in Malatya's Doğanşehir district has drawn condemnations and protests from Alevi organizations and the opposition People's Republican Party's (CHP) Malatya deputy Veli Ağbaba.
Some 50-60 people first initiated the attack on Saturday night, after family members asked the drummer to beat his drum further away from their house, while another 400-500 people then showed up again on Sunday night and started marching toward their house, according Servet Evli, one of the family members. Security forces then dispersed the mobs by shooting in the air.
Members of the Evli family said they were attacked because they were Kurds and Alevis, while they also sent their youngest child to their relatives' keep in the neighboring province of Adıyaman as a consequence.
CHP deputy Ağbaba: "The attack is organized"
CHP deputy Veli Ağbaba arrived in the province to examine the scene of the incident and told bianet that the drummer had told the locals about the family's request for him not to beat his drum next to their house. Mobs then stoned their home and torched their barn while chanting slogans for about three hours, he added.
The incident goes beyond the work of a few incensed citizens, according to Ağbaba who said the attack was organized. They were still working on the matter and would subsquently release a report on it, he added.
"Burn it to the ground"
"The Evli family warns the drummer, as they had a sick [person] in the house, and ask him not to play in front of their door. The drummer, however, again goes before their door the next night and plays even louder in an exagerrated manner. Then a quarrel ensues between the drummer and the family, and when the drummer relates the incident to the locals in overblown fashion, a certain group goes over and stones their house without paying any attention [to details,]" said Mahmut Nedim Yılmaz, the head of the Malatya branch of the Alevi Culture Associations.
Yılmaz added that he thought the incident was spontaneous and not an organized affair, unlike CHP deputy Ağbaba.
"It is quite difficult to restrain these people. Unfortunately, there are people who respond by saying 'let us burn it to the ground' when someone urges them," he said.
Yılmaz further added that he thought it was wrong for the mayor to tell the Evli family to move out of the area as he himself could not restrain the locals.
Protest ensues in Taksim Square
Meanwhile, a group of some 200 demonstrators gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square at around 00:30 on Monday to protest the incident upon the urging of Alevi organizations.
"The assailants want the Alevis to move out of that [place.] They are wrong. Alevis will not leave off to anywhere from the [areas] they reside in... Despite efforts to portray the incident as a small, simple and isolated case, that is not true, and the incident is organized. The culprits are taking heart from the government; that is cyrstal clear. As Alevis, we are not going to permit another massacre in this country again... We are going to be on the streets until the safety of the people in Sürgü is ensured. The gendarmerie disperses thousands who arrive to commemorate their [loved ones] who died in the Sivas [massacre,] but they cannot disperse 500 people and uphold security. That gives us a pause," Vedat Kara from the Hacı Bektaşi Veli Association said while reading a statement on behalf of the protesters.
Hasan Evli: "Are we at fault for being Kurdish and Alevi?"
Hasan Evli, 65, spoke to the daily Malatya Yenigün and said they had been living in Sürgü for 40 years and making their livelihood through planting tobacco.
"Are we at fault for being Kurdish and Alevi? Is that our cardinal sin? Gendarmerie commanders have been telling us for three days that it is necessary for us to move elsewhere," Evli said.
"They harassed us in particular for [the past] two days by chanting 'tekbir' (A Muslim prayer that begins with the phrase "Allahu aqbar") before our home with people coming from outside. They said they would torch our house. They are insistently telling us to move out. Where are we to go? The assailants tried to bring down our house with big weapons, rocks and sticks," he said, adding they had not even been allowed to water their tobacco field for three days.
"The drummer swore at the Kurds and Alevis"
Servet Evli said the incident broke out after his sister told the drummer that she was fasting but that no one else in their home was observing the fast. She then asked him not to play his drums around their house for long, but the drummer Mustafa Efşi consequently mocked her and said he would also read her a ballad if he were to come the next day, according to Servet Evli.
"My father verbally intervened [in the conversation] with drummer Mustafa Efşi. The drummer then audibly began swearing at both Kurds and Alevis. He yelled 'if our drums bother you, then leave here. Go to whichever country admits you. This is a Muslim country. I will come here tomorrow and play with five drums,'" he said.
The assailants first sang the National Anthem, then started stoning their home while chanting the "tekbir," yelled "Death to the Kurds," "Death to Alevis" and "Burn them all," according to Servet Evli.
They also opened fire on the house and attempted to break in by smashing the fence, the doors and the windows, he said. (EKN/AS/HK)
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