“Those people are always Alevi,” he said.
Ali Kenanoğlu, chairman of the Hubyar Sultan Alevi Culture Centre, said the Alevi community didn’t support Assad so much as they opposed the organisations attempting to overthrow him. Groups like the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State (IS) represented the same existential threat to Turkish Alevis as they did to Syrian Alawites, he said.
“We prefer that Assad remains in power for a long-term democratic transition,” Kenanoğlu said. “Alevis support a democratic system and oppose dictatorial one-man rule. But no one could expect us to support Alevi-killers just to get rid of Assad.”
Kenanoğlu said Erdoğan’s support for such groups was a result of his sectarian approach to politics.
“Erdoğan’s Aleviphobia has been a constant in his political career,” he said. “It has roots in his Muslim Brotherhood background and has long been visible in his aggressive policies towards our community. His Islamic tradition views Alevis as khafirs [infidels].”
“Alevis in Turkey face economic hardship along with a denial of our religious rights and liberties,” Kenanoğlu said. “Alevis are repeatedly and systematically looked down upon. We are accused of being perverts, atheists and so on. We are denied employment on the basis of our religious identity and get fired on the basis of our religious identity. Alevis who refuse to accept Sunni or Shia Islam’s requirements are subjected to discrimination in every aspect of their lives.”
Erdoğan’s victory “means more fear, more assimilation and more worrying about employment and our livelihoods,” he said.
Back in the Defne tea house, that worrying has already begun. The idea that the worst is yet to come hangs heavy in the air.
“If I lose any more work, I don’t know what I will do,” Hasan said. “I don’t know how I will be able to look after my family. I will not be able to call myself a man.”
“We need to be saved from this man,” he said. “He considers us his enemies and we consider him ours.”