It is estimated that 1 in 5 Turkish people are ‘Alevis’. Alevism is a sect of Islam with Shiite concepts, such as reverence of Ali, The Twelve Imams, and the ritual commemoration of Ashurah, marking the Battle of Karbala. But Alevis don’t attend mosques, men and women can mix freely together, and social alcohol is allowed. They make a big contribution to London life.
The British Alevi Federation is an umbrella organisation for approximately 300.000 Alevis, mainly of Turkish descent, living in United Kingdom. There are twelve Alevi Cultural Centres and Cemevis in the UK – in London [Hackney, South London, Croydon and Harrow] , plus Coventry, Bournemouth, Nottingham, Doncaster, Hull, Sheffield, and Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Hackney Cultural Centre is in Ridley Road, Dalston The premises contain a Cem Evi. The Alevi communal worship service is called a Cem , meaning assembly meeting, which is performed in special houses called Cem Evi.
One aspect of a CEM is ritual dance, called ‘Semah’, with some reminiscence of the Sama ceremony of the whirling dervishes characterised by turning and swirling. The rituals are performed by men and women together, to the accompaniment of the bağlama [otherwise called ‘saz’] .
In 2010 ‘Semah’ [Alevi-Bektaşi ritual] was inscribed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Heritage Cultural List of Humanity.
Click here for Google street view of the Alevi Cultural Centre, Ridley Road.
We’ll have to check out the references you’ll see listed there: Alevi [ok], Bektasi [ok] , Kizilbas, Cem Pir, Cerag, Semah [ ok -above and below ] , Can Lokmo, Ikrar, Erkan, Riza Talip, Mursit, Musahip, Muhabbet. There’s much to learn.
There are some thoughtful insights into Turkish life in London here, especially about Alevi life.
There was a great Alevi festival on Hackney Downs in June 2015. See the flier here. [it’s an English language magasine called ‘T-VINE’, for British Turks and those interested in Turkish life].
And our Alevi friends can make their presence felt in bigger matters too. In July 2015 there were rallies in London against recent events in Turkey, as reported in London’s Turkish language [with some English] newspaper, ‘Londra Gazete’.
And a further protest in August 2015 [ click here for ‘Citizenside’ report ] .