These days in the small courtyard at the Pir Sultan Cemevi, a house of worship in Istanbul, a few women sit on benches, men stand around chatting and sipping tea, while children haggle over donated toys. They are all ethnic Turkmen refugees from Syria, and while they are happy to have escaped the immediate threat of violence in their homeland, they are nervous that trouble may follow them in Turkey.
The approximately 100 refugees now staying at Pir Sultan Cemevi are Alevis, members of an Islamic sect that has had a troubled relationship with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has its roots in Sunni Islam, while the Alevi sect is considered an offshoot of Shi’a Islam. Alevis by some estimates constitute as much as 20 percent of Turkey’s population, but many say they experience regular discrimination at the hands of the AKP.
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