After the defeat of the Dersim uprising, the Alevis/Ares isolated themselves with their intra-communal life and still present themselves as an ‘island’ in the center of occupied Western Armenia. Even today, in occupied Western Armenia, the public has an undisguised interest in the Alevi/Ares way of life, customs, religion, and worldview. By the way, books and articles are published, and false news is spread about the life and customs of Alevis, accusing them of dirty manners and customs.

Today, in addition to military means, the Turkish state uses other means to expel the Alevis from their homes and disrupt their concentration later in the 1980s, Ankara declared the forests of the Dersim region a national park and forced hundreds of Alevi settlements to be emptied, dispersing and resettling the population in the west. In addition, the authorities are building reservoirs on the Euphrates for “economic” purposes and plan to submerge dozens of Alevi settlements.

Alevis have their national holidays today, and they also hold a large international festival in Dersim every year. Hajibektash festival gives access to tens of thousands of tourists every year, the life and customs of Alevis are presented. By the way, the geography of the spread of Alevis is not limited to occupied Western Armenia. A large number of them also live in northern Iraq, in Syria, whose president Bashar Assad is also an Alevi.

The religion of the Alevis/Arevis still requires serious study. It can be said to be plural, an interesting synthesis of Christianity, Islam and Armenian unity. However, the Alevis do not accept Islam, Allah, the prophet Mohammed, and they light candles, etc.

In fact, in the 19th century, they were called candlelighters in the Ottoman Empire, which is another argument for saying that Alevis are neither of Turkish nor Kurdish origin. Armenians gave the Alevis the name kzlbash – red head, Turks – zindik – infidel. Interestingly, according to the scientific explanation, zindik is the group that acts under the cover of Islam and preserves its ancestral cult. Many researchers attribute Iranian origin to Alevis-Arevis. Despite the existing generalizations, the main group of Alevis cannot be of Iranian origin. In the Middle Ages, due to the continuous Iranian-Turkish conflicts and bloody wars, it was simply impossible for a large group to enter Ottoman Turkey from the territory of Iran. Moreover, the Alevis have lived and are living in their native land, the Armenian highlands, they are not immigrants here, they are natives. In this sense, the statement that Alevis are of Armenian origin is more valid. The center of the Alevis is the city of Dersim in the historical province of Tsopk, which is now called Tunjeli.

Most probably, the Alevis are the descendants of the ancient Armenian faith, who did not accept Christianity in 301 and live separately and isolated until today. This view is not far from the truth and there are facts to support it.

First of all, many medieval Armenian historians note that in the 12th-14th centuries in historical Armenia, the sons or men of the sun lived in separate communities. And there was, of course, a possibility of living in isolation in the Middle Ages. Even today, until the 1960s. The Armenians of Dersim were convinced that they were the only Armenians in the world who survived the genocide…in the early 20th century.

And in the Middle Ages, there was a much greater opportunity to preserve the national religion and identity through an isolated way of life.

In the XVIII-XIX centuries, sources confirm that there were Kzlbash villages as well as Armenian and Kurdish settlements in the Dersim region, but their number was not significant. It must be concluded that during the genocide the Armenians, not wanting to convert to Islam, maintained their existence by pretending to be Alevis.

By the way, the main ancient Armenian shrines are not far from Dersim, the historical Yeriza, which is now called Yerzinja and where the main ancient Armenian places of worship were located. There are such places of worship in Dersim and not far from there in Mndzur, and the Alevis treat them with great respect. Especially the springs of Anahit. The deep-flowing springs that emerge from the underground first collect, stagnate, and then flow as a tributary of the Mndzur River.

According to the locals, these springs come from 40 springs of Anahit ditsamor and are considered sacred. Water from the springs (milk) of Anahit can be drunk, but it cannot be used for washing, as it pollutes the water. Alevis even light candles near the spring.

Even today, many naturalistic customs are preserved in Alevi rituals.

For example, the sun, which is worshiped, is born every morning from the rock, sets in the sea in the evening… And it is an eternal rotation that symbolizes the eternal struggle between good and evil. These are the elements left by the Armenian mihrakan, the cult of Mihr, the god of light and justice, which the Alevis still preserve and worship today.

West Armenian TV journalist and analyst Ashkhen Virabyan

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