Krigen i Syria er en sekterisk krig, dvs gruppe står mot gruppe, sunnier mot alawitter, kurdere, kristne. Nå kommer meldinger om at konflikten smitter over på Tyrkia, som også har en stor andel alawitter.

Jeffrey Gettlemans artikkel i The New York Times kan få det til å gå kaldt nedover ryggen på noen og enhver. Tyrkerne har ikke våget å erkjenne folkemordet på armenerne. Nå antydes det at nye skarpe konflikter er på vei, denne gang er motviljen rettet mot alawitter.

Det er Tyrkias klare stillingtaken mot Bashar al Assad som smitter. Konflikten går fra å være politisk til å bli religiøs.

Gettlemans artikkel er skarpere enn det som er vanlig i New York Times. Dette er følsomt stoff, også i USA. Gettleman skriver at Recep Tayyip Erdogan og hans parti har brakt sunni-islam inn i den offentlige sfære, og brutt med den hevdvunne praksis. Slik får sunni-islam større plass. Det er farlig i et land med så mange minoriteter: kurdere og alawitter spesielt. Når nå krigen raser i nabolandet, hvor de samme gruppene er innblandet, og Tyrkia mottar en strøm av flyktninger, og har gitt tilhold til den væpnede motstanden, er det klart at følelsene kommer i sving.

Det andre punktet hvor Gettlemans artikkel er oppsiktsvekkende, er at han skriver at CIA samarbeider med Tyrkia, Saudi-Arabia og Qatar om å gi våpen til opprørerne. Det er hva New York Times skrev tidligere i uken: USA deltar i en sunni-allianse mot Irans stedfortreder, Bashar al Assad.

American officials recently disclosed that a small group of C.I.A. agents were working along the Turkey-Syria border with their Turkish counterparts, vetting which rebels receive weapons. American officials have acknowledged concerns about Syria turning into a magnet for jihadists, but they believe that foreign fighters still make up only a small slice of the Syrian resistance.

Dette er et meget høyt spill. Saudi-Arabia har ikke akkurat noen særlig rosverdige credentials hva gjelder religiøs toleranse. Hvis Saudi-Arabia får innpass vil det begunstige religiøs fanatisme.

Hva med Tyrkia? Erdogan har høye tanker om Tyrkias fremtidige rolle, som en pater familias, som et maktsentrum, mellom Vest og Øst, og innen islam, sunni-islam vel og merke. Men til hvilken pris innad?

Erdogan har allerede gjort det klart at man ikke vil tillate at kurderne kan operere inne fra Syria.

Ali Carkoglu, a professor of international relations with Koc University in Istanbul, said Turkey’s government was increasingly using sectarian language and trying to play the role of “the Sunni elder brother” in the region. Like Syria, Turkey’s population is predominantly Sunni.

The Alawites here are worried they could become easy targets. Historically, they have been viewed with suspicion across the Middle East by mainstream Muslims and often scorned as infidels. The Alawite sect was born in the ninth century and braids together religious beliefs, including reincarnation, from different faiths.

Many Alawites do not ever go to a mosque; they tend to worship at home or in Alawite temples that have been denied the same state support in Turkey that Sunni mosques get. Many Alawite women do not veil their faces or even cover their heads. The towns they dominate in eastern Turkey, where young women sport tank tops and tight jeans, feel totally different than religious Sunni towns just a few hours away, where it can be difficult even to find a woman in public.

Gettleman og hans kolleger – flere av dem med bakgrunn fra Midtøsten, et resultat av Irak, – gir et skremmende eksempel på hvordan mobben overfaller en familie som skiller seg ut.

At 1 a.m. last Sunday, in the farming town of Surgu, about six hours away from here, a mob formed at the Evli family’s door.

The ill will had been brewing for days, ever since the Evli family chased away a drummer who had been trying to rouse people to a predawn Ramadan feast. The Evlis are Alawite, a historically persecuted minority sect of Islam, and also the sect of Syria’s embattled leaders, and many Alawites do not follow Islamic traditions like fasting for Ramadan.

The mob began to hurl insults. Then rocks.

“Death to Alawites!” they shouted. “We’re going to burn you all down!”

Then someone fired a gun.

“They were there to kill us,” said Servet Evli, who was hiding in his bedroom with his pregnant wife and terrified daughter, both so afraid that they urinated through their clothes.

As Syria’s civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the government’s Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions are increasing across the border between Turkey’s Alawite minority and the Sunni Muslim majority here.

Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria’s embattled strongman, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey’s government, and many Sunnis, supports the Syrian rebels.

Alawittene tar ikke islams regler like alvorlig, og blir derfor en trussel mot den religiøse nidkjærhet som gjerne blomstrer under krig. Nå er det ramadan, og de som ikke faster skal straffes.

Alawittene i Tyrkia holder med Assad, som symbol på en som kan beskytte dem, mens flyktningene har med seg seterke anti-alawitt-følelser.

The Alawites fear the sectarian violence spilling across the border. Already, the sweltering, teeming refugee camps along the frontier are fast becoming caldrons of anti-Alawite feelings.

“If any come here, we’re going to kill them,” said Mehmed Aziz, 28, a Syrian refugee at a camp in Ceylanpinar, who drew a finger across his throat.

He and his friends are Sunnis, and they all howled in delight at the thought of exacting revenge against Alawites.

Many Alawites in Turkey, especially in eastern Turkey where Alawites tend to speak Arabic and are closely connected to Alawites in Syria, are suspicious of the bigger geopolitics, and foreign policy analysts say they may have a point. The Turkish government is led by an Islamist-rooted party that is slowly but clearly trying to bring more religion, particularly Sunni Islam, into the public sphere, eschewing decades of purposefully secular rule. Alawites here find it deeply unsettling, and a bit hypocritical, that Turkey has teamed up with Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive countries in the world, and Qatar, a religious monarchy, both Sunni, to bring democracy to Syria.

The Alawites point to the surge of foreign jihadists streaming into Turkey, en route to fight a holy war on Syria’s battlefields. Many jihadists are fixated on turning Syria, which under the Assad family’s rule has been one of the most secular countries in the Middle East, into a pure Islamist state.

“Do you really believe these guys are going to build a democracy?” asked Refik Eryilmaz, an Alawite member of the Turkish Parliament. “The Americans are making a huge mistake. They’re helping Turkey fight Assad, but they’re creating another Taliban.”

Men om Syria under Assad har vært sekulær har den de senere år gitt større plass til religion, Assad har trodd han kunne bruke jihadister til sin egen fordel, og han ville begynne en hemmelig atomreaktor i ørkenen med nordkoreansk assistanse. Syria har vært medlem av Avvisningsfronten mot Israel, og vært forbindelsesleddet mellom Iran og Hizbollah og hovedkvarter for Hamas i eksil. Ordet «sekulær» blir derfor ikke dekkende.

Gettlemans artikkel er usedvanlig rett på sak og brutal:

The Syrian rebels hardly conceal a vicious sectarian antipathy. Khaldoun al-Rajab, an officer with the rebel Free Syrian Army, said he witnessed two Alawites in a car take a wrong turn in Homs and end up in a Sunni neighborhood. “Of course they were arrested and killed by rebels,” he said.

Dette er en form for sekterisme som israelere kjenner godt. Hvis de tar en feil sving på Vestbredden kan de også være døde. Nå er det brutt ut i Syria og kanskje sprer det seg til flere land. Det er vanskelig å overskue konsekvensene.

Enten har Gettleman & Co snakket med tendensiøse mennesker, ellers er motsetningene i Tyrkia langt større enn vi kjenner til:

But the threatening mob at the Evli family’s home in Surgu reminded many Alawites of the killing of more than 30 Alawites in 1993 who were burned alive by a group of Islamists in the Turkish town of Sivas.

It was only after police officers reassured the mob that the Evli family was moving out of the neighborhood, which was news to the Evlis, that the mob dissipated.

Though the Evlis are also Kurdish, another minority group in Turkey, which may have contributed to the nasty feelings against them, Songul Canpolat, a director of an Alawite foundation in Turkey, said, “The idea that Turkish Alawites should be eliminated is gaining ground.”

Brannen i Sivas i 93 var offisielt fordi en forfatter var til stede som hadde forsvart Salman Rushdie. Det ble omtalt som om mobben ville drepe ham. At ofrene var alawitter ble det lagt liten vekt på.

De sekteriske alliansene og motsetningene dikterer hvordan man oppfatter verden. Hvis USA oppfattes som det er på parti med Saudi-Arabia og Qatar vil det få følger for USAs status.

“What’s happening inside Syria is the Syrian leg of an international project,” he said, with the Turkish government aligning with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to make this part of the Middle East more religiously “radical.”

As Syria War Roils, Unrest Among Sects Hits Turkey

Jeffrey Gettleman

Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting from Antakya, and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon.