Studies on Alawites (traditionally called Nusayris) have generally focused on the communitylocated inside Syria with scant attention paid to their co-religionists in Cilicia in southernTurkey. This book provides an in-depth study of the Cilician community, which is distinct fromthe much larger Alevi community despite confusion in some media reports. It is highly recommended and accessible reading for anyone with an interest in the Alawites.
The coauthors, both of the University of Vienna, first offer a brief overview of terminology and Alawite identity, then provide a geographical overview of Cilicia, followed by a general survey of Alawites in Turkey. They touch on aspects such as population sites, Sunni Turkish perceptions of the community, not only in media but also academia, and a brief examination of the Alawite religion, including doctrines such as transmigration of the soul.
The focus of the book is an examination of various Alawite "sacred places," shrines, and sanctuaries of persons venerated by the Cilician Alawites, including the biblical prophet Jonah,some of Muhammad's descendants and companions, and sundry sheikhs - both historical andlegendary. Members of the community still pay regular visits to these shrines for a variety of purposes, such as for redeeming of vows. The catalogue of "sacred places" is extensive, and the Procházkas supply plenty of attractive illustrations.
The principal conclusion the reader can draw from this wealth of data is that Alawites of Cilicia generally maintain their unique religious practices better than those in Syria. There, decades of rule under the Assad dynasty have transformed the conception of being Alawite in Syria into no more than a matter of ethnic identity, often with a general apathy toward religious observance.The outbreak of civil war has since turned this bloodline issue into a bloodletting.
In short, while the Alawite religion and traditions may be declining in Syria, they appear to be very much alive in southern Turkey.