Burcu Özkaya Günaydın / DUVAR

Turkey’s Arab Alawite community, large numbers of which live in the southern provinces of Hatay, Adana and Mersin, celebrated the Gadir Hum holiday on Friday and Saturday amid concerns of rising cases of coronavirus in Turkey.

Gadir Hum refers to a speech given by Prophet Muhammad in which Shia Muslims and other religious groups believe Muhammad proclaimed his cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor.

Turkey’s Arab Alawite community, which generally speaks Arabic as a mother tongue, is distinct from communities of Turkish and Kurdish Alevis in Anatolia, and is more closely related with Syrian Alawites.

Mehmet Ali Dönmez, who organized Gadir Hum festivities in the Samandağ district of Hatay, which is prominently Arab Alawite, said that the celebration of the festival is in defiance of cultural assimilation.

“Throughout history we have been a people that has been under pressure. This is the reason why we are a closed community. We have prayers that we perform on sacred days, and no one outside of the community can perform these prayers. Gadir Hum both seeks to preserve religion and culture,” Dönmez said.

“We are one of the rare sects that celebrates holidays from four monotheistic religions. Mubahale is the the day that Muslims made peace with Christians. That day is a holiday for us, as is Milad Meryem, Meryem’s birth is sacred for us,” Dönmez said.

Dönmez said that the traditional preparation and eating of a soup called hrisi was not conducted this year to due coronavirus concerns.