Discrimination under erdogan

Discrimination under erdogan

Erdogan supporters give military salute © Sedat Suna

They make up as much as a quarter of the Turkish population – but they do not feel that they have equal rights. The Alevis have always belonged to Turkey. And lived dangerously again and again.

Every year on 28. May thousands of Alevis set out to visit shrine of St. Apaziz. The grave is located in Adiyaman province, in southeastern Turkey in a small village, between the cities of Gaziantep and Diyarbakir. There they eat "lokma," a traditional sweet dough dish, sing songs and pray. Apaziz is a saint of the Alevis, the second largest religious community in Turkey. Number 12 million to 20 million believers, or up to a quarter of the country's otherwise Sunni population.

This year, however, the government banned the celebration. The legal basis for the ban was Turkey's state of emergency, which has been in effect for nearly a year now. Authorities in Ankara argued that the sketch of an Alevi cultural institution was found on two IS members who were killed on 21. May were shot dead. The terrorists had planned an attack. Security could no longer be guaranteed.

Escalation possible at any time

In the Alevi community people have long been alarmed. People fear IS could exacerbate tensions between Sunnis and Alevis in Turkey. Gani Kaplan, chairman of the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Association, told the Turkish press this week, "The authorities keep saying that we are under threat and should take security measures." According to Kaplan, tensions between Sunnis and Alevis are now so great that they could escalate at any time.

Many Alevis distrust Turkish security authorities. On the one hand, because they do not trust them to provide sufficient protection. On the other hand, because the state itself repeatedly discriminates against the Alevi community. Many Alevis have complained in recent years of increasing "Sunnification".

Fear for safety

The Alevi religious community in Turkey is considered secular and moderate – which in turn puts it at odds with the ruling AKP party, which recruits its core constituency from the devout Sunni majority.

Many Alevis still remember the 2. July 1993, when a mob in Sivas set fire to a hotel where an Alevi cultural festival was being held. 37 people died – while mob hooted outside building. Why the fire department did not intervene earlier at the time remains unexplained to this day. Even after the failed coup of 16. July 2016, many Alevis feared for their safety. In the first days after the court ruling, there were riots against Alevis in Istanbul.

Violation of religious freedom

As recently as April 2016, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey was violating the religious freedom of Alevis. According to the judges, there is a "glaring imbalance" between them and the Sunni majority. The discrimination already begins with the fact that the Alevis are not recognized as an independent religion, but are simply considered Muslims. They receive no funding, and their clergy are not recognized as civil servants. Alevi representatives have been demanding both for a long time.

The denomination has its origin with Turkmen tribes, which were founded in the 13th century. and 14. The Alevis immigrated to Anatolia in the sixteenth century. Alevism has similarities with Shiite Islam, as its first Imam Ali is highly revered. But there are also clear differences. Alevis do not pray in mosques, but in so-called "Cemevleri" ("Cem houses"), mostly private meeting houses. Moreover, they do not interpret the Koran literally. Their women are not veiled; in general, there is more equality between the sexes.


Under the Ottomans, Alevis were persecuted as heretics; there were repeated pogroms. Many Alevis found it alarming when the third Bosphorus Bridge, completed in 2016, was named after Sultan Yavuz Selim, who in 16. Century more than 40.is said to have murdered 000 Alevis. – In Germany, the Alevi community among Turkish immigrants is larger than average. According to estimates, 400 Alevis live in the region.000 and 700.000 Alevis.

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