Country of Origin Information Report

Difficulties and problems for alevis


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Difficulties and problems for alevis
18.29 In a 2006 report written by Eren Özalay ‘Minorities in Turkey The identity of the Alevis in Accordance with the EU Legislation’ it was noted that:
“The problems that the Alevi community faces now are in the areas of political and religious representation and upward mobility in public sector… Under the heading of political representation, Alevis are not satisfied with the Religious Affairs responsible for representing the Muslim population in Turkey. Alevi claim is that the Religious Affairs represent only the Sunni-Orthodox Muslim population. Alevis expect the Cem Houses, the religious gathering places of the Alevis, in the same statue with the mosques, churches and synagogues… The recognition of the Alevi belief in the framework of Islam will also solve the religious representation problem of the Alevis.” [61] (p17-18)
18.29 The USSD 2007 report on Religious Freedom noted that:
“There are legal restrictions against insulting any religion recognized by the Government, interfering with that ’religion’s services, or defacing its property.

“Alevis freely practiced their beliefs and have built ‘cem houses’ (places of gathering), although these have no legal status as places of worship, and are often referred to as ‘cultural centers.’ Representatives of Alevi organizations maintained that they often faced obstacles when attempting to establish cem houses. They said there were approximately 100 cem houses in the country; a number that they claimed was insufficient to meet their needs. There was a ground-breaking ceremony in January 2007 for a new cem house and cultural complex in Istanbul's Kadikoy district, with the support of the Kadikoy municipality. Alevis also opened a new cem house in Sivas in June 2007. Alevis in the Kartal district of Istanbul continued to fight a court battle, which began in 2004, against a decision by local authorities to deny them permission to build a cem house.” [5e] (Section 2)

18.30 The USSD 2007 report on Religious Freedom also noted that:
“In May 2006 authorities in the Sultanbeyli municipality of Istanbul reportedly banned the construction of a cem house on the grounds that the Pir Sultan Abdal Association, an Alevi group, had not acquired the necessary construction permits. Association officials said the local mayor and his staff had attended the groundbreaking ceremony and had promised not to interfere with the project; however, the municipality reportedly filed a case against the association after it proceeded with construction following the ban. The case continued at the end of the reporting period.” [5e] (Section 2)
18.31 The USSD 2007 report on Religious Freedom also noted that:
“Alevi children have the same compulsory religious education as all Muslims, and many Alevis alleged discrimination in the Government's failure to include any of their doctrines or beliefs in religious instruction classes in public schools. Alevis currently have more than 4,000 court cases against the Ministry of Education regarding this alleged discrimination. The Government revealed in January 2007 its new religious course curriculum which was to include instruction on Alevism, but many Alevis believed the materials were inadequate and, in some cases false. Alevis also charged a bias in the Diyanet, which does not allocate specific funds for Alevi activities or religious leadership. Practically, the Diyanet budget is reserved for the Sunni community.” [5e] (Section 2)

See Section: 22.51 Children Education

18.32 The USSD 2007 report on Religious Freedom further reported that:

“In January 2004 an Alevi parent filed suit in the European Court of Human Rights, charging that the mandatory religion courses violate religious freedom; the case of Zengin v. Turkey is ongoing. In November 2006 an Istanbul court announced its ruling in favor of an Alevi father who requested that his son be exempt from the religion courses at school; however, the Istanbul Governor's office appealed the decision and the case was still under Council of State (highest administrative court) review at the close of the reporting period. Six similar cases were filed in different parts of the country and remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period.” [5e] (Section II)
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Mystical Sufi and Other Religious Social Orders and Lodges
18.33 As noted in the USSD 2007 report on Religious Freedom, Mystical Sufi and other religious-social orders (tarikats) and lodges (cemaats) have been banned officially since the mid 1920s; however, tarikats and cemaats remain active and widespread. Some prominent political and social leaders continue to associate with tarikats, cemaats, and other Islamic communities. [5e]

18.34 The US State Department Report (USSD) 2007, published on 11 March 2008, noted that “A separate government agency, the General Directorate for Foundations (GDF), regulates a few administratively critical activities of non Muslim religious groups and their affiliated churches, monasteries, synagogues, and related religious property. There are 161 ‘minority foundations’ recognized by the GDF, including Greek Orthodox foundations with approximately 70 sites, Armenian Orthodox foundations with approximately 50 sites, and Jewish foundations with 20 sites, as well as Syrian Christian, Chaldean, Bulgarian Orthodox, Georgian, and Maronite foundations. The GDF also regulates Muslim charitable religious foundations, including schools, hospitals, and orphanages.” [5g]

Non Muslim minorities
18.35 As noted in the USSD 2007 report on Religious Freedom:
“Religious minorities report difficulties opening, maintaining, and operating houses of worship. Under the law, religious services may take place only in designated places of worship. Municipal codes mandate that only the Government can designate a place of worship, and if a religion has no legal standing in the country, it may not be eligible for a designated site. Non-Muslim religious services, especially for religious groups that do not own property recognized by the GDF, often take place on diplomatic property or in private apartments. Police occasionally bar Christians from holding services in private apartments, and prosecutors have opened cases against Christians for holding unauthorized gatherings.” [5e] (Section 2)
18.36 The US State Department Report (USSD) 2007 noted that “The constitution establishes compulsory religious and moral instruction in primary and secondary schools. Religious minorities are exempted. However, a few religious minorities, such as Protestants, faced difficulty obtaining exemptions, particularly if their identification cards did not list a religion other than Islam. The government claimed that the religion courses covered the range of world religions; however, religious minorities asserted the courses reflected Sunni Islamic doctrine, which they maintained explains why non-Muslims are exempt.” [5g] (Section 2)
18.37 The USSD 2007 report on Religious Freedom also noted that:

“The authorities continued to monitor the activities of Eastern Orthodox churches but generally did not interfere with their religious activities; however, significant restrictions were placed on the administration of the churches. The Government does not recognize the ecumenical status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, acknowledging him only as the head of the country's Greek Orthodox community. High-level government leaders often assert publicly that use of the term ‘ecumenical’ in reference to the Patriarch violates the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. However, government officials privately acknowledge that Lausanne does not address the issue. On June 26, 2007, the Higher Court of Appeals ‘(‘Yargitay’) reiterated the ’Government’s public position despite ruling in favor of the Patriarchate in a case brought against it by a defrocked Bulgarian Orthodox priest.” [5e] (Section II)

18.38 The US State Department Report (USSD) 2007 noted that “Many Muslims, Christians, Jews, and ’Baha’is faced societal suspicion and mistrust. Jews and Christians from most denominations freely practiced their religions and reported little discrimination in daily life. However, religious minorities asserted that they were effectively blocked from careers in state institutions.” [5g] (Section 2)
18.39 The 2007 European Commission Progress report published 6 November 2007 stated that:
“As regards the educational rights of minorities, the Law on Private Educational Institutions which entered into force in February 2007 reconfirms the right of non-Muslim minorities associated by the authorities with the Treaty of Lausanne to hold minority schools. However, ’Turkey’s approach to minority rights remains unchanged. According to the Turkish authorities, under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne minorities in Turkey consist exclusively of non-Muslim religious communities. In practice the minorities associated by the authorities with such Treaty are Jews, Armenians and Greeks… Overall, Turkey has made no progress on ensuring cultural diversity and promoting respect for and protection of minorities in accordance with European standards.” [71c] (p21-22)
See also Section 18.20 Situation of the Alevi community
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18.40 The USSD 2007 also noted that:

“Police occasionally prohibited Christians from holding services in private apartments, and prosecutors sometimes opened cases against Christians for holding unauthorized gatherings… Police occasionally prevented Christians from handing out religious literature. Christians performing missionary work were occasionally beaten and insulted. Police officers sometimes reported students who met with Christian missionaries to their families or to university authorities. Several foreigners who are practicing Christians and have lived with their families in various cities for many years reported increased governmental harassment during the year, including denial of residence and work permits that had been granted in previous years, monitoring by Jandarma, and threats to themselves and their families.” [5g] (Section 2)

18.42 The USSD 2007 on Religious Freedom also noted that “in late April 2007 police arrested four street evangelists in Istanbul for missionary activity, disturbing the peace, and insulting Islam. The arrested included a U.S. citizen, one Korean, and two Turks. The American was released 48 hours after his arrest, although he reported a state prosecutor visited neither him nor the Korean. The claim of insulting Islam was based on a book the evangelists were giving out, which explained that Christians cannot accept the ’Qur’an because it contradicts some of the teachings of the New Testament. The prosecutor ultimately charged the evangelists with a single misdemeanor of disturbing the peace.” [5e] (Section 2)
18.43 The USSD 2007 on Religious Freedom further noted that “After the April 18, 2007, killings in Malatya of three Christians, Turkish victim Ugur Yuksel was denied a Christian burial and given an Islamic/Alevitic burial instead… In October 2006 a prosecutor pressed criminal charges against two (Muslim) converts to Christianity for violating Article 301 ‘(‘insulting Turkishness’), inciting hatred against Islam, and secretly compiling data on private citizens for a Bible correspondence course.” [5e] (Section 2)

18.44 The USSD 2006 report further noted that “Several foreigners who are practicing Christians and have lived with their families in various cities for many years reported increasing governmental harassment during the year, including denial of residence and work permits that had been granted in previous years, monitoring by jandarma, and receiving threats to themselves and their families. These persons reported that they worshiped in their homes but did not proselytize by distributing bibles, going door-to-door, or undertaking similar activities.” [5h]

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18.45 As recorded in the USSD report on religious freedom 2007, there are several other religious groups, mostly concentrated in Istanbul and other large cities. While exact membership figures are not available, these religious groups include approximately 23,000 Jews in Turkey. Jews freely practised their religion and reported little discrimination in daily life. [5e] (Section 1 and 3)
18.46 The Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report on ‘A Quest for Equality: Minorities in Turkey’ published 10 December 2007 stated that:
“The Jewish community in Turkey dates back to the Roman Empire… Their language is Ladino, a variant of fifteenthcentury Spanish. There is also an ethnic Ashkenazi minority, who speak Yiddish. There are around 23,000 Jews, in Turkey, 600 of whom are Ashkenazi… The vast majority live in Istanbul, around 2,500 in İzmir and the rest in very small numbers elsewhere. There are 19 synagogues in İstanbul, one of which belongs to Ashkenazis.” [57c] (p13)
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19 Ethnic groups

19.01 The Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report on ‘A Quest for Equality: Minorities in Turkey’ published 10 December 2007 stated that:

“The Penal Code extends its protection to everyone without making ‘any distinctions on the basis of race, language, religion, sect, nationality, colour, sex, political or other opinion, philosophical belief, national or social origin, birth, economic and other social status and without extending privileges to anyone’. The Code also penalizes, in Article 216(1), incitement to enmity or hatred on the basis of race, religion, sect or region, where such incitement leads to a clear and imminent threat to national security. Incitement to hatred on the basis of sex or sexual orientation is not criminalized.” [57c] (p29)

19.02 The MRG 2007 report also noted that “Advocacy on minority rights is considered as conspiracy against or betrayal of the state by nationalists and some public officials. Most recently, during a press conference, Chief of Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt blamed the EU for creating new minorities in the Republic by calling ethnic and religious communities, such as the Alevis and Kurds, minorities in its reports on Turkey.” [57c] (p29)
19.03 As noted in the report ‘State of the World’s Minorities 2008’, released on 11 March 2008:
“Turkish attitudes and laws on minorities have progressed considerably over the past decade, but many reforms lie ahead if the country’s legal framework and practice are to reach international standards. Minority groups including Alevis, Armenians, Assyrians, Caferis, Caucasians, Kurds, Jews, Laz, Roma, Rum (Greek Orthodox) Christians, and Yezidis still confront systematic repression in today’s Turkey. Officially, the government still only recognizes Armenians, Jews and Rum Christians as minorities, but, as used in Turkey, this term denotes clear second-class status. All other groups have faced intense pressure to assimilate.” [57b] (p141)

19.04 The same State of the World’s Minorities report 2008 noted that “in January 2007 the city council of the old-town section of the multi-ethnic southeastern city of Diyarbakir agreed to provide municipal services in Arabic, Armenian, Assyriac, English and Kurdish, in addition to Turkish, the Ankara-appointed governor of the region removed the council, the old-town mayor, as well as the popular Kurdish mayor of the city. In July, prosecutors introduced charges against the two mayors and 17 council members on charges of ‘abuse of office’, and they may be jailed for up to three years if convicted.” [57b] (p141)

See also Section 16.01 Government monitoring of human rights
19.05 The USSD 2007 report also noted that “On June 14, a Council of State court, abiding by the Ministry of Interior request, decided to dissolve the Sur Municipality of Diyarbakir and dismiss its mayor, Adbullah Demirbas, after the municipality attempted to institute a program to offer multilingual services to its citizens, 72 percent of whom the municipality stated spoke Kurdish as a first language. On October 19, the Council of ’State’s Grand Chamber upheld the decision and rejected defendants' objections to the June 14 decision.” [5g] (Section 2)
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19.06 The EC 2007 Progress report also noted that, “Turkey is a party to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However, its reservation regarding the rights of minorities and its reservation to the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), regarding the right to education, are matters of concern. Turkey has not signed the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities or the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The management of the minority schools, including the dual presidency, remains an issue. Further efforts are needed to remove discriminatory language from textbooks.” [71c] (p21)

19.07 The Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report on ‘A Quest for Equality: Minorities in Turkey’ published 10 December 2007 stated that

“Kurds are the largest ethnic and linguistic minority in Turkey. The estimated numbers claimed by various sources range from 10 to 23 per cent of the population… Kurds speak Kurdish, which is divided into Kurmanci, Zaza and other dialects. The majority are Sunni Muslims, while a significant number are Alevis. Historically concentrated in eastern and south-eastern region of the country, where they constitute the overwhelming majority, large numbers have immigrated to urban areas in western Turkey.” [57c]
19.08 As noted in the Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report ‘State of the World’s Minorities 2008’, released on 11 March 2008, “As a large, unrecognized minority, Kurds continue to face systematic marginalization. Around 30,000 people have been killed in fighting between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since 1984, and over 1 million people remain displaced in heavily Kurdish south-eastern Turkey… The government continues to conflate any effort to promote Kurdish rights with support for PKK terrorists.” [57b] (p141)
19.08 The 2007 USSD report noted that “Citizens of Kurdish origin constituted a large ethnic and linguistic group. Millions of the ’country’s citizens identified themselves as Kurds and spoke Kurdish. Kurds who publicly or politically asserted their Kurdish identity or publicly espoused using Kurdish in the public domain risked censure, harassment, or prosecution.” [5g] (Section 2)

19.09 The same 2008 State of the World’s Minorities report further noted that “In February, the president and 12 members of a pro-Kurdish party received 6–12 month sentences for holding their party congress in the Kurdish language. On the basis of a vague 2006 anti-terror law, another Kurdish leader was convicted and sentenced in August for a speech he gave in March… Government harassment also targeted Kurdish media outlets.” [57b] (p141)

19.10 The Hurriyet newspaper published on March 23, 2008 ‘Two demonstrators die in Kurdish demos in Turkey’ noted that:
“Two demonstrators died Sunday during the unofficial Newroz demonstrations celebrating the arrival of spring in Van and Hakkari, largely Kurdish populated eastern provinces in Turkey, as clashes between demonstrators and the police continued for fourth day. The demonstrator Ikbal Yasar died Sunday in eastern Turkey as clashes between Kurdish protestors and the police continued for the fourth straight day, hospital sources said. The 20-year-old died of a bullet wound in the town of Yuksekova in Hakkari province, which borders Iran and Iraq, after clashes erupted Sunday when a crowd of demonstrators defied an official ban on a planned gathering to mark Newroz, or the Kurdish New Year, they said.” [70c]
19.11 The Hurriyet article further added that “The 35-year-old demonstrator Zeki Erinc died earlier from injuries sustained in clashes between Kurdish protestors and the police in the eastern Turkish city of Van after he had been hospitalised Saturday with a bullet wound, government and health officials said. An official from the Van governor’s office confirmed the death, but was unable to provide details on the nature of his injuries.” [70c]

19.12 The USSD 2007 noted “Although the number was unknown, some minority groups were active in political affairs. Many members of parliament and senior government officials were Kurds. PM Erdogan stated during the year that there were five Kurdish-origin ministers in his cabinet and 75 Kurdish-origin MPs in AKP's parliamentary group.” [5g] (Section 2)

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Kurdish language
19.14 The same MRG 2007 report added that “As a result of the reforms, on 7 June 2004, the Turkish Radio-Television Corporation (Türkiye Radyo Televizyon Kurumu, TRT) commenced broadcasts in five minority languages and dialects: Zaza and Kurmanci dialects of the Kurdish language, Arabic, Bosnian and Circassian. TV broadcasts are for 45 minutes five days a week, while radio broadcasts begin at 6 a.m. and last for 30 minutes each day five days a week.” [57c] (p17)
19.15 The MRG 2007 report also noted that “Indeed, RTÜK relied on Article 4(b) in initially suspending for one month in October 2006 the broadcasting of the ‘Anatolia’s Voice’ radio station for playing a song about the Kurdish question and in suspending it without limitation in February 2007. These limitations have been imposed only on regional media, which are usually run by minorities. In August 2004, RTÜK relied on Article 4(a) and (b) in suspending for 90 days the broadcasting of Gün TV and Can TV in Diyarbakır and Hakkari FM radio station.” [57c] (p17)
19.16 The MRG 2007 report also stated that:

“A circular issued by the Ministry of Interior in September 2003 restricted the scope of the amended law to names containing the letters of the Turkish alphabet only, effectively banning names using the letters q, w and x, common in Kurdish. Thus Kurds are still precluded by law from giving their children Kurdish names which involve these three letters. There is no restriction on the use of these letters for commercial entities, such as Show TV, a national broadcaster, and all keyboards and typewriters in Turkey include these letters, so their use by public officials is feasible.” [57c] (p18)

19.17 The 2007 MRG report further added that “Defendants are not provided with a competent interpreter, which particularly affects older Kurds and women, who are not fluent in Turkish. Instead, translation is provided by court clerks or anyone present, who may not necessarily be competent to translate legal proceedings.” [57c] (p19)
19.18 The European Commission 2007 report stated that:
“As regards cultural rights, broadcasting in languages other than Turkish, in March 2007 a new radio channel in Diyarbakır, Çağrı FM, received authorisation to broadcast in Kırmanchi and Zaza Kurdish. There are now four local radio and TV stations broadcasting in Kurdish. However, time restrictions apply, with the exception of films and music programmes. All broadcasts, except songs, must be subtitled or translated into Turkish, which makes live broadcasts technically cumbersome. Educational programmes teaching the Kurdish language are not allowed. An appeal against these rules has been pending before the Council of State for three years. Court cases have been opened against some broadcasters for trivial reasons.” [71c] (p22)
See also Section 15.21 High Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK)

19.19 The USSD 2007 report further noted that “The government maintained significant restrictions on the use of Kurdish and other minority languages in radio and television broadcasts. RTUK regulations limited minority-language news broadcasts to 45 minutes per day, with no time restrictions for minority-language cultural shows or films. RTUK regulations required non Turkish-language radio programs be followed by the same program in Turkish and that non-Turkish-language television programs have Turkish subtitles. Start-up Kurdish broadcasters reported that these were onerous financial obligations that prevented their entry into the market. The state-owned TRT broadcasting company provided limited national programming in Kurdish and three other minority languages.” [5g] (Section 2)

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