Alevi protests in Turkey
Repression by means of a “bag law”
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has condemned the brutal actions of Turkish police forces against peaceful Alevi protesters – and the ongoing repression of religious minorities in the country. In the course of protests against a so-called “bag law” (Turkish: Torba Yasasi), several protesters were injured due to police brutality. “With this conglomeration of various new regulations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to marginalize Alevism in Turkey,” stated Tabea Giesecke, STP expert on ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities and nationalities. “Thereby, a false image of Alevism is conveyed, and Alevism is denied the status of an independent religious community. This is a frontal attack on the already limited freedom of religion in the country.”
Further, a new religious authority was founded overnight – the “Presidium for Alevis, Bektashis, and Cemhouses”, which reports to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Thus, Alevism is reduced to folklore or merely seen as a form of art, not as a religion. Ali Toprak, Head of the Kurdish Community in Germany, stated: “We are an independent religious community. Turkey must finally acknowledge this! It is a serious violation of the right to religious freedom that Erdogan is planning to reduce Alevism to an aspect of culture!”
In Germany too, members of the Alevi community and their supporters have been protesting against the Turkish policies. Last Saturday, November 12, around 5,000 protesters had gathered at the Deutzer Werft in Cologne. Representatives of several European Alevi associations had taken part in the protests – not only from Germany, but also from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway. Further, the Association of Alevi Youth in Germany (Bund der Alevitischen Jugendlichen in Deutschland, BDAJ) had taken part. “We are demanding an end to the human rights violations against minority groups in Turkey – which are supposed to be legitimized by Erdogans new law,” emphasized Deniz Kasal, Chairman of the BDAJ.
Apparently, Erdogan is using the “bag law” to step up his policy of repression. According to Aynur Özcan, member of the diplomatic commission of the European Alevi Confederation (AABK), this is an attempt to discriminate against religious minorities and to marginalize them: “Instead of making Alevism a matter of the state, the Turkish government should implement what the Alevis have been demanding for decades: Cemhouses should officially be recognized as houses of worship, and it should no longer be mandatory for pupils to take part in Sunni religious education.”