Turkey: More Pressure on Minority Groups – Liberal Religious Community of Alevis Is Under Suspicion

A protester holds a banner reading "we are alevi" as he and many others wait to hear the decision of the court in front of a courthouse in Ankara March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Society for Threatened Peoples Press Release:

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is concerned about the fact that the Islamic government under Recep Tayyib Erdogan is putting pressure on the liberal religious community of the Alevis and other minority groups following the failed military coup in Turkey. “Erdogan’s regime is not only threatening Turkish people who are members of the opposition, but especially ethnic groups that refuse to submit to the Islamist system,” said Kamal Sido, the STP’s Middle East Consultant, in Göttingen on Monday. “Although the vast majority of the Alevis, Kurds, and other minorities, would be strictly against a takeover by the Turkish army, they are under suspicion by the ruling AKP party. They have experienced difficulties in the past already, since Alevism is not recognized as an independent religion in Turkey. Now, all members of this religious community are accused of taking sides with the putschists. “Thousands of Alevis have been arrested or have lost their jobs. Almost one in four of the 75 million citizens of Turkey are Alevis. Many Turks, Kurds, and Arabs see themselves as members of the religious community.

According to information by the STP, at least ten Alevi cultural associations – in Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, Çorum, and Gaziantep – were banned since last Friday. Immediately after the coup attempt on July 15, there had been attacks on Alevis in Istanbul’s Gazi district, carried out by Erdogan-supporters. Also, there was an attack on the local Arabic-speaking Alevis in Antakya in Hatay province, close to the border to Syria. On July 17, Erdogan-supporters stormed the Alevi-dominated residential district Pasaköskü in the eastern Anatolian city of Malatya, calling “Allahu akbar” (English: “Allah is great”). Generally, Alevis can no longer rely on protection by the Turkish police, which has been infiltrated by Islamists.

In Germany, Erdogan-supporters are acting increasingly aggressive as well. “Here, the Erdogan-friendly media play a crucial role,” criticized Sido. “They are trying to incite against Alevis, Kurds, and dissident ethnic Turkish citizens, and there are attempts to silence critical voices.” Thus, the Turkish-language daily newspaper “Sabah” published several images of the national chairman of the Kurdish Community in Germany, Ali Ertan Toptak, on the front page as early as on July 15 – denouncing the member of the Alevi community as a “member of the PKK”. The alleged evidence: pictures that Toprak had posted on social media platforms himself, showing him with Kurdish politicians such as Selahattin Demirtaş, chairman of the legal democratic Kurdish party HDP. Toprak is a recognized unifying personality in Germany. Since May 2015, he has also been serving as the chairman of the Federal Association of Immigrant Associations in Germany (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Immigrantenverbände in Deutschland, BAGIV). Also, he took the position “representative of the migrants” in the ZDF’s Television Council in May 2015. There are about 700,000 to 800,000 Alevis living in Germany. Most of them are from Turkey.

Contact: Dr. Kamal Sido, the STP’s Middle East consultant – nahost@gfbv.de

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