Turkey: Problems encountered by the Alevi in 2000-2001; those most at risk within the Alevi community; whether Alevi are threatened by the Sunnite and/or by the public authorities; the nature of these threats; the state protection provided; regions in Turkey where Alevi are most at risk; internal flight options
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||5 September 2001|
|Citation / Document Symbol||TUR37724.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Turkey: Problems encountered by the Alevi in 2000-2001; those most at risk within the Alevi community; whether Alevi are threatened by the Sunnite and/or by the public authorities; the nature of these threats; the state protection provided; regions in Turkey where Alevi are most at risk; internal flight options, 5 September 2001, TUR37724.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4beb420.html [accessed 13 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
According to a professor of Turkish Studies at the University of Utrecht, who is also a chair with the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) and whose research specialization includes the Alevi in Turkey, being Alevi is not, in itself, sufficient reason to fear oppression (27 Aug. 2001). While there may be some discrimination directed towards certain groups or individuals, there is no systematic oppression of all Alevis (ibid). However, young Alevis who are vocal in criticizing authority or who look like "communists" or student activists may expect "ruder" treatment by police and other authorities (ibid). The professor went on to say that, in the past, there have been a number of "pogroms" carried out against the Alevis at the hands of Sunni Muslims and that there is a chance that these might recur (ibid). However the last such attack occurred several years ago (ibid).
According to the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, Alevis "freely practice their religion" and build Cemevi, the Alevi house of gathering (5 Sept. 2001, section 1). However, the report goes on to note that some Alevis allege discrimination, most notably concerning compulsory religious instruction in schools and school texts that in no way reflects Alevi beliefs (ibid; EC 8 Nov. 2000). Various articles reported that Alevi leaders, having exhausted the domestic legal avenues, were planning to take the Turkish government to the European Court of Human Rights over "discrimination in religious teaching in schools" which offers study only in the Sunni religion using Sunni textbooks (The Times Educational Supplement 11 Aug. 2000; BBC 13 July 2000). However, Gungor Yildirim, Chairman of the Adalar Cem Foundation and a member of the Federation of the Supreme Union of Alevis, condemning a meeting held at the residence of the European Union Ambassador to discuss the problems facing the Alevis, was reported as saying "[o]ur community is not subjected to any repression in Turkey. We are capable of solving our problems with our government. We do not find ourselves different from others in any way" (Hurriyet 24 Jun 2000).
As well, many Alevi claim a Sunni bias exists in the Directorate of Religious Affairs - the state body responsible for the administration of mosques and religious appointments (Annual Report on Religious Freedom 5 Sept. 2000, section 1; EC 8 Nov. 2000) Financial support from the Directorate is only available for the building of Sunni mosques and religious foundations (European Commission 8 Nov. 2000). For further information on funding for religious activities, see Response TUR37722.E of 5 September 2001.
A 25 November 2000 article reported the Chairman of the International Foundation for the House of Prophet Muhammed as saying that, as a result of state policies preventing the teaching of Alevi prayer customs, "the Alevis are trapped either by atheism or other dangerous ideologies. The current state mechanism makes a serious mistake by considering Islam to be a sect. It would be wrong to argue that the only problem of the Alevis is the right to speak" (Milliyet).
A 23 February 2000 article reported that unidentified assailants had thrown a firebomb at an Alevi house of prayer, called a Cemevi (Anatolia). The chairperson of the Cemevi Executive Board was quoted as saying that the attack was intended to be provocative (ibid). As well, a 21 August 2001 article reported that an investigation had been launched against a preacher at the Mersin Mufti's Office who had claimed that the Alevi were attempting to found an "Alawistan" (Anatolia). The director of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, in reference to the incident, remarked that "certain separatist forces" were trying to create conflict between the Alevi and Sunnite communities in Turkey and that the preacher's statement in no way reflected the views of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, which has "always tried to maintain integrity and unity among all citizens based on the basic principles of the Republic" (ibid).
An 11 January 2000 article in the Kurdish Observer reported attempts by the Turkish Interior Ministry to close the Alevi organization Anatolian Erenler Cultural Association (AEKD) on claims that its by-laws include the goal of "publicizing Alevi culture."
The professor of Turkish and Kurdish Studies at the University of Utrecht stated that the demographic balance between Sunni and Alevi differs considerable from one place to another and that the provinces of Sivas, Elazig, Erzincan, Malatya, Adiyaman, Kahramanmaras, and Hatay are "especially conflict-prone" (27 Aug. 2001). No further information on the regions in Turkey were Alevi are most at risk could be found among the sources consulted.
According to the country report presented at the 6th European Country of Origin Information Seminar, as there is freedom of movement in Turkey, individuals can relocate to any place they choose (UNHCR/ACCORD 13 Nov. 2000). The report also states that "in UNHCR's perspective, if the persecution emanates from state authorities, there is no internal flight alternative or relocation. The situation might look differentl with regard to the village guards or when people are persecuted by third, non-state agents" (ibid).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Anatolia [Ankara, in English]. 21 August 2001. "Turkey Launches Investigation Against Preacher for Remarks on 'Alawistan'."
_____. 23 February 2000. "Firebomb Causes Damage at Alevi House of Prayer."
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. 5 September 2000. United States Department of State. Washington, D.C.
BBC. 13 July 2000. "Turkey: Alevis Seek Meeting with Minister on Religious Affairs." (LEXIS)
European Commission. 8 Nov. 2000. 2000 Regular Report from the Commission on Turkey's Progress Towards Accession.
Hurriyet [Istanbul]. 24 June 2000. "Alevis: We Do Not Have Any Problems in Turkey."
Milliyet [Ankara]. 25 November 2000. "Turkey: Alevi Sect Complains of Discrimination."
_____. 24 June 2000. "Alevis: We Do Not Have Any Problems in Turkey."
Kurdistan Observer. 11 January 2001. "Effort to Close Alevi Association."
Professor of Turkish and Kurdish Studies, University of Utrecht. Utrecht. 27 August 2001. Correspondence from.
The Times Educational Supplement. 11 August 2000. "Case Seen as Key Human Rights Test." (TSL Education Limited/LEXIS)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation (ACCORD). 13 November 2000. "Turkey: Country Report." (Presented by Ayliz Baskin and Gerlinde Wachter at the 6th European Country of Origin Information Seminar 13 November 2000).
Additional Sources Consulted
Jane's Intelligence Review
Journal of Minority Muslim Affairs
The Middle East
Middle East Report
Resource Centre. Country File, December 2000-August 2001
Unsuccessful attempts to contact Turkey Coordinator, Middle East/North Africa Program, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Unsuccessful attempts to contact the Turkish Human Rights Foundation
Unsuccessful attempt to contact the human rights organization Info-Turk
Internet sites including:
Council of Europe
European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance
European Court of Human Rights
Forced Migration Review
Human Rights Watch
International Coalition of Religious Freedom
International Relations and Security Network
Minority Rights Group
Minorities at Risk Project
Swedish Institute of International Affairs, "Minorities in Turkey"
US Committee for Refugees
World News Connection