Turkish Alevi Community Protests

The Alevi community of Turkey constitutes about 12% of the population but for decades has been subject to discriminatory acts on the part of the government. Alevis are Muslims, but they do not agree with many practices of Sunni or Shiite branches of the religion. Yesterday, thousands demonstrated in Ankara in a “Grand Rally” for freedom. The Alevis want an end to compulsory religious education in schools, they want their brand of the Muslim religion to receive official recognition, they want their houses of worship to be recognized in the same manner as a mosque or church, and they want the abolishment of the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Alevi leaders insist Turkey is a secular nation and therefore having compulsory religion classes which are based on Sunni beliefs is a violation of the Constitution. The Council of State ruled in March that students should not be required to attend religion classes that focus solely on Sunni beliefs, but no action has really been taken to implement this decision.

There is scant chance the current Turkish government will accept the concept that religion has no place in public schools. The dilemma is that Alevi belief is open to the ideas of all religions and has no hostility to those who differ from the Muslim religion. They most probably are too liberal in their views of religion for the present Turkish government.