Turkish Alevi Demand Non-Religious Education

Turkish Alevi organzations are staging sit-in demonstrations in order to alert the world to laws which compel all Turkish children to attend compuslory religious classes in school. The 24th clause in the 1982 Constitution states that children must attend a mandatory “religious culture and moral knowledge ” class for in primary and secondary grades. Alevi leader, Kazem Genc charges, “for 25 years Alevi children have been subject to aneducation outside of their own beliefs and they are being isolated from their own beliefs.” Several years ago, the Turkish government responded to Alevi complaints by adding information about their religion to school textbooks. There have been assurances next year’s textbook will add more material. Alevi spokespeople note that school texts in classes like literature contain offensive remarks about their religion, and even in history classes lit appears many teachers lack knowledge regarding the Alevi religion. Alevis have taken their complaint to the European Court of Human Rights which supported the right of Alevi children to attend school without being subject to religious education.

It is one thing to teach children about religions in the world, it is another to teach children they should believe in a specific religion. This distinction has yet to become part of the Turkish school curriculum.