MP calls on interior minister to take action in face of threats to Turkey’s Alevi citizens

Amid death threats and hate crimes against Turkey’s Alevi citizens, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has been called on to take action, in a parliamentary question submitted by a pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy.

Death threats to Alevis were spray painted on the walls of an apartment building in the Pendik district of İstanbul on Tuesday, the Cumhuriyet daily reported. The building’s Alevi tenants expressed concern over the threats. “‘Death to Alevis’ was written on the wall. This is racism. There has always been discourse against us, such as Alevis are heretics. But never have we experienced such an incident. This is a deliberate death threat, and we want all Alevis to support us,” said Şehriban İşler, one of the residents of the building.

Thirty-six publicly known hate crime incidents have targeted Alevis in Turkey within the last eight years, HDP deputy Ali Kenanoğlu said and asked the government what kind of legal proceedings have so far been initiated against the perpetrators of these crimes.

According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency (AA), Deputy Interior Minister İsmail Çataklı said an investigation had been launched into the latest incident. He added that the necessary steps were taken in similar incidents in that past and that attempts at disturbing the peace and solidarity among citizens will not be tolerated.

In 2017 the door of an Alevi family residing in the Kocasinan neighborhood of Istanbul’s Bahçelievler district was marked with symbols and letters. They included three crescents, symbol of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), cross marks and the words “Get out, heathen” and “Islam.” In a similar incident in Malatya province, in a neighborhood where Alevi citizens lived, the doors of 13 houses were marked with red crosses.

Marking Alevi families’ houses in Turkey is reminiscent of attacks on Alevi families in the past. Family homes were marked with red crosses before the Maraş massacre of 1978, the Çorum massacre of 1980 and the Sivas massacre of 1993.

Incorporating Shiite, Sufi, Sunni and local traditions, Alevism is a strain of Islam that emerged in the medieval period. Alevis are estimated to constitute between a tenth and a fifth of the Turkish population.

In its 2019 International Religious Freedom Report, the US State Department said the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continued to treat Alevism as a heterodox Muslim “sect” and not recognize Alevi houses of worship (cemevis), despite a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals that cemevis are places of worship. Alevis have also raised concerns about several of the government’s education policies. The Turkish government continued to not comply with a 2013 European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling that found the government’s compulsory religion courses in public schools violated educational freedom.

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