Ayşegül Karakülhancı / DUVAR
The federal state government of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany granted Alevism, a minority religious sect, the status of being a public establishment, in a major victory for the faith group.
With the decision, Alevism will now have a constitutional security as it will be recognized as a faith group at the highest level.
Hüseyin Mat, from the Federation of Alevi Unions in Germany (AABF), said that Alevis will now have the same rights as the other religious and faith groups in Germany.
"Alevis will now get all the rights they the are entitled to from the German state. We are becoming a public institution. Alevism will have the same rights as any other religious or faith group in Germany. This means that Alevis will have the same constitutional rights and authorities as the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches," Mat told Duvar on Dec. 9.
Alevis are currently one of the most targeted minority groups in Turkey. They frequently face hate speech and have suffered from massacres in the past.
Alevis make up an estimated 15-25 percent of Turkey’s population, the second main religious group after Sunni Islam. Despite the fundamental differences in religious practices between the two groups, the government to-date refuses to acknowledge Alevi cemevis, places of worship, as legitimate and grant the cemevis the same financial support as mosques. Instead, Turkey claims labels cemevis as a cultural entity.
With Germany's new decision, Alevis will now have the right to open their own institutions, including associations, hospitals and kindergartens, since cemevis will now have the same rights as churches.
"The rights of Alevis will be guaranteed by the German state from now on," Mat said.
When asked whether other federal governments will also grant the Alevi faith the same status, Mat said that North Rhine-Westphalia's decision will set an example.
"Hence, Alevism will get the same equal opportunities all over Germany. There is a thing called the church tax in Germany and we'll also be able to get a cemevi tax. We'll benefit from all the funding, economic advantages, and privileges that the church gets," he said.
All the cemevis and mosques under the federation currently have association status, Mat said, noting that no group from the Middle East or Turkey has been granted the public status that Alevis now have.
"We founded an association and it was approved. We were then accepted as a faith society. Now we have gained the highest status as a public institution rather than association. Mosques are still have only association status and are not accepted as a faith society," he said.
'We are settling the scores'
Saying that the federal state government's decision is a result of a 30-year struggle, Mat noted that all the Alevi groups have put forward a struggle for their rights.
"This is also a confrontation against Turk-Islam synthesis and its policies of denial. You are denied, assimilated, massacred, and forced to migrate in Turkey. Genocides took place. Why did these people suffer so much from injustices? The fact that this decision was made in Germany is also settling the accounts of history. We see it as settling the score with those who have denied us," Mat said.
"We are also saying that Turkey still needs to face this shame. This is a very significant achievement for our people," he added.
When asked what impact it will have on the Alevis in Turkey, Mat said, "It will motivate them."
"This will boost their mood. It will also be a major problem for the Turkish state which is based on Turk-Islam synthesis. When we asked for Alevism classes to be given separately in schools and Germany said yes, the first person to object was Turkey's ambassador to Berlin. He said, 'Alevism is not a separate faith. It should be taught within an Islam class.' Now, we have managed to make Germany accept Alevism as a distinct faith," he said.
According to Mat, a new era for Alevism will begin with their new status.
"We obtained these rights and now it's time for Alevis to use them," he said.