The Turkish Education Ministry has launched an investigation into a religious education teacher at a middle school after he targeted Alevi students.
The ministry's move came after daily Cumhuriyet reported about the teacher's address to the students at the Şehit Ali İhsan Okatan Middle School in Ankara's Mamak district.
During a lecture on Sept. 20, the teacher, known only by initials M.K., asked students to raise their hands if they were Alevis and then asked them “Why are Alevis not performing ablution or prayers? Why are Alevis not fasting?”
Daily Cumhuriyet said that the teacher further told Alevi students, “We do not like Prophet Ali. He had sworn at the wife of our Prophet [Mohammed].”
After the incident came out to light as students spoke of it to their parents, the teacher denied the accusations. The teacher told parents that he did not need to ask who Alevis were in his class, as he could tell them from the “Zulfiqar sword necklaces.”
“It was obvious who was what. I recognized who is what from their necklaces,” the teacher reportedly said.
Alevis adhere to the teachings of Ali and consider him as a divine figure. Some Alevis wear a necklace in the shape of a “Zulfiqar sword,” which is believed to have been used by Ali.
Despite the statements of students and parents, the school administration has not taken any action against the teacher. It said that the teacher had been “warned” and “an action would be taken if the behavior were to be repeated.”
In the face of this report, the Education Ministry said in a written statement on Sept. 24 that it launched an investigation into the incident “that is alleged to have occurred between a religious education teacher and students.”
Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik also released a statement saying that the AKP “does not in any way accept a discrimination such as Alevi-Sunni citizen.”
He said that both the Education Ministry and Ankara Governor's Office were closely monitoring the claims concerning the teacher in question.