Turkey’s Shiites complain about prejudice, injustice

Turkey’s Shiites complain about prejudice, injustice

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey’s Shiites complain about prejudice, injustice

A group of Caferis commemrate Hussein bin Ali, son of Caleph Ali and Prophet Muhammad’s grandson who was killed in Karbala 1,372 years ago. Caferis mourn the death of Hussein and his supporters every year on Aşura Day. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

As Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned of an emergence of fresh sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East, the leader of the nearly 3 million Shiite Muslims in Sunni-dominated Turkey, Selahattin Özgündüz, claimed Caferis (a sect of Shiites) in Turkey were being subjected to assimilation and stigmatization by government policies. 

“The state’s Directorate of Religious Affairs shows the Shiites as the inner enemy of Islam and instigator within the Islamic religion in the books they publish. We are subjected to insults, and our children are being raised according to Sunni-Islam’s teachings in the schools. This is directly assimilation and stigmatization,” Turkish Caferi leader Özgündüz told Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview. 

Özgündüz claimed the state’s Directorate of Religious Affairs was acting like an official organization of once sect, Sunni Islam, and stigmatizing the other sects in Turkey. 

“The taxes we pay are returning to us as ‘denial, assimilation and insults.’ If our taxes are transferring to an organization that serves only one sect and ignores the others, then we have a legal problem here,” Özgündüz said. 

‘Including the Alevis we are more than 20 million’

“Caferis are shown as ‘perverted’ people in the books published by the Directorate of Religious Affairs. We are so much offended and stigmatized by these kinds of policies. I also include the Alevis into this phenomenon. Including the Alevis, the number of all Caferis is more than 20 million in Turkey,” Özgündüz said. 

Özgündüz claimed Dec. 27, 2011, in a TV program called “Angle” (Açı) broadcasted on the state’s Turkish Radio Television Channel (TRT), insulting words were used against the Shiites. 

“Our sect is stigmatized and insulted, and a smear campaign is run against us by also using the names of the Shiite countries in the region. We are fed up with the rhetoric such as ‘Shiite Maliki [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] is racking the Sunnis in Iraq’ or ‘Shiite Iran is trying to spread Shiism in the region.’ People are targeted due to their sects; however, I belong to the same sect as al-Maliki, with the Shiites in Bahrain, Kuwait and Iran. You can have problems with certain people or states, but you should not recall these problems by referring to their sects,” Özgündüz said. 

Özgündüz said because of the article in the Turkish Constitution that makes religious education mandatory in Turkey, their children are raised in schools with the teachings and ideas of one single sect in Islam, which is Sunni. “This is truly assimilation, and it is against international human rights laws and the EU acquis; this should change immediately,” Özgündüz said.

minority, sectarian violence,