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Portrait of Saint Ali (by the Persian court painter Jakob Hovnatanyan)

Alevis ( Turkish Aleviler or Alevilik ( Alevism ) , Zaza and Kurdish Elewî ; from Arabic عَلَوِي, DMG ʿalawī  , followers of Ali ') are members of a predominantly Turkey- based religious denomination . It was widespread among the immigrant Oghus-Turkmen tribes in Anatolia and Azerbaijan in the 19th century . Whether Alevism in its current form is part of Shiite Islam , whether it is a separate Islamic denomination or whether one can speak of an independent religion, is disputed in research (see currents in Alevism and teaching and customs ). A relationship to Shiite Islam can be about Ismail I. produce. It is particularly close to the Sufi Bektashi order .

The religion itself is as Alevism or rare Alevism called and represents the second largest religious group in Turkey (with an estimated 15% of the population) are Alevis were earlier. Especially in the historical context of the history of the 15th and 16th century, when Kizilbash (Kızılbaş ) called. This designation is rather out of use today. Some Alevis see themselves as Shiites, others as an independent denomination in Islam, and still others see Alevism as a non-Muslim faith.

The goal of an Alevis is enlightenment / perfection through values ​​such as charity , humility and patience . Humanism and universalism shape the Alevi faith. The majority of the prohibitions and commands from the Koran applicable to Sunnis are not recognized or followed by Alevis. The fundamental differences between Alevis and Sunnis have been the (main) reason for the oppression and persecution of Alevis since the Ottoman period.

The Turkish Alevis are not identical to the Alawites of the same name in western Syria and the Turkish province of Hatay, who are also called "Arab Alevis" in Turkey and were formerly known as Nusairians . The word alevî can be seen as a synonym for Shiite in Turkish , but mostly, and in non-Turkish literature almost exclusively, designates the group described in the previous paragraph.

Historical development

Calligraphic representation of the name Ali ibn Abi Talib in Arabic, the first of twelve imams to succeed Muhammad in Alevism


The term Alevis did not appear until the end of the 19th century. This involved, on the one hand, an attempt to establish common ground between the groups known by different names, and, on the other hand, the endeavor to replace the traditional name Kızılbaş (red heads) , which was perceived as pejorative .

There are different views on the origin and character of Alevism. The prevailing opinion tends to be that it is a religious denomination within the Shia : Alevis are then classified as a denomination of Shiite Muslims because they accept essential beliefs of the Twelve Shia about Ali and the so-called Fourteen Infallibles . Orthodox Sunnis usually classify the Alevis in groups of ghouls ("exaggerators").

The death of the Prophet Mohammed is considered to be the point of origin of the Shia (see Ghadīr Chumm ): Those who considered Ali (the Prophet's son-in-law and cousin) to be the rightful successor became the Shiites, thereby splitting off from the Sunnis and targeting one The persecution has continued to this day.

From the 9th century began, starting in Iran of two centers in Khorasan and Fars of Sufism spread. With the Mongol conquest in the 13th century, the conditions for religious life in Iran changed radically. With the end of the Abbasid caliphate , the Sunni institutions had lost their legitimizing head. Under the early Mongolian Ilkhan , Islam was no longer the religion of the rulers. This resulted in a profound shock to Islamic institutions. Among the mostly only superficially Islamized Turkmen tribes of the Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian-Turkish border area, the sheikhs of a Sufi Tarīqa from the north-western Iranian Ardebil ( Safawiyya ) gained an increasing following. Under the Sheikh Junaid, the sheikhs began to switch from what was originally a rather Sunni doctrine to a Shiite conception and claimed a descent from the Prophet Mohammed and Ali. At the same time, they began to strive for political power. Because of their claim to power came into conflict with the Turkmen rulers of Akkoyulu and Karakoyunlu and were ultimately able to overcome them. With Shah Ismail I. the Safavids became rulers of Iran and made it a Shiite country.

The Safavids had also found supporters among the Turkmen tribes of Anatolia, especially among those parts of the population who were in opposition to the Ottomans , who in turn tried to expand their empire eastwards. Since Ismail claimed divine honors from his followers, which they also granted him, the power-political conflict was also fought as a religious war for propaganda purposes. After the suppression of various uprisings in the 16th century, the Safavid supporters withdrew to inaccessible areas and isolated themselves from their surroundings. In this isolation, the connection with the Safavids was broken and today's religious and social structure began to develop. At the same time a connection with the Bektasi Tarīqa began.

Alevi groups were e.g. B. the Tahtacı, Çepni, Amucalı, Koçgirili, Zaza, Abdal, Bedreddinī and Bābāʾī.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Turkish state ideology began to approach Alevism and to win it over. The sociologist Mehmet Eröz describes Alevism as the religion of the "original Turks" and points to the close ties with Turkishness . The controversial historian Yusuf Halaçoğlu is of this opinion and believes that Alevis live out the Turkish way of life and traditions to this day.

The Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini designated the Alevis as part of the Shiite community in the 1970s. Sometimes a relationship to Zoroastrianism is also asserted, which can hardly be proven historically. Furthermore, several tendencies can be recognized among the Alevis, which are differently close to the Shia.


Under the Ottomans , the Alevis were persecuted as heretics , especially because they allied themselves with the Iranian Safavid Shahs against the Ottomans in 1514 .

In the 16th century, the Sivas- born poet Pir Sultan Abdal led Alevi revolts against the Ottomans. They put down the uprisings and hanged Pir Sultan Abdal, who to this day enjoys a high reputation among the Alevis.

Because of the oppression and the threatened situation of the Alevis among the Sunni majority society, there have been repeated bloody uprisings over the years. Only since the founding of modern Turkey have they in part enjoyed freedom of belief . The majority of Alevis supported the secularism , secular rule of law and democracy prescribed by Kemal Ataturk . The Alevi population group was one of the main forces behind the founding of the Turkish republic, because they hoped for equality with the Sunni faith, especially through the abolition of the Sunni legal system and the introduction of secularism with the separation of state and religious matters.

To this day, Alevis are the target of numerous pogroms, attacks and discrimination by the Sunni majority society in Turkey. In the course of this, the pogroms in Çorum and Kahramanmaraş as well as the arson attack in Sivas should be mentioned. The discrimination against Alevism also takes place on the part of the Turkish state (in connection with the re-Islamization of Turkey ). In the course of the Gezi Park protests , the majority (approx. 80%) Alevis were arrested.


The number of Alevis cannot be precisely determined because there are no reliable figures and many Alevis do not publicly profess their faith. In addition, some Alevis were assimilated . Despite the universalist rhetoric (and in contrast to general Islam or the Bektashi order ), Alevi communities do not know the possibility of conversion to Alevism.

The approximate number ranges from 10 to 12 million to more than 20 million worldwide. Alevi communities are concentrated in central Anatolia as well as in Thrace , especially in a belt from Çorum in the west to Muş in the east. The only province within Turkey with an Alevi majority is Tunceli (formerly known as Dersim ). There are a total of 4382 Turkish towns in which Alevis make up more than 50% of the population: 3929 villages, 334 mixed denominational villages, 92 towns, 16 mixed denominational towns, 9 Alevi district capitals and 2 Alevi provincial capitals. Of the estimated 12.5 million Alevis, 2.9 million were assimilated.

Beginning in the 1960s, many rural Alevis emigrated to the large cities of western and southern Turkey - as well as to western Europe - and are therefore heavily urbanized. The Federation of Alevite Unions in Europe forms an Alevite interest group in Europe.

Most of the Alevis are Turks and Turkmens , a minority are Kurds or Zaza , and others are Azerbaijanis . Outside of these there are also communities in some regions of Iranian Azerbaijan . The city of Ilchitschi (İlxıçı), which is 87 km southwest of Tabriz , is almost entirely inhabited by Alevis.

In Greece , too, there is an Alevi community of around 3000 people in western Thrace . There are tens of thousands of Bektashi Alevis in Bulgaria , who are called Aliani and Kizilbaschi there. There are also Alevi minorities living in Cyprus .

General beliefs

The Alevi belief replaces the so-called Allah-Mohammed relationship of Sunnis with the Allah-Mohammed-Ali philosophy . Thus, the Alevi faith to the Shahada , theعلي ولي الله / ʿAlī walīyu 'llāh  /' Ali is the friend of God 'added and sung a lot about the relationship between these three. However, the latter does not represent a trinity like that of Christianity , but rather conveys a mystical teaching. The short formula for this is: "Ya Allah, Ya Mohammed, Ya Ali".

The goal of life in Alevism is to achieve enlightenment or perfection, the so-called al-Insān al-Kāmil . This can be achieved if one adheres to the rules of the 4 gates, 40 doors, which were inspired by the Koran , and shows charity , patience , modesty and other good values ​​and applies them in public life.

Doctrine and Customs

Alevism developed out of the Islamic Shia in its theology, but not in its understanding of religious law . It has incorporated many elements from the various pre-Islamic religions of Mesopotamia as well as from Sufism . Religious scholars and an increasing number of followers see syncretistic Alevism as an independent denomination within Islam. The majority of Alevis (especially Turkish) see themselves as part of Islam, whereas a minority do not see themselves as part of it.

A special feature of the Alevi belief system is the pronounced veneration for Ali ibn Abi Talib (hence the derivation of the name Alevite) and for the twelve imams , who were also venerated by the Shiites, all of whom - except for the twelfth - were murdered; the twelfth will continue to live in secret until his return. For this reason they are assigned to the Shiite branch of Islam. Nevertheless, there are significant differences to the teachings of the Imamitic Shia (for example in Iran), especially in theological interpretations, for example on the idea of ​​God and belief, as well as in the practice of faith. There are also differences within Alevism that can be traced back to other linguistic or ethnic affiliations and to internal differentiation of Alevism itself (cf., for example, the development of the Bektashi ).

Alevis do not live their faith outward, because the relationship with God is a private matter.

Alevis do not pray in mosques and do not interpret the Koran literally, but seek the meaning behind the revelations,since this is not a code of law, but a book of faith. According to Alevism, the Koran has both an external and an internal, hidden meaning that is known only to the twelve imams. They do not live according to the " Five Pillars of Islam ". Alevi houses of worship are the Cem houses , in which women and men hold worship together.

Women and men are equal in Alevism and all living beings are viewed as God's creatures with an (immortal) divine soul, which is why tolerance is an important quality of Alevis. The “holy power of God” (Nur-i Kadim / Zat-ı Mutlak) resides in all human beings, therefore human beings are seen as a reflection of God and Mohammed and Ali as models of this reflection, as they reflect God in human beings. Man is viewed as a creature in the same way as plant, animal and nature, but with the difference that man can recognize his creator and him in his creatures through the reason given to him. The God-given understanding has the consequence that every person is responsible for leading his life and thus cannot attribute his failure to God's will. Therefore Alevis also believe that suffering is caused by human failure or the collective misconduct of people.

A central element of their belief is the focus on people. The Alevis identify with the suffering of the opposition in Islam - the Shiites. At the same time they venerated Ali as the patron saint against hostility to Orthodox Islam. In addition, like the Imamites , the Alevis believe in the twelve imams . The martyrdom of the third imam al-Ḥusain ibn ʿAlī is a commonality among Shiites and Alevis, in which their collective grief consciousness manifests itself.

Alevis do not adhere to religious rules, which are a duty and requirement for Orthodox Muslims. According to Alevi understanding, the Sharia (religious law) or the surface, the obvious, has been overcome in religion, since Alevism has mysticism as its foundation. Nevertheless, there are four “gates” in Alevi theology, the first of which is Sharia.

The Alevis generally reject a dogmatic interpretation of religion; the ritual prayer ( salat ) is not performed in the conventional form of the Shiites or Sunnis. Outside of the Alevi worship service ( Cem ) there are no fixed times of prayer. They have their own forms of prayer and devotion, their own pilgrimage sites and fasting practices that hardly overlap with those of other Muslims. Like the Shiites, the Alevis adhere to the teachings of the imams , especially those of the sixth imam Jafar as-Sādiq .

At the center of the Alevi faith is the human being as a self responsible being. The relationship to other people is important to them. In contrast, the question of death and the concept of the hereafter is considered secondary. In Alevi doctrine, the soul of every person is immortal; through enlightenment she strives for perfection with God .

These liberal views, especially the rejection of Sharia law, distinguish Alevis from Sunnis. This is why many Sunnis, especially most Islamic scholars, have reservations about Alevis and usually do not consider them to be members of the Islamic community, the " umma ".

Alevism also contains relevant elements from Zoroastrianism . “Right action, right thinking, right speaking” - these are words from Zoroastrianism, but they are also mentioned in the Koran. The four sacred elements of the Alevis (fire, water, earth, air) also come from the teaching of Zoroastrianism, but these elements are also present in the non-Zoroastrian peoples of Central Asia (cf. four-element teaching ).

Kurdish and Zazaean Alevis have many things in common, as well as different religious rituals and ways of life. The Hızır belief (see below) is much more pronounced among Kurdish Alevis, especially in the Tunceli region . In addition, Kurdish and Zaza Alevis practice the Gağan (Kaland) festival, a kind of Knecht-Ruprecht / Nikolausfest , as it is also passed down in another form in Christianity , but with the same basic motifs.

The main sources of Alevism are not only the "Great Buyruk" by Imam Jafar ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq , as is often assumed, but also countless religious poems and songs ( Deyiş , Beyt, Duaz-i Imam). Because of their persecution and oppression, Alevis were forced to pass on their beliefs orally through songs and poems. The symbiosis of various religious and mystical currents makes it understandable that the Alevis see their origin in Islam, but do not want to be included in the universally recognized Islamic groups.


The Kartal Cemevi in Istanbul

Alevis usually do not pray in a mosque , but (not mandatory) meet for acts of worship called Cem , in a CEMEVI (meeting house) to the recitation of poems and ritual dance ( Semah ) . This is carried out by women and men at the same time and with equal rights and by the Dede ("grandfather") - to be seen on the same level as an imam, always a direct descendant of the Ehlibeyt , the family or the tribe of Mohammed, who must and must know the Koran exactly the possession of special powers (keramet) is ascribed - or supervised by the Ana ("mother"). Dedes and Anas are people who descend from Imam Ali's lineage and are very familiar with the Alevi rituals and traditions . They have a high level of knowledge, which characterizes their intellectual and human competence. They are held in high regard among the Alevis. However, if there is no Dede available to lead a Cem, any other Alevis who is familiar with the rituals may lead such a service.

While the Cem used to take place irregularly (before the increasing emigration of large parts of the Alevi population of Eastern Anatolia to western Turkey) - in village Alevi communities whenever a Dede came to the village - this Alevi ritual was experienced in the course of the increasing urbanization of Alevism which has been accelerating for several decades, a certain redesign:

The Cem is now held at regular intervals, often weekly. Places for religious-mystical acts of faith are: meeting houses, which are made available by Alevi associations and cultural associations; Heterogeneous ritual elements brought from the villages are standardized. In this way, the CEM has become a prominent means of consciously redefining Alevi identity in Turkey in recent years, which has been constant since the military coup of 1980 , in the period that followed a certain resurgence of Sunni political-religious forces Process of rediscovery and relocation of a cultural, religious and historical nature.

The Semah is an important ritual dance and is one of the twelve duties in the Cem event. Its purpose is to become one with God and nature. Its execution resembles a round dance. Rather, the Semah is a prayer ritual that should only be performed in the Cem ceremony. The Semah is practiced simultaneously by women and men of different ages (excluding children under fourteen). The Semah members move in a circular figure. They also rotate around their own axis. The palm of the right hand is facing up and the palm of the left is facing the floor. There is no physical contact, such as holding hands, between the participants. The figure shown here, i.e. turning in a "circular path" and turning around its own axis, not only symbolizes the universe (Evren) with the planets of the solar system and the galaxy , like the planets in an orbit around the sun and around circle their own axis, but the circle dance also symbolizes the eternal cycles of life and nature. This sacred dance has served as a spiritual approach to Allah since the 12th century, perhaps even earlier . Therefore, according to the Alevi view, it should not be presented in public.

The Alevis do not provide for women to be veiled. Some Alevis take part in both the Cem prayer and the prayer in the mosque and perform the same ritual prayer as the Sunnis (Arabic: Salāt , Turkish-Persian: Namaz ).

Hızır and İlyas

Alevis believe that the brothers Hızır and İlyas lived as prophets and drank the so-called "water of immortality". According to this belief, the brothers, like the Dioscuri couple of ancient times, Castor and Pollux , come to the aid of those in need. Hızır comes to help those in need on land and İlyas to help those at sea. Let them be ready for and save those who are in need and who seek help “from the bottom of their hearts”. They bring happiness and property to people. According to one story, Hızır was called to help for the first time by followers of Noah and is said to have protected his ship, which was fully loaded with people and animals, against a storm. After the ship withstood a storm for three days, the rescued fasted for three days to show their gratitude to Hızır.

In Anatolia , Hızır was passed down orally from generation to generation as a charismatic, wise man riding a white horse. He is called to help; “Hurry up, dear Hızır!” (“Yetiş ya Hızır!”) He is popularly called “Hızır with white horse ” and numerous stories are told about him.

The festival of Hızır is celebrated among the Alevis in the second week of February every year. Fasting takes place from Tuesday after the Lord's Supper until the evening after three days. Many neighbors and acquaintances come together and tell stories about Hızır. Accompanied by the Saz string instrument , songs with a meditative content are performed, which should be profound, positive and calming. Finally, on Friday evening, the deceased are visited in the cemeteries and candles are lit; the children are told numerous stories about Hızır at home.

On the last day of fasting, inside and outside the apartment is cleaned, which is equivalent to a ritual cleansing. In the evening, a special meal (gavul) is prepared from wheat flour, which is openly laid out all night. Every family member then wishes for something special. It is believed that if Hızır comes along and tries some of the food, these wishes will come true. The next day the food is distributed to neighbors and travelers in and in front of holy, symbolic memorials. Everyone tries to try foods from all families in order to increase the likelihood of catching the food that Hızır might have tried.

Hızır as a term occupies an important place in the everyday life of Alevis. Many Alevis make their vows in the name of Hızır and ask or implore something in his name. “Thank Hızır”, “Hızır may come”, “Hızır on the white horse may help all people and he may guard everyone”, “May it be from Hızır” and the like. a. are some well-known expressions. In some areas, children, mountains, lakes and paths are given the names Hızır and Xizir. There is even a religious dance called "Hızır semahı".


The Alevi doctrine is based on the freedom of decision and belief of the human being. Nobody has an obligation to do or believe anything.

The basic pillars of the Alevi prescriptions are united in this one sentence eline beline diline sahip ol . It states the following:

  • eline sahip ol: Control your hands . It stands for the negative potential of what hands are capable of, so: Do ​​not commit theft, do not destroy and use your hands for something meaningful.
  • beline sahip ol: Dominate your loins . The loin is a synonym for urges, especially of a sexual nature, so: do not use your sexuality to harm others.
  • diline sahip ol: Control your tongue . The tongue stands for communication and that it is often misused by untruths, but also by careless choice of words and can ultimately cause more suffering than a sword (e.g. perjury, defamation, character assassination).

The prohibitions of killing, theft, defamation and adultery apply to Alevis against all people. They want to promote humanity and the coexistence of all people. In addition, there are everyday rules of charity , helpfulness , humility and others.

Four gates, forty wickets

  • The first gate is the Sharia , Islamic legal term, understood as the acceptance of the laws and duties of the community in which one lives.
  • The second gate is the tariqa , the knowledge of the individual rights and claims that one has and makes. This is linked to the question "What do I want, what is mine?"
  • The third gate is the marifa , the knowledge of the neighbor. Linked to this is the question: "What does the fellow human being desire, what belongs to the fellow human being?"
  • Reaching the fourth gate, the Haqīqa , requires preoccupation with the rights and obligations of the community. From this gate onwards, the respective individual has the right and the possibility to help shape the duties and rights of the community from "Gate 1".


Music has an extremely important function in Alevism. A Cem ceremony without music is unimaginable and indispensable for the exercise of religious duties. B. the semah dance. For many Alevis, the music played on the baglama is a divine revelation. Without this instrument, Alevism might have taken a fundamentally different development.

Music should create a trance-like atmosphere through which the individual should be able to gain a spiritual insight, a knowledge. Not only the Dedes (Alevi clergy) inspire their community with songs they perform , but also the Aşık (as a musical specialist in Dhikr he is called Zâkir , as a folk musician Ozan ). Aşık means “the unconditional lover” and is a term that expresses the musician's relationship with God.

With their sounds and sometimes religious text content about Ali, Shah Ismail, Pir Sultan Abdal, etc., they express their longing for a better world, share with others the suffering they had to or have to suffer from the state power, and can embrace the Alevi faith orally pass on to the next generation.

Many of their songs seem to reflect the concerns of the Alevis. Older Alevis like to listen to the sad songs in a sociable group and cry together. This collective mourning is a typical Alevi coping with their situation and unites people and should lead to the experience of transcendence.

Today's Aşık (Arabic: aschiq , "the lover") no longer sings and plays with his bağlama in the village square as he used to, but can be found in music cafes. Alevi music should help to hold the community together as a whole, to convey a feeling of togetherness and to help the individual to form an identity.


The Zülfikar , sword of Ali ibn Abi Talib , is the Alevis' identification symbol.

Similar to Shiite religious communities, many Alevis wear chains with a curved sword ( Zülfikar ) as a pendant. With this they show their appreciation and reverence for Ali ibn Abi Talib, who is said to have a curved sword with a double point. These followers are more of a new phenomenon in Alevism. Older Alevis usually do not know this from their youth. As a member of an oppressed community, it was not common and even dangerous to reveal oneself openly.

Every year from August 16 to 18 there is a festival in honor of Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli . Important representatives from politics and culture like to present themselves as advocates of the Alevi culture. Numerous pilgrims come from all over Turkey, celebrate and make sacrifices together with their fellow believers. At that time, the small town of Hacıbektaş became a place of pilgrimage with more than 100,000 visitors.

The seven great poets

The Seven Great Poets (Yedi Ulu Ozan ) with their wisdom, poetry and writings play an important role among the Turkish Alevis and are also highly regarded in the Balkans, Azerbaijan and Iran. The seals ( Deyiş ) quoted during a Cem ceremony are mostly from these Seven Great Poets. They include:

The Turkish poet Pir Sultan Abdal
  • Nasīmī (around 1369-1417 / 18) - confirmed
  • Pir Sultan Abdal (around 1480–1550) - confirmed
  • Ismail I (1501-1524) - confirmed
  • Virani (16th / 17th century, more likely 10th / 11th century) - confirmed
  • Fuzūlī (around 1480–1556)
  • Kul Himmet (16th century)
  • Yemini (16th century?)
  • Kaygusuz Abdal (13th century) - whether Kaygusuz Abdal is included is controversial, possibly his non-Turkmen origin (as so called by many) plays a role, whether he is Turkmen is not reported

Currents in Alevism

There are two trends on the question of modernism:

  • The (larger) group of "modern Alevis" is aware that Alevism cannot be practiced in Turkish villages as it was several decades ago. Instead of isolation, these Alevis advocate opening up to society, for example by demanding that the Alevi faith be legally recognized and that they are allowed to give their own religious instruction. According to this view, Alevism is one religion among many in a multi-religious society, and it is therefore also natural that people can join Alevism.
  • The other group wants to preserve the original Alevism and rejects any "modernization". This group is supported by Islamic interest groups.

There are currently five trends in Alevism on the question of belonging to Islam:

  1. One group sees Alevism as a completely separate religion that was only influenced by Islam, similar to the way Christianity was influenced by Judaism, without being a current of the same. This view is particularly pronounced, for example, in the Işıkçılık movement .
  2. A group that sees Alevism as an independent variant of Islam emphasizes belonging to Islam, but the opposition to Sunniism. This trend is more widespread in the associations and clubs represented in the Federation of Alevite Unions in Europe .
  3. A group of Alevis see themselves primarily as Muslims and Alevism as part of or close to Sunniism. They are therefore also trying to get closer to Sunni Islam by z. B. in addition to the Cem service also perform Sunni prayer in a mosque. This group is in good contact with Turkish nationalism and is represented, for example, by the Cem Foundation (Cem Vakfı) by İzzettin Doğan .
  4. A group that refers to a pre-Islamic root of Alevism as a religion of the Kurds, with a proximity to Zoroastrianism and folk religiosity oriented towards natural shrines. This group is close to Kurdish independence movements and is widespread among Dersim Alevis.
  5. Another, relatively small group sees Alevism close to Twelve Shiite orthodoxy. It is supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

This reflects the ethnic, political-nationalistic and religious conflicts of the Near and Middle East, especially in Alevism. Alevis are represented in Turkey as in the European diaspora, but political and religious orientations are different.

Holidays and memorial days

  • Hızır fast: three days of fasting in memory of Hızır and İlyas (patron saints on land and at sea)
  • Birthday of Saint Ali (March 21): Festival service in honor of Ali
  • Hıdırellez (on the night of May 5th to 6th): On this night, prayers are made for the recovery and health of the sick
  • Memorial ceremony for Abdal Musa (June 6th and 7th): students of Hacı Bektaş Veli
  • Commemoration for Hünkar Hacı Bektaş Veli (August 16-18): direct descendant of the family of prophets
  • Death of Saint Hüseyin (October 10th): Commemoration of the martyrdom of Hüseyin and remembrance of the fight against the oppression of the weak and injustice
  • Ghadīr Chumm : Proclamation of Ali as the successor of Muhammad
  • Feast of the Sacrifice : Commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail
  • Muharrem : commemoration of the martyrdom of Karbala ; 12-day mourning and fasting period
  • Aşure : Distributed as a symbol of gratitude for the survival of Imam Zeynel Abidin; Completion of the Muharrem fast

Alevis in Turkey

Adored by Turkish Alevis: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

The largest Alevi community exists in Turkey . With around 12.5 million followers, its members make up an estimated 15% of the population, compared with 30% in the first half of the 20th century. The official state statistics show 99.8% Muslims. The Alevis live in all provinces of Turkey; traditionally these are mainly the provinces Çorum , Adana , Amasya , Tokat , Hatay , Sivas , Erzincan , Erzurum , Tunceli , Malatya and Kahramanmaraş . Due to internal migration , the majority of them currently live in large cities such as Istanbul , Gaziantep , Ankara , Izmir and Bursa . For Turkish Alevis, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk , who proclaimed and organized Turkey as a secular republic, is a hero. In addition, Ataturk is also referred to as Mahdi , who liberated the Alevis from the Sunni -influenced Ottoman Empire .


Due to their oppression in the Ottoman Empire, most of the Alevis became supporters of Kemal Ataturk at the beginning of the 20th century , as a secular state without a caliphate gave the Alevis more freedom than before. Due to the new laws of the state, all Alevi orders and sects were closed. The Haci-Bektas-Veli- Tekke in Nevşehir was converted into a museum. In 1937/38, more than 10,000 Kurdish Alevis fell victim to the Turkish army in the Dersim massacre .

Despite the legal improvement, there have been pogroms against Alevis in Turkey's recent history , for example in 1978 in the cities of Çorum and Kahramanmaraş . In 1993 an arson attack was carried out on a hotel at an Alevi cultural festival in Sivas , in which 37 people - mostly Alevi artists and singers - were killed. The participants had withdrawn there after opponents attacked the festival and massively threatened the participants. The target of the attacks was the writer Aziz Nesin , who had previously translated Salman Rushdie's book " Satanic Verses " into Turkish and criticized the increasing Islamization and general conditions in Turkey. The toleration of this aggressive massacre and the very hesitant rescue operations raised the suspicion that local and state organs had sided with the majority population. Religious extremists rated Aziz Nesin's invitation as a guest of honor to an Alevi festival as a “political and conscious provocation” and a “sign of rejection by the Sunni majority society”.

None of the constitutions of Turkey that have been in force since 1924 have any differences in personal legal status that are derived from religious beliefs. Insofar as certain differences are made in practice, particularly in military service, this does not apply to persons who are considered Muslims. The latter also applies to the Alevis. However, Alevis have been increasingly discriminated against in recent years and have come under pressure from the Sunni majority society, especially since the turn of the millennium. Attacks on Alevis are increasing. The European Court of Human Rights has shown that the Turkish state has discriminated against Alevis.

Political framework

The Turkish state subsumes the Alevis under the Islamic faiths. Even today the Alevis still regard a secular form of government as the basis and guarantee of their existence. However, many Alevis and Alevi communities have been assimilated by the state authority for (Sunni) religious affairs, called Diyanet , since the Republic of Turkey was re-Islamized in the 1970s .

The European Commission has repeatedly criticized the increasing discrimination against Alevis in Turkey in the context of Turkey's accession negotiations with the European Union , including in the “Recommendation on Turkey's Progress on the Road to Accession” of October 2004. Turkey's accession to the EU without recognition of the Alevis as a denominational minority is therefore unthinkable due to the religious freedom that is binding on all EU states .


Although the traditional Alevi festivals can now be celebrated openly in Turkey, officially not as religious, but only as folklore events. This is due to the very special form of separation of state and religion in Kemalist Turkey and also causes problems for some Sunni communities in their practice of religion.

Sunni mosques were even built in the predominantly Alevi villages . However, it should also be mentioned that the Alevi community, which is estimated to make up between 10% and 20% of the population of Turkey, unlike the Kurdish minority, has no party that could defend the rights of the Alevis (cf. Birlik Partisi , Barış Partisi and Bağımsız Türkiye Partisi ).

One of the main demands of the Alevis is the recognition of the Cem sites as places of religious practice and thus equality with the mosques. Mosques have the privilege, among other things, that the bills for electricity and water are paid by the authorities, while Cem sites have to be operated privately. In addition, prayer leaders in the mosque receive an official wage, while the Alevi prayer leaders do not. In a move, the mayor's office of the Kuşadası district of Aydın province in September 2008 and the mayor's office of the city of Tunceli in October 2008 recognized the Cem sites as equal places of worship.

Alevis in Germany

Cem house in Berlin

A total of around 500,000 Alevis live in Germany , 95% of whom come from Turkey. With a share of 13%, the Alevis make up the second largest group of Muslims living in Germany after the Sunnis .

A larger percentage of immigrants of Turkish origin in Germany are Alevi than in the population of Turkey. One reason for this is that Turkish immigration to Germany largely came from regions that were heavily inhabited by Alevis. On the other hand, before the military coup in 1980, Turkish Alevism was predominantly on the side of the opposition, which is why many Alevis sought and received asylum in Germany in the 1980s.

Many Alevis like to live in Germany because of the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Basic Law . In contrast to Sunni or Shiite Islam, the Islamic legal system Sharia does not play a direct role in Alevism.


Compared to Alevis worldwide and Muslims, the Alevis in Germany are organized to a very high degree, for example in associations and communities. The first founded and registered association in Germany was Ahlen Hacı Bektaş Alevî Kültür Birligi e. V. , who moved from Ahlen to Hamm in Westphalia in 1987 and is now called Hamm "Alevitischer Kulturverein" (Turkish: Hamm Alevî Kültür Birliği - HAKBIR ). The second Alevi cultural association was founded in 1987. Then others were added, such as B. Mainz - Wiesbaden - Rüsselsheim Alevi-Bektasi-Kultur e. V. (1988) based in Gustavsburg .

The largest Alevi umbrella organization is the Alevi Congregation Germany (AABF), headquartered in Cologne , to which 125 local associations nationwide belong. It has parishes in Augsburg , Cologne, Stuttgart , Mainz, Duisburg and other cities.

According to Ali Ertan Toprak , the former General Secretary and, from 2010, the second chairman of the Alevi Congregation Germany, more than 60 percent of the registered members are now German citizens. In Toprak's view, it is “unworthy of a candidate country” of the European Union that the Alevis are not recognized as a religious community in Turkey.

The Association of Alevi Youth in Germany is responsible for youth .

School lessons

In the 2006/2007 school year, Baden-Württemberg introduced Alevi religious instruction; In April 2013, 33 schools were already offering the subject. Often, students from different grades and from several schools in a region are taught together. In North Rhine-Westphalia , Alevi religious instruction began in four primary schools in the cities of Cologne , Wuppertal and Bergkamen in the 2008/09 school year . The first lesson was also given in Duisburg after the autumn break in 2008, and it has also been in Lower Saxony since the 2011/2012 school year . The Alevi Congregation Germany is very keen to be able to hold Alevi religious instruction in German in other federal states.

Other cities are also planning to introduce Alevi religious education. The Berlin Senate recognized z. B. the Anatolian Alevis Cultural Center in 2002 as a religious community ; It can therefore now give Alevi religious instruction in Berlin's primary schools.

In addition, teachers have been training at the Weingarten University of Education since the 2014 summer semester .

Controversy over prejudice

On December 23, 2007, the TV station “ Das Erste ” (ARD) ran the Tatort episode “ Whom Ehre befits ”, which dealt with an incest in an Alevi family living in Germany. The television film sparked protests from the Alevi community in Germany, because with this depiction of an incestuous relationship within an Alevi family, German television was now also spreading a denigration that has been common in Turkey for centuries, which Alevis had suffered from fundamentalist Sunnis. The ethnologist Martin Sökefeld compared the crime scene - to illustrate the clichéd content - with a film in which a stingy Jewish merchant was the child murderer.

Alevis in Austria

In Austria the percentage of Alevi in ​​the Turkish population is higher than the percentage in Turkey for the reasons mentioned above. The number is about 60,000, of which about 12,000 are represented in two organizations. Before their state registration or recognition, the Alevis were considered members of Islam, and Alevi children had to attend Sunni-Islamic religious instruction or withdraw from religious instruction altogether. After several unsuccessful attempts to integrate the Alevi community into the Islamic faith community, it was agreed to found an independent Alevi faith community. Both Alevis and Sunnis expected this to provide relief and reduce tensions among themselves. For the Sunnis, the differences in religious practice and beliefs were too great. At the same time, some Alevis found it incorrect to be called “Muslim”. According to them, only a separate name, identity and religious community would do justice to cultural and religious diversity.

In a letter dated March 19, 2009, the Cultural Association of Alevis in Vienna applied for registration as a religious denomination under the name of Islamic Alevi Faith Community in Austria  (IAGÖ). This name was important to them to show that there is not just one direction in Islam. The application was initially rejected by the Ministry of Education, because, based on the Islamic Law of 1912 , there was already a representation of all Muslims in Austria with the Islamic Faith Community and no second community with the designation "Islamic" was permitted. On December 1, 2010, this was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court , and therefore the community has been registered as a religious denominational community since December 16, 2010. About 7,000 people belonged to the IAGÖ. The IAGÖ / Cultural Association of the Viennese Alevis broke away from the Austrian umbrella association of Alevis at the time of state registration and has since seen itself as the legitimate representative of all around 60,000 Austrian Alevis. The Islamic Alevi Faith Community was legally recognized as a religious society in Austria by ordinance of May 22, 2013 .

The legal recognition of Alevism as a religious community, which relates in particular to public religious practice and religious instruction, is unique worldwide, but the internal divisions are also evident in Austrian Alevism, especially with regard to the assignment to Islam as a religion. The umbrella organization Federation of Alevi  Congregations in Austria (AABF), whose members do not all see themselves as part of Islam, but rather as an independent religious community, applied for registration as a denominational community under the name Alevi Religious Community in Austria on April 9, 2009 . The teachings presented were word for word with those of the IAGÖ except for a paragraph on the relationship to Islam. Because of this, and because it was brought in later, the application by the AABF, which now represents around 5,000 people, was initially rejected. In Vienna, the establishment of an independent municipality was under way, and consideration was given to filing a complaint against the rejection at the Constitutional Court. The Alevi Cultural Center Austria (AKÖ), an association of Kurdish-Alevi migrants, submitted a third application, which was rejected due to formal errors. In August 2013 there was still a state registration of a denominational community under the name Alt-Alevi Faith Community in Austria  (AAGÖ). This status can be converted into full legal recognition after ten years at most. In this community, Kurdish-nationalist-oriented Alevism is particularly at home.

On June 21, 2017, the first Matura examination in the subject “Alevi Religious Studies” was passed in Vorarlberg .

See also


  • Markus Dressler: The Alevi religion - lines of tradition and new definitions. Ergon, Würzburg 1999, 2002, ISBN 3-89913-229-7 .
  • İsmail Engin, Erhard Franz (Ed.): Aleviler. Siyaset ve örgütler. Politics and Organizations. Messages. Vol. 61, Deutsches Orient-Institut, Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-89173-062-4 ISSN  0177-4158 (Turkish, German).
  • Andreas Gorzewski: Alevism in its divergent relationship determinations to Islam ( Bonner Islamstudien 17). EB-Verlag, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86893-009-2 (331 pages).
  • Burak Gümüş: Turkish Alevis from the Ottoman Empire to today's Turkey. Hartung-Gorre, Konstanz 2001, ISBN 3-89649-752-9 .
  • Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi : The Kızılbaş / Alevis. Research on an esoteric religious community in Anatolia. Klaus Schwarz, Berlin 1988, ISBN 978-3-922968-70-2 , online
  • Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi: From the revolutionary class struggle to "true" Islam. Transformation processes in the Alevism of Turkey after 1980. Das Arabisches Buch, Berlin 1992
  • Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi: The Tahtacı. Preliminary report on an ethno-religious group of traditional woodworkers in Anatolia. Das Arabisches Buch, Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-923446-30-6 .
  • Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi, Barbara Kellner-Heinkele and Anke Otter-Beaujean (eds.): Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East. Collected papers of the International Symposium "Alevism in Turkey and Comparable Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East in the Past and Present" Berlin, April 14-17, 1995. Brill, Leiden [etc.] 1997, ISBN 90-04-10861-0
  • Dimitri Kitsikis : Multiculturalism in the Ottoman Empire. The Alevi Religious and Cultural Community. In: P. Savard, B. Vigezzi (Eds.): Multiculturalism and the History of International Relations. Edizioni Unicopli, Milano 1999, ISBN 88-400-0535-8 .
  • Aynur Şahin: The legal status of Alevi communities in Europe. Dissertation. Vienna 2007.
  • Martin Sökefeld (Ed.): Alevis in Germany: Identity Processes of a Religious Community in the Diaspora. transcript, Bielefeld 2008, ISBN 3-89942-822-6 .
  • Karin Vorhoff: Between Faith, Nation and New Community. Alevi Identity in Turkey Today. Schwarz, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-87997-214-1 .

Web links

Library / media
Commons : Alevism  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Concepts / relationships
Ritual / Holidays
Descent / Histories (Western and Eastern Jews)

Individual evidence

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