Alevis and religious discrimination: Doğan v Turkey


Alevis are the largest minority religious group in Turkey, with an estimated size of between 10 and 20 million adherents. They draw on Shi’a and Sufi Islam and Anatolian folk traditions and have distinct rituals of their own. From the point of view of the Sunni Muslim majority, it is an open question as to whether Alevism is a distinct religion or merely a (heretical) branch of Islam. The religious status of the Alevis is well beyond the scope of this blog; however, the issue of official discrimination against them has been before the ECtHR on several occasions, most recently in Mansur Yalçın & Ors v Turkey [2014] ECHR 938 (about the content of the mandatory course on religious culture and ethics in schools) and Cumhuriyetçi Eğitim ve Kültür Merkezi Vakfi v Turkey [2014] ECHR 1346 (about discrimination against Alevi places of worship in the supply of free electricity). The position of Alevis has now come before the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR.

The facts

In İzzetin Doğan & Ors v Turkey [2016] ECHR 387 the applicants were 203 Turkish Alevis. In 2005, they petitioned the Prime Minister, complaining that the Religious Affairs Department (RAD) favoured a single school of Islamic thought while disregarding all other faiths, including Alevism. Continue reading