Evrensel: Gender and LGBTIs in Alevism*

Source: Ali Kenanoğlu, “Alevilikte Cinisyet ve LGBTI’ler,” Evrensel, 21 July, 2017

In prevalent faiths or religions with holy books, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the attitude towards individuals with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) sexual identity is very rigid.

Every year the biggest threats against the LGBTIs who want to organize a Pride March come from the “nationalist Muslims.” As a matter of fact, in Turkey, nationalism, i.e. Turkism, and Islam are not thought of as separate things. Nationalism in Turkey receives acceptance as long as it is united with Sunni Islam. So much so that Turkmen Alevis were not accepted as Turks before the 1980s, and Christian Gagauz Turks were deported in the early years of the republic.

Despite some different approaches to LGBTIs by certain Muslims, such as the Anticapitalist Muslims going against Semawi religions’ approach, the general perception and definition is “pervert, perverted.” Considering these definitions, every mistreatment and attack against LGBTIs and even massacres are seen acceptable and in fact considered as “they deserve it.”

It’s not possible for LGBTI members of the Semawi community to worship without hiding their identity. Because, based on past experience, we all know that they have no safety in the mosque they’ll enter.

In Alevism, however, there is no gender discrimination. In the Alevi mass worship ritual, cem [pronounced as jam — Trans.], everyone is referred to as “Can [or jaan, meaning “life” or “the essence which gives one life” but also used as a name with the extended meaning “dear” –Trans.], Cem Saints” which are gender-free descriptions. There is no gender discrimination in Alevism, however, individuals who fail to comprehend Alevism, make gender discrimination and LGBTI discrimination as they do in other faiths.

Despite many examples, there are still those who couldn’t grasp, understand, comprehend Alevism, those even arguing that women cannot take a “post” [a seat reserved for a high ranking leader in Alevi hierarchy –Trans.] and lead the cem.

A couple of days ago, Alevis Union Federation in Germany made one of the most important statements of recent years and presented Alevis’ approach to jaans with LGBTI sexual identity which was not declared to public until now probably because there was no occasion.

The statement with the title “the ka’bah of our belief is human, its pilgrim is jaan” included the following sentences; “Our association, not only disregards all the common prejudices against LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex) individuals but also does not consider the unwarranted statements based on these prejudices worth discussing. We refuse all the approaches, advocated by conservative fractions starting with the AKP, which make representation of homosexuals in public space difficult. As an association, we do not only fight against the marginalization of the Alevi community. Our belief that brings forth the concept of “Jaan,” instead of the concept of congregation that exists in panislamist societies, rejects every kind of discrimination. The Alevi community whose ka’bah is human, sees everything as a reflection of Haq [Allah, the fair and noble one — Trans.]. Our teaching does not discriminate based on language, religion, nationality, color, gender. Humanity is the most sacred value.

We defend a social order that delivers all the rights extorted from all individuals starting from women, far from male-dominant understanding and rest on the ideal of equality amongst genders.

In addition, we demand the impunity and guarantee of private lives, and an end to social grudge and hatred. At this point, our ground is respecting human rights including all the members of society.”

The approach in Alevism towards gender identities is best summed up by the Sovereign Haji Bektash Veli’s following words:
“In the language of friendly conversation, one does not ask about male-female,
Everything Haq created is in its proper place,
In our view there is no female-male difference,
Flaw and lack is in your view.”

With love…

*Alevism is a mystical branch of Islam whose adherents follow the teachings of Caliph Ali.

The Press Statement by Sehitlik Mosque in Berlin

Source: “Basın Açıklaması” (“Press Statement”), Sehitlik Mosque, November 2014,

Similar to our other Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) mosques, we at the DITIB-Sehitlik Mosque have been providing Mosque Guidance services since 2004 without interruption and will continue to do so. As per our religious beliefs, we open our doors and create an environment of introduction and enlightenment to everyone who comes to visit our Mosque to learn about our Islam Religion and Culture, regardless of their religion, language, race, and color. We provide appointments to groups with 7 or more participants. In this way, we host on average about 30 thousand visitors per year.

Leadership Berlin foundation, which organizes courses on politics, economics, and so on, requested from us a visitation reservation for 24 November 2014. We had previously partnered and collaborated with the above-mentioned institution to fight against anti-Islamism. We responded positively to their appointment request because we knew them and there was no additional invitation that was send out by the DITIB Sehitlik Mosque.

However, it was not our goal to legitimize any concept that is sinful according to our religion, nor to provide a platform to any of their sub-organizations or their partners when we confirmed the visitation request by Leadership Berlin. It has disturbed the DITIB Sehitlik Mosque and its community greatly that the media projected the issue as if it were a result sourced in us or an invitation sent out by us.

We have decided to rescind our confirmation for the 24 November 2014 appointment in order to avoid playing into the hands of such abuse. Furthermore, we believe that it will indubitably contribute to our collective living that we do not provide this [guidance] service at this date in order to prevent any possible provocations against this innocent enlightenment and guidance service as a result of conflated and intricate news reporting abuse.

We hereby inform the public that the doors of our Mosque continue to be open to any and all visitors who wish to get acquainted with our religion and culture.

On behalf of the Board of Directors,

[click for the Sehitlik Mosque Press Statement in PDF format]

Announcement from the Religious Affairs

The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs was said to make a scandalous decision and open up the mosques in Germany to perverted homosexuals[1]. However the subsequent announcement revealed that these claims were bogus. 

Source: “Diyanet’ten açıklama: Onları biz davet etmedik” (“Announcement from the Religious Affairs”). Yeni Akit, 14 November 2014,

Ender Çetin, the chair of the Sehitlik [Martyrdom] Mosque Foundation, which is affiliated with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB)[2], stated in relation to claims of “They invited homosexuals to the mosque,” that they did not invite the homosexual group to the mosque. 

In his statement, Çetin specified that the Leadership Foundation, which organizes various events, had a request to visit the mosque along with a homosexual group on 24 November. Çetin noted that the mosque foundation holds publicity and guidance events for the mosque that are held for everyone. 

Çetin, who stated that, similar to other mosques, Sehitlik Mosque too is open to everyone regardless of their religion, race, color, language, and perspective, said “They communicated that they wanted to visit the mosque. However we did not send them a separate invitation to them. Because our doors are open to everyone, we show the mosque around to everyone.” 

It was not an invitation by the mosque

Çetin, who said “there was no special invitation,” conveyed their discomfort at the publicization of this event as if this were “an invitation by the mosque.” 

Çetin, who stated that questions about homophobia could be answered during the Q&A session following the mosque tour, explained that the tour program includes the history of the mosque, its architectural structure, the basic rules of the religion, and especially instructions on how to perform the salaat. Çetin emphasized however that it is out of question to have them give a speech. 

It has been stated that Leadership Foundation and The Foundation of Immigrant Lesbian and Homosexuals was going to visit the mosque during the Meet2respect project and that this event was being organized with collaboration from the Sehitlik Mosque Foundation. 

[1] LGBTI News Turkey translates texts without correcting hate speech in order to better reflect the source text. 


Trans woman sex worker missing since September 2014

Twenty-six-year-old trans woman Damla Araz, who was working as a sex worker out of necessity in the Şişli district of Istanbul, has been missing for one month [since September 2014]. Araz’s friends insist on the possibility that the trans woman was kidnapped by members of an Islamic cemaat [congregation, community].

Source: Michelle Demishevich, “Seks işçisi trans kadın, bir aydır kayıp” (“Trans woman sex worker missing for one month”) T24, 5 October 2014,,272928

Was the trans woman murdered?

Along with two trans friends of hers, Damla Araz, who lived on Halaskargazi Avenue, survived by working as a sex worker at nights, again on the same avenue. One of her housemates, Roza Yılmaz, said that they had not been able to get news of Damla Araz for a long time and went to the Şişli Police Station and asked for help. But when the police officers on duty at the Şişli Police Station explained that only close relatives of the first degree were to come and file a missing person report, Roza Yılmaz and her friends began a search on their own resources. Roza Yılmaz said, “We are worried that Damla has been killed. We asked the police for assistance, but they have not done much. Damla was a beloved person in her circle.”

Halaskargazi Avenue, Istanbul (Source: Openstreetmaps)

Halaskargazi Avenue, Istanbul(Source: Openstreetmaps) 

Rozerin Seda Kip, a lawyer from the Istanbul Bar Association, responded to the failure of the Şişli Police Center to take Damla Araz’s friends’ request seriously, saying: “Missing person reports are expected to be filed first by members of the family. The police were obligated to evaluate Damla Araz’s personal information together with the report submitted by her friends. Because here the issue is a trans woman, and the possibility of a hate crime is a high-priority matter. In the laws there is no such provision; this is entirely an arbitrary approach taken by the police.”

The last person to see Damla Araz was her hair dresser, Güneş Nişantaşı. Nişantaşı said the following concerning the disappearance of Damla Araz:

“On the day she last came, she was cheerful and smiling, as usual. Moreover, she mentioned having a happy relationship with her boyfriend. She went in front of the mirror and said, ‘I am a very beautiful woman,’ and applied her lipstick and left. I am afraid; I hope she was not the victim of a hate crime.”