Internationales Bildungs- und Begegnungswerk in Dortmund

Europe-column 4: Against forgetting, and for more understanding

Europe-column 4: Against forgetting, and for more understanding

Dilan M. knows how to live a life in between: For the Kurdish Alevite, living in Germany is sometimes as much a challenge as is dealing with political developments in Turkey.

Dilan M. is 22 years old, hails from Lünen-Brambauer and lives in Dortmund for two years now, for her vocational training and university studies. Of 105 people finishing high school in the same year as her, only 4 have a Turkish background. In the end, three of them receive a degree enabling university studies. One man, two women. One of them is Dilan. She receives vocational training since last August; at the same time she is studying at university.

Dilan is a Kurdish Alevite. Alevites are the second-largest confessional group in Turkey, and in some points they differ from the Islamic mainstream. They do not pray in mosques and faith is more of a private matter. Dilan says: „There are Turkish and Kurdish Alevites. Some people say Alevites are not Muslims, as they do not follow the Quran.“

In Alevism, homosexuality is not frowned upon. And something else is different from many other Muslims: Men, women, and children always pray together. There is no separation of the sexes. Dilan explains: „Every person entering should be seen as a soul.“ For some Muslims Alevites are considered infidels. Using this reason among others, they have been persecuted for centuries – especially by Muslims seeing themselves as the guardians of Islam.

A victim of renaming

Dilan reports: „Prejudices against Alevites are still with us today. Sunnis often react in less than perfect ways.“ But there is also aversion to her as a Kurd: At school, boys insult her, calling her „Shitty Kurd“. From 8th form on, she starts to fight back. She tries arguing, and then decides to become active in the Alevitic youth organisation in her parish. „Sometimes youths don‘t know the background“ the 22-year-old says. „They do not know what being an Alevite means.“ Since then, she volunteers in the local youth group of her Alevitic parish. For animal rights, and against homophobia.

As a Kurd, in some points her relation to the Turkish state is complicated. Dilan tells the story of Dersim, the hometown of her parents in Eastern Anatolia. Here, in 1938, the Turkish military attacked the Kurdish population with 50.000 soldiers. Up to 70.000 people were shot, stabbed, bombarded, and deported. Dersim is nowadays called Tunceli. It has become a victim of the Turkish government practice of renaming. This is another reason for Dilan to be active – against forgetting, and for more understanding.

Smartphone inspections and entry ban

During her summer break, Dilan often travels to Turkey on vacation, in order to meet her family. Increasingly, the airport inspections become fraught with problems. „I feel uncomfortable there. Not like in Europe. In Europe people don‘t treat you differently. Everywhere there are similar laws. One can feel comfortable in every country.“ Some members of her family even are subject to an entry ban for Turkey.

One time, the officials pick out her cousin at a border control, confiscate her smartphone and hold her for 24 hours. She is in a panic and cries. As a Kurd, she is member of a group persecuted in Turkey, and her smartphone contains content critical of Erdogan. „She was not allowed to enter Turkey. The next day, they put her on a plane and sent her back home“, Dilan says.

Chantal Stauder