Austrian Alevi Leader Arrested in Türkiye

PeopleOther ♦ Published: February 13, 2024; 23:16 ♦ (Vindobona)

In a disturbing incident, Mehmet Ali Çankaya, the former president and current honorary president of the Federation of Alevi Communities in Austria, was detained at Istanbul airport during a private visit to Türkiye and subjected to hours of interrogation.

Mehmet Ali Çankaya, president of the Federation of Alevi Communities in Austria for many years, is refused permission to leave Turkey and return to Austria. / Picture: © APA/freialeviten

Çankaya, an Austrian citizen, is now facing a ban on leaving Türkiye due to allegations of terror propaganda against him. The exact circumstances or complaints that led to his arrest remain unclear, but it is suspected that one of his speeches or a press release may have been the trigger, as reported by the ORF.

The Free Alevi community in Austria reacted with deep dismay to the news of Çankaya's arrest. It emphasizes that Çankaya's social commitment, especially his relief efforts after last year's earthquake disaster in Adiyaman, Türkiye, where the Free-Alevi communities of Austria had built a container village for the victims, has now become his undoing. The accusations against him are rejected as groundless.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry and the Consulate General in Istanbul reacted immediately to the incident and are in contact with the Turkish authorities to clarify the situation. Çankaya himself is currently preparing an appeal against the travel ban.

The Free Alevi communities in Austria have made an urgent appeal to Austrian politicians and the public to take measures to ensure Çankaya's safe return to Austria. They criticize the arrest as part of prolonged oppression and discrimination against Alevis in Türkiye and call for the immediate lifting of the trial and the travel ban against Çankaya.

The situation once again highlights the precarious situation of Alevis in Türkiye and the challenges faced by members of this community, even if they live outside the country. The international community and the Austrian government in particular are now faced with the task of standing up for the rights and safety of their citizens.

Free Alevi religious community in Austria