Seyfullah Akyiğit, a Turkish imam at the Tahir Büyükkörükçü Mosque in Konya, Turkey, is under official investigation for controversial remarks discriminating against members of the Alevi religious minority who lost their lives during February’s deadly earthquake. He stated that the bodies of Alevi victims in Hatay—a city celebrated for its religious diversity—emitted an unpleasant odour, while the body of a victim of the dominant religious sect exuded a “pleasant fragrance.” The divisive comments were part of a sermon broadcast on the mosque’s YouTube and Instagram accounts.
In a telephone conversation with a man who lost his spouse in the earthquake, Abdullah Gül Akyiğit audaciously defended his comments. As reported by journalist İsmail Saymaz, Akyiğit claimed his remarks were intended to “elevate spirituality.”
Gül retorted sharply, accusing the imam of making divisive and politically motivated statements. He said, “You’ve engaged in politics by differentiating between Syrians and Turks. Pray that you receive a promotion in this world, for you will be held accountable in the next.”
Abdullah Gül, who is no relation to the former Turkish President of the same name, has since lodged a formal complaint against Akyiğit, highlighting not only the emotional trauma inflicted upon the victims but also the logistical challenges they encountered, such as having to bury their loved ones without proper rites due to a lack of resources.
Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) has initiated an investigation into Akyiğit’s comments. While the Diyanet has not yet revealed further details about the scope or timeline of the investigation, the incident has already fuelled a broader debate surrounding the Diyanet, which is often viewed as an instrument of the Turkish government’s systematic policies of religious discrimination.