Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1
Religious Adherence, 2007 (other estimates)2
The country has an area of 301,383 square miles and a population of 70.5 million. According to the Government, 99 percent of the population is Muslim, the majority of which is Hanafi Sunni. According to the human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) Mazlum-Der and representatives of various religious minority communities, the actual percentage of Muslims is slightly lower. Following the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, the Government officially recognizes only three minority religious communities. These are Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Orthodox Christians, and Jews, although other non-Muslim communities exist. The level of religious observance varied throughout the country, in part due to the influence of secular traditions and official restrictions on religious expression in political and social life.
In addition to the Sunni Muslim majority, academics estimate that there are between 10 million and 20 million Alevis, followers of a belief system that incorporates aspects of both Shi'a and Sunni Islam and draws on the traditions of other religious groups indigenous to Anatolia as well. Some Alevis practice rituals that include men and women worshipping together through oratory, poetry, and dance. The Government considers Alevism a heterodox Muslim sect; some Alevis and Sunnis maintain that Alevis are not Muslims.
There are several other religious groups, mostly concentrated in Istanbul and other large cities. While exact membership figures are not available, these religious groups include approximately 65,000 Armenian Orthodox Christians, 23,000 Jews, and up to 4,000 Greek Orthodox Christians. The Government interpreted the 1923 Lausanne Treaty as granting special legal minority status exclusively to these three recognized groups, although the treaty text refers broadly to "non-Muslim minorities" without listing specific groups. This recognition does not extend to the religious leadership organs. For example, the Ecumenical (Greek Orthodox) and Armenian Patriarchates continued to seek legal recognition of their status as patriarchates rather than foundations, the absence of which prevents them from having the right to own and transfer property and train religious clergy. Additionally, because the Government requires all places of learning to be under the control of the Ministry of Education, the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Jews choose not to train their ministry in the country. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, through a 1945 bilateral agreement, is considered under the ecclesiastical authority of the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul (and Greece), but the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has its own foundation.
There also are approximately 500,000 Shiite Caferis; 10,000 Baha'is; 15,000 Syrian Orthodox (Syriac) Christians; 5,000 Yezidis; 3,300 Jehovah's Witnesses; 3,000 Protestants; and small, undetermined numbers of Bulgarian, Chaldean, Nestorian, Georgian, Roman Catholic, and Maronite Christians. Among these minority religious communities are a significant number of Iraqi refugees, including 3,000 Chaldean Christians. The number of Syriac Christians in the southeast was once higher; however, under pressure from government authorities and later under the impact of the war against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), many Syriacs migrated to Istanbul, Western Europe, or North and South America. Over the last several years, small numbers of Syriacs returned from overseas to the southeast, mostly from Western Europe. In most cases, older family members returned while younger ones remained abroad.
Note: The World Christian Database (WCD) estimates, used in the Religious Adherents section above, count each person as belonging to a maximum of one religious group. For more information, see the WCD methodology document. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom report estimates, used in the Religious Demography section, use less restrictive criteria in which a person who identifies with more than one religion is classified as a follower of each. In certain cases (such as Japan and other nations with strong folk religion traditions), this can cause counts to vary widely between estimates. Users are advised to consult the relevant source documents before determining which counts to cite.
1. The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the 2600-page award-winning World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. This extensive work on World religion is now completely updated and integrated into the WCD online database. Designed for both the casual user and research scholar, information is readily available on religious activities, growth rates, religious literature, worker activity, and demographic statistics. Additional secular data is incorporated on population, health, education, and communications. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.
2. Estimates based on the third wave of the World Values Survey (2005-2008) supplemented by the 2009 Pew report entitled "Mapping the Global Muslim Population," which was used to estimate the percentage of Pakistani Muslims who were Shi'a.
The World Values Survey compiles nationally representative public opinion data of adults (18 or older) from a variety of countries. The general methodology is a stratified random sample with each country containing a minimum of 1000 cases. Estimates represent the proportion of respondents to the third wave of the World Values Survey (2005-2008) who reported the specific religious tradition in the country of consideration.
The Pew report bases its estimates of the proportion of the Muslim population that is Shi'a on 1) "Analyses by more than 20 demographers and social scientists at universities and research centers around the world who are acting as consultants on this project"; 2) "Ethnographic analyses published in the World Religion Database (WRD)"; and 3) "review of other published or frequently used estimates."
3. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.