Seyran Ateş

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Seyran Ateş
Seyran Ateş (cropped).jpg
OccupationLawyer and Feminist
Known forFounder of Ibn Ruschd-Goethe mosque

Seyran Ateş (born 20 April 1963) is a German lawyer and a so called Muslim feminist. She founded the Ibn Ruschd-Goethe mosque in 2017, as Germany's first liberal place of worship for Muslims. Ateş is best known for violating Islamic scripture by opening a "liberal mosque"[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Ateş was born in Istanbul, Turkey, of a Turkish mother and a Kurdish father.[3] Her family moved to West Berlin when she was six years old, during the period of the 1961-1973 West-German recruitment agreement with Turkey (see: Anwerbeabkommen zwischen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der Türkei ). During these 12 years 867,000 Turkish citizens came to West-Germany, of whom 367,000 remained in the country (see: Turks in Germany). As she matured Ateş felt increasingly at odds with the rigid expectations within her family. At the age of 17 she left home to avoid an arranged marriage. Ateş excelled at school, and went on to study law at the Free University of Berlin.


While working at a women's centre in 1984, she was shot in the neck by a Turkish nationalist ("his exact motives unclear" even a generation later, according to the New York Times). The client she was counseling was killed by the attacker, and Ateş, during her long recuperation, decided to devote herself even more to helping Turkish-background women achieve their rights in Germany.[4] She has practiced law since 1997, specializing in criminal law and family law.[5]

Her views, highly critical of an immigrant Muslim society that is often more conservative than its counterpart in Turkey, have put her at risk.[6] Her German-language book, Islam needs a sexual revolution, was scheduled for publication in Germany in 2009.[1] In an interview in January 2008 on National Public Radio, Ateş stated that she was in hiding, and would not be working on Muslim women's behalf publicly (including in court), due to the threats against her. In one particular incident, she and her client were attacked by a woman's husband in a German courthouse in front of onlookers who did nothing.[7]

Ateş opened the Ibn Ruschd-Goethe mosque in 2017, located in a church. It is the only liberal mosque in Germany, that is, one where men and women pray together, and women can take the role of imam leading a prayer.[8] The Turkish religious authority and the Egyptian Fatwa Council at the Al-Azhar University have condemned her project, and she has received death threats.[9][10] The fatwa encompassed all present and future liberal mosques.[10]

According to Ateş, many liberal Muslims do not come forward due to threats and fear.[9]

In May 2018 she became an ambassador for the registered association intaktiv e.V., which opposes the circumcision of male children.[11][12] (see Circumcision controversies#Controversy in Germany.) She is a member of the advisory board of the Institute for Secular Law.[13]

The 2021 documentary Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam features her life as a feminist, lawyer and mosque founder. The film qualified for 24 film festivals worldwide[14] and received mostly positive reviews.[15][16][17]


In 2005, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the project 1000 peacewomen.[18]

In March 2007 Ates was awarded a prize for defense of human rights by her alma mater.[4]

In October 2019 Ates won the University of Oslo’s Human Rights Award.[19]

Selected works[edit]

  • "Bei Trennung: Tod", in: Robertson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. (ed.): Tod und Sterben in der Gegenwartsgesellschaft. Eine interdisziplinäre Auseinandersetzung (= Kulturwissenschaft interdisziplinär/Interdisciplinary Studies on Culture and Society, Vol. 3), Baden-Baden 2008
  • Große Reise ins Feuer: Die Geschichte einer deutschen Türkin, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2006
  • "Individualität: Ich sein oder Ich haben?", in: Flensburger Hefte, Nr. 87, Flensburg 2005


  1. ^ a b [1]"Islam needs a sexual revolution," interview in Der Spiegel, October 13, 2009. Retrieved January 20, 2010
  2. ^ "Seyran Ateş: Tolerance for the tolerant (08/09/2005) - signandsight". Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  3. ^ Eddy, Melissa (2018), "By Taking a Bullet, a Muslim Woman Finds Her Calling", The New York Times, retrieved 29 March 2021, Born in Istanbul to a Turkish mother and a Kurdish father, she emigrated with her parents to what was then West Berlin in the late 1960s. Ms. Ates was 6 when she and her four siblings moved into a one-room apartment with their parents.
  4. ^ a b Caldwell, Christopher. "Where Every Generation Is First-Generation".
  5. ^ [2]"Tolerance for the tolerant",, August 9, 2005. Article originally appeared in German in Perlentaucher, September 2, 2005. Retrieved January 29, 2010
  6. ^ Schneider, Peter (December 4, 2005). "In Germany, Muslims grow apart". New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  7. ^ [3] National Public Radio interview, January 22, 2008. Retrieved January 29, 2010
  8. ^ Germany, SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg. "Frauenrechtlerin gründet Moschee: "Unsere Religion nicht den Rückständigen überlassen" - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Politik". SPIEGEL ONLINE. Retrieved 2017-06-16.
  9. ^ a b Germany, WeltN24 (23 June 2017). "Liberal Moschee in Berlin: "Die meisten liberalen Muslime haben Angst" - WeltN24 - Deutschland". Die Welt. Retrieved 2017-06-24.
  10. ^ a b Oltermann, Philip (2017-06-25). "Liberal Berlin mosque to stay open despite fatwa from Egypt". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  11. ^ "Intaktiv-Botschafter-/innen".
  12. ^ "Neue Botschafter für genitale Selbstbestimmung: Seyran Ateş und Dr. Jérôme Segal".
  13. ^ "Seyran Ateş | ifw - Institut für Weltanschauungsrecht". Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  14. ^ "INTEGRAL FILM". Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  15. ^ Hadadi, Roxana (2021-10-01). "Review: 'Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam' provides a frustrating introduction". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-11-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Gilles, Jim. "SEX, REVOLUTION, AND ISLAM: Progressive Hope for Islam - The Hollywood Times". Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  17. ^ Sommer, Helena. ""Warum wollt ihr mich töten?"". (in German). Retrieved 2021-11-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ 1000 FriedensFrauen Weltweit. Seyran Ates(sic!), abgerufen am: 13. April 2018, (deutsche Digitalfassung von 1000 PeaceWomen Across the Globe, Serie: Kontrast Book, Verlag Scalo, Zürich 2005).
  19. ^ "Female imam wins University of Oslo's Human Rights Award 2019".

External links[edit]