Alevi organizations on Feb. 27 gathered in several provinces of Turkey and demanded that compulsory religion classes be abolished and that Alevi houses of worship (cemevi) be considered legitimate places of worship.
In the rallies held with the call for democracy, secularism, freedom, justice and equality, protesters demanded that compulsory religion classes at schools be canceled, according to reporting by daily Evrensel.
Protesters held banners that read "Abolish the Diyanet [Religious Affairs Directorate]," "Cemevis are our places of worship," "Free, scientific education in mother tongue," and "Freedom for peoples, freedom to beliefs."
In addition to Alevi organizations, representatives of political parties also attended the protests throughout the country.
A statement read out in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district said that the government was increasingly moving towards implementing new assimilation and discrimination policies targeting the Alevi faith, and that schools should be run in line with universal values.
“Religion classes were made compulsory by the 1982 Constitution. The right-wing governments established after the coup built a monist, assimilationist, denialist and sexist education system. At the request of the religious cults, four more courses with religious content were made compulsory in the curriculum. This was not enough for the government, and the National Education Council recommended that 4- to 6-year-old kindergarten children be given religious lessons. If we do not object to this, this will be implemented by the National Education Ministry,” the statement said.
Alevi organizations also gathered in other provinces like Kayseri, İzmir, Aydın, Tunceli, Balıkesir, Adana, Muğla and Samsun.
Alevis make up an estimated 15-25 percent of Turkey’s population, the second main religious group after Sunni Islam. Despite the fundamental differences in religious practices between the two groups, the Turkish government to-date refuses to acknowledge Alevi cemevi as the legitimate place of worship and to grant cemevis the same financial support as mosques. Instead, Turkey claims that cemevi is a cultural entity.