Alevis slam plan to found state body to 'address' their concerns: ‘An attempt to seize Alevi religiousness’

Alevis have slammed the government's plan to found the Presidency of Culture and Cemevi. "It is an attempt to seize Alevi religiousness,” Alevi representatives said.

Duvar English

Several Alevi institutions have slammed the government over its plan to establish a state body named Presidency of Culture and Cemevi (“Cemevi Başkanlığı”) under the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

“This is a state's attempt to seize Alevi institutionalization and religiousness,” they said. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 7 announced that the Presidency of Culture and Cemevi will be established “to address the concerns of Alevis.” 

The Alevi Bektashi Federation, the Alevi Associations Federation, the Alevi Foundations Federation, the Confederation of European Alevi Unions, the Hacı Bektaş Veli Anatolian Culture Foundation, the Alevi Culture Associations, the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Association and the Erenköy Education and Culture Foundation Cemevi have released a joint statement regarding the government's move. 

The statement said that Erdoğan announced “a supposedly democratic reform package, ignoring Alevis' own organizations… The package announced is neither democratic nor gospel. On the contrary, this package is the package of the suffocation of Alevism by public power and the intention of putting the last nails in the coffin of Alevism.”

The statement further read as follows: 

“The problems of the Alevis are those that arise directly from the political regime structured according to negative discriminatory principles. The package, which the President heralded as reform, denies the religious existence and identity of Alevis, reduces Alawism to an appendage of Sunnism. 

No steps have been taken to give our cemevis the legitimate status of places of worship. This means that Alevism will continue to be denied its religious and identity characteristics, and the state will continue to impose Sunnism on everyone.

According to this package, a formation affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism will run the management of all cemevis that Alevis have created out of nothing. We openly declare that this is a state's attempt to blow and seize Alevi institutionalization and religiousness. The institution to be established is preparing to take control of all cemevis.

According to the President, our cemevi leaders who wanted to be recruited and paid will be paid under this institution! We Alevis do not accept state financing of any religion.

Those who seek democratization should first of all start by listening to the Alevi communities and their legitimate institutions and considering them as interlocutors.”

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.