Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into an attack on a cemevi, an Alevi house of worship, in Istanbul, media outlets reported on Jan. 20.
Unknown assailants entered Pir Sultan Abdal Cemevi in the Sultanbeyli district late on Jan. 18 after breaking its doors and windows. They sprayed death threats on the walls and ground, such as “It is not over” and Die.” They also stole the money in the amount of 300 Turkish Liras from the charity box in the cemevi.
The head of the cemevi, Erdal Aksoy, told the Turkish media that they found out about the attack when the cemevi officials visited the building the next day. “The investigation is looking into whether this attack results from a robbery or is a provocation due to the recent political tensions,” Aksoy said.
He said the threats written on the walls are a “message” that such attacks will continue to happen, therefore urging Alevis to stand in unity and solidarity against such incidents.
The attack was first announced to the public by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Sultanbeyli district chair Hayati Bozkaya on Twitter. “We condemn those who committed this treacherous attack. We express our condolences to the cemevi management and our Alevi citizens,” Bokaya said on Jan. 19.
Istanbul Governor’s Office also released a statement regarding the incident, saying that police forces were dispatched to the scene of the attack on Jan. 19. “We strongly condemn this atrocious action,” it said.
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 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.
On Jan. 16, the Istanbul Municipal Council voted a motion calling to designate the city’s 93 cemevis as “official places of worship.”
The main CHP and İYİ (Good) Party members of the council voted in favor of the motion, but the councillors of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its right-wing ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – who hold the majority in the council – voted it down.