Two detained for setting fire to wish tree at cemevi

Two people have been detained for setting a wish tree on fire at a cemevi (an Alevi house of worship) in the capital Ankara in the latest attack targeting Turkey's Alevi community. The attackers said in their testimony that they burned the wish tree because they thought it is "against" Islam.

Duvar English

Turkish gendarmerie detained two people for setting the wish tree on fire at Hüseyin Gazi Cemevi in Ankara's Mamak district.

Describing the incident, Hüseyin Gazi Cemevi’s leader Hüseyin Öz said that two people came by car, set the wish tree on fire and then fled in the same vehicle on Sept. 9.

Öz added that the attackers were caught as they were about to leave the city. 

“One of the attackers felt the need to burn the wish tree because he thought it was forbidden in Islam. They said ‘(the tree) is against our faith. We burned because it bothered us’,” Öz told Demirören News Agency.

Five different Alevi institutions at different locations in the capital Ankara previously were attacked and vandalized in August.

After the attacks, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Aug. 8 paid a visit to Hüseyin Gazi Cemevi, where the latest attack in question happened, attending a fast-breaking dinner to mark the Alevi holy month of Muharram.

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.