RIGHTS > Alevis angered by PM’s ‘freak’ remark for Cemevi

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Alevis react to PM Erdoğan’s calling an ‘unlicensed’ Alevi worship house a ‘freak.’ ‘All cemevis are unlicensed because of discriminatory policies,’ one figure says

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The Alevi worship ceremony is called a 'cem,' and is traditionally held in a cemevi, while Sunnis worship in a mosque.

The Alevi worship ceremony is called a 'cem,' and is traditionally held in a cemevi, while Sunnis worship in a mosque.

Erdem Güneş Erdem Güneş erdem.gunes@hdn.com.tr

Alevi organizations in Turkey have reacted harshly to a remark from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which he called an Istanbul “unlicensed” Alevi house of worship a “freak.”

“The Karacaahmet cemevi was built there as a freak, and still remains an illegal building – it has no license,” Erdoğan said during an interview broadcast on the private A Haber channel on Aug. 6, in response to a question about the status of Alevi cemevis in Turkey. 

“I am not discriminating against [our] Alevi brothers and sisters. If Alevism means loving the Prophet Ali, I am more Alevi than anyone who says he is Alevi,” Erdoğan said. “There must be only one house of worship for all Muslims.”

The Karacaahmet Sultan Solidarity Association, which manages the cemevi Erdoğan mentioned, issued a press release yesterday condemning his remark.

“We find it hard to understand why [the prime minister] has brought this issue up 18 years later. The prime minister, who must maintain an equal distance from every belief, has offended millions of Alevis by calling a cemevi a ‘freak,’” the statement read.

Muharrem Ercan, the head of the association, also asked if there was any way to issue licenses for cemevis, which are not considered houses of worship.

“All of the cemevis, nearly 900, in Turkey, are unlicensed because of discriminatory policies. The reason cemevis are unlicensed cannot be found by blaming Alevis; the state is responsible,” the statement read. The association had applied for legal status with architectural plans before, it added.

Erdoğan was risking Turkey’s peace by targeting Alevis with such words, said Selahattin Özel, chairman of the Alevi Bektaşi Federation.

“I found it normal that Prime Minister Erdoğan would call a Cemevi a freak; he also tried to tear it down once. Yes, it is true, a part of that cemevi is unlicensed, but do you know how many unlicensed mosques there are in Turkey? But we would never call a mosque a ‘freak,’ because we respect believers,” Özel told Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

Every religion has a house of worship, and the mosque is Islam’s, İdris Bal, a deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said yesterday, adding that the tension between Alevis and Sunnis was being created intentionally to “drain Turkey’s battery.” 

Loving Ali and humiliating Alevis in violation of their human rights at the same time does not make sense, Özel said. “[Erdoğan] is using Alevis as a political tool to gain ground against [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad.”

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled on July 25 that only mosques and masjids can be considered places of worship, overruling a request to register a cemevi in Ankara as a house of worship.


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Notice on comments

Nuri Gotham

8/7/2012 4:45:41 PM

The PM with the motto of one state, one language and one religion has insulted Alevi, Zoraster,atheist and other believers. With his biased attitude he can not and should not be a president of the country.

mara mcglothin

8/7/2012 4:07:32 PM

CAN OZ Spot on! And what would happen if any Alevi called a press conference to call this mosque a "freak" especially because it is for all to see. How would that go over with Erdogan. This is a perfectly example why as PM he should have no comment about anything religious. It is perfectlly ok for him to be guided by his faith but not others?

Blue Dotterel

8/7/2012 4:00:00 PM

Diren, If the secular regime in Syria falls, it will most effect the Alewites and Christians. This is why Syrians would prefer Assad to the Muslim Brotherhood or Al Qaeda fighting as the FSA.

Diren Sesel

8/7/2012 2:25:41 PM

If the securalist regime falls down , the most effected would be Alevis, Alevis are progressive and up hold enlightenment, Alevis have been prosecuted since the times of Ottoman empire, Erdogan is just a continuation of the Ottomans.

american american

8/7/2012 2:23:11 PM

erdogan just admitted he is more alevi than the alevis! i hope for his sake the police take any markings of his home seriously...

Shah Hamdan

8/7/2012 1:55:06 PM

PM is opening way for sectarianism in Turkey. Its playing with fire which will burn whole country. Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yement etc are best example. Open your eyes look around you and don't play politics on religion.

Agnes Smith

8/7/2012 1:16:26 PM

Why do you need a licence to worship? It is not a bar selling Efes beer?

Valantia Lyons

8/7/2012 12:56:39 PM

As a secular state shouldn't any sort of worship with it is an off shoot of Islam, Christanity or even Jedi be allowed? Mr Erdogan is slowly showing us that he is more focused on spreading his religion through Turkey than his politics...What a sad day for Turkey it will be when there is no one left to stand up to this man, oh wait, half the military that would normally protect what the republic is about are in prison! Lets hope this man gets no where near the presidency spot!


8/7/2012 8:20:19 AM

It is always impressive how many different religious and national casts Turkey contains...

Can Oz

8/7/2012 7:39:29 AM

Alevis will not claim minority status because they would be seen as infidel separatists. But as mainstream Turks, their practices are called freakish.The Koran says only God can judge people. Who does Erdoğan think he is?
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