Alevis call meeting with president ‘pirate action’
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish President Abdullah Gül has attended a fast-breaking dinner organized by Anadolu Alevi-Bektaşi federation on July 26 and made a speech. DHA photo
Turkey’s leading Alevi federation has criticized a fast-breaking dinner that brought together President Abdullah Gül and another Alevi organization July 26, for misrepresenting the nation’s Alevi community.
“President Gül was invited to this fast-breaking dinner by an organization that used our federation’s name. That organization was founded by Cengiz Hortoğlu, a Justice and Development Party [AKP] member, to create a pro-governmental Alevi organization. Despite our official and non-official requests [that he not do so], the president attended this meeting. This is called fraud,” Selahattin Özel, chairman of the Alevi Bektaşi Federation, told Hürriyet Daily News July 27.
President Gül said he could see “all of Turkey’s diversity,” at the event. “Not only representatives of the Muslim majority in Turkey, but also precious representatives and religious figures from the non-Muslim [communities] are here. To see the realities of our country is a primary task. All problems arise from our not knowing each other and not knowing the realities of the country,” Gül said during the event.
However, Özel said the Alevi Bektaşi Federation did not find Gül’s words to be sincere, because he attended an event organized by the Anatolian Alevi Bektaşi Federation, which they believe is a fraudulent union and misrepresentsa Alevis.
“Alevis do not fast in Ramadan, and we do not have such fast-breaking dinners. We fast for mourning in the month of Muharrem, against evil,” Özel said.
The event was a “pirate meeting,” and did not represent Alevis, Özel said. “The president emphasized equal citizenship at the meeting. The Turkish Constitution says ‘the Directorate of Religious Affairs serves without discriminating.’ They are committing crime openly.”
Ali Balkız, former head of the Alevi-Bektaşi Federation, also slammed the organizers of the dinner as false and sinister.
“The AKP created ‘fake Alevis’ so they could put them on stage and create an illusion of support. We do not fast at this time of the year; this is a sin for us, and we do not show off our fasts at luxury hotels,” Balkız told the Daily News.
There are 598 Cemevis in Turkey, deputy PM says
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said there are currently 598 cemevis in Turkey. The count was conducted by the Interior Ministry, Bozdağ said, according to a report in daily Hürriyet.
“There are cemevis in 50 cities in Turkey and the total number is 598. In [the central Anatolia province of] Çorum there are 90 cemevis, as well as 56 in Istanbul, 38 in Ankara, 30 in [the central province of ] Sivas and 26 in [the southeastern province of] Adıyaman,” Bozdağ said.
Under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the number of cemevis has increased rapidly, Bozdağ said. Since 2000, 329 new cemevis have been founded, he said. However, Alevi Bektaşi Federation Chairman Selahattin Özel said Bozdağ’s remarks on the number of cemevis failed to reflect the truth.
“Since the AKP’s oppression [began in] 2002, the number of cemevis in Turkey has decreased,” Özel said. “Did Bozdağ count every house? We Alevis do not worship in temples; community is important for us. We gather in a house that is suitable and large enough to meet in. After the AKP’s oppression began, we were forced to close down our cemevis and all of our efforts were passed to the court because of their mentality.”
Özel said the AKP is now using cemevis as a political tool, but he knows the truth will eventually emerge.
Ali Balkız, former head of the Alevi-Bektaşi Federation, on the other hand, said Alevi organizations bear some of the blame for the lack of clarity, as they do not keep records and cannot provide numerical evidence of the number of cemevis.