Cemevis issue returns to forefront
A cemevi in Istanbul. Hürriyet Photo
Alevis’ demands that cemevis be recognized as houses of worship have returned to Turkey’s agenda again in the wake of a meeting of community representatives in Istanbul on Feb. 22 and the prime minister’s recent refusal to extend recognition to the holy places.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government must recognize cemevis officially and the Directorate of Religious Affairs must be shut down to provide equal freedom of belief, said the co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Selehattin Demirtaş, who hosted a “Dialogue with Alevis Meeting” on Feb. 22.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
said Feb. 21 that cemevis were only cultural houses, not houses of worship, according to Turkish media outlets who quoted Erdoğan from the anonymous sources who attended a party meeting with deputies from Central Anatolian provinces at a breakfast.
AKP deputy Haluk Özdalga had asked that cemevis be recognized as places of worship by the state, but Erdoğan refused, saying Islam had only one place of worship, the mosque.
But Demirtaş said that if Alevi
citizens saw cemevis as their divine places of worship, then the state must acknowledge such beliefs, since members of the community pay the same amount of taxes as mosque-goers.
issue will remain a problem unless equal citizenship is achieved, and Alevis’ demands regarding constitutional rights are guaranteed,” Demirtaş said.