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Alevis to file mass lawsuits against compulsory religious courses

ANKARA Hürriyet Daily News | 1/17/2011 12:00:00 AM | İZGİ GÜNGÖR

A decision at Sunday’s Grand Alevi Congress will lead to mass lawsuits against compulsory religious education in Turkey, the heads of leading Alevi organizations have said.

A decision at Sunday’s Grand Alevi Congress will lead to mass lawsuits against compulsory religious education in Turkey and Alevi congresses being held abroad, the heads of leading Alevi organizations have said.

“A new era will begin following the Grand Alevi Congress that was held in Ankara on Sunday. Alevis will now continue the struggle to vouchsafe rights with different methods,” Ercan Geçmez, head of the Hacı Bektaş Veli Anatolian Culture Foundation, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review recently.

“Besides regional conventions across the country, we will also hold regional congresses in different parts of the world, namely in parts of Europe such as Brussels and Cologne, and in the Balkans as well as Iran and Iraq where Alevi populations exist,” he said.

Dissatisfied with the government’s attempts to hold a series of Alevi workshops yet to yield any concrete results, Turkey’s Alevi organizations held their own Grand Alevi Congress on Sunday in Ankara to make their voice heard.

In a statement released after the congress, the Alevi organizations cited six main demands, including the abolition of compulsory religious education, the dissolution of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the conversion of the Madımak Hotel in Sivas – where over 30 Alevi intellectuals were slain – into a museum, the return of dervish convents to Alevi control, the recognition of “cemevis” as specifically Alevi houses of worship and the termination of religious assimilation policies.

For Geçmez, the government workshops intended to address the concerns of Turkey’s community failed to produce a solution to their demands because the government failed to take into consideration reports detailing their demands and proposed solutions and draft a series of policies that would legally protect those demands.

[HH] Legal case against compulsory religious education

Government efforts to solve the Alevi community’s problems in coordination with the Religious Affairs Directorate have also been inadequate, Geçmez said. “In the workshops, the government attempted to redefine Alevism, a landmark to end our hopes for the solution of our problems, and urged us to widen our protests,” Geçmez said.

Ali Balkız, head of the Alevi-Bektaşi Federation and participant at the congress, said prior to the 2011 – 2012 academic year Alevi families would launch mass lawsuits in Turkey’s local administrative courts to have their children exempted from compulsory religious education, which they criticized for only teaching Sunni Islam.  

Alevis are members of a community widely perceived as a liberal branch of Islam, whose religious practices differ markedly from those of Turkey’s Sunni majority. Religion education is compulsory in primary and secondary schools throughout the nation, according to the Constitution.

“The [Alevi] families will start filing lawsuits against compulsory religious education in August in places where they send their children to school,” Balkız said, adding that they would repeat their demands and hold mass rallies throughout the country to press the government to solve their problems.

The Alevi organizations agreed at Sunday’s congress to hold a mass demonstration in İzmir on March 6.

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