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Tens of thousands of Turks demand equal rights for Alevis

İZMİR - Daily News with wires | 3/6/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Thousands of citizens demonstrated Sunday in the Aegean city of İzmir, demanding equal rights for Alevis.

Thousands of citizens demonstrated Sunday in the Aegean city of İzmir, demanding equal rights for Alevis.

The protest at the Gündoğdu Square, which comes after similar rallies in previous years in Ankara and Istanbul, attracted nearly 60,000 people, news agencies reported.

Speaking at the rally, Ali Balkız, head of the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Association, an Alevi organization, said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wanted democracy and freedom “only for himself.”

“[Turkey is] moving toward a one-man rule flavored by religious sauce,” Balkız said. “[Erdoğan] played with the judiciary after the referendum and in the aftermath of the [June 12] general elections, he will move toward a presidential regime. I’m afraid an [Adolf] Hitler, or [Benito] Mussolini is coming. We have to prevent this.”

Selahattin Özel, the chief of the Alevi Culture Associations, meanwhile, criticized the government’s “Alevi initiative.”

“Alevism was defined by non-Alevis until today,” he said. “If they wish to learn what it is, our doors are open.”

Chanting slogans and carrying banners, the protesters demanded that the Directorate of Religious Affairs and mandatory religion lessons be abolished while also calling for cemevis, the places of worship for Alevis, to be granted legal status. They also said authorities should stop their practice of building mosques in Alevi villages.

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