A local district municipality has denied claims that there is a decision to demolish a cemevi, an Alevi
place of worship, in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district due to its “unlicensed construction,” state-run Anadolu Agency reported on April 19.
Sultangazi Mayor Cahit Altunay said reports of the demolition decision for the Pir Sultan Abdal Cemevi did not reflect the truth, noting that the decision referred to another piece of land adjacent to the place of worship.
“The notice is about a 40-square-meter sales space for offerings built bordering here. However, there will be no demolition due to the proceedings of a new plan in this area, which will be reviewed according to the new plan,” Altunay said in a written statement.
An earlier report by daily Cumhuriyet quoted the local Alevi
community as saying that they had received a notice from the municipality, which is controlled by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), threatening the demolition of the cemevi on the grounds that its construction was “not licensed.”
The decision, which came on April 18, raised eyebrows over its timing, as it came just two days after the referendum on replacing the parliamentary system with an executive presidential system, the report said.
Zeynal Odabaş, the head of the cemevi, said the demolition decision was taken last year but was only sent for implementation right after the April 16 referendum.
“The demolition decision was only conveyed when the ‘yes’ side emerged in the aftermath of the referendum. This is deliberate. We will not be deceived and we will not let even a single brick be brought down,” Odabaş said.
He said the cemevi was built as part of collective work in 2009, claiming that the municipality was always “judging Alevi
people’s faith and culture” through similar decisions.