Alevis angered by PM’s ‘freak’ remark for Cemevi

Alevis angered by PM’s ‘freak’ remark for Cemevi

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Alevis angered by PM’s ‘freak’ remark for Cemevi

The Alevi worship ceremony is called a 'cem,' and is traditionally held in a cemevi, while Sunnis worship in a mosque.

Alevi organizations in Turkey have reacted harshly to a remark from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which he called an Istanbul “unlicensed” Alevi house of worship a “freak.”

“The Karacaahmet cemevi was built there as a freak, and still remains an illegal building – it has no license,” Erdoğan said during an interview broadcast on the private A Haber channel on Aug. 6, in response to a question about the status of Alevi cemevis in Turkey. 

“I am not discriminating against [our] Alevi brothers and sisters. If Alevism means loving the Prophet Ali, I am more Alevi than anyone who says he is Alevi,” Erdoğan said. “There must be only one house of worship for all Muslims.”

The Karacaahmet Sultan Solidarity Association, which manages the cemevi Erdoğan mentioned, issued a press release yesterday condemning his remark.

“We find it hard to understand why [the prime minister] has brought this issue up 18 years later. The prime minister, who must maintain an equal distance from every belief, has offended millions of Alevis by calling a cemevi a ‘freak,’” the statement read.

Muharrem Ercan, the head of the association, also asked if there was any way to issue licenses for cemevis, which are not considered houses of worship.

“All of the cemevis, nearly 900, in Turkey, are unlicensed because of discriminatory policies. The reason cemevis are unlicensed cannot be found by blaming Alevis; the state is responsible,” the statement read. The association had applied for legal status with architectural plans before, it added.

Erdoğan was risking Turkey’s peace by targeting Alevis with such words, said Selahattin Özel, chairman of the Alevi Bektaşi Federation.

“I found it normal that Prime Minister Erdoğan would call a Cemevi a freak; he also tried to tear it down once. Yes, it is true, a part of that cemevi is unlicensed, but do you know how many unlicensed mosques there are in Turkey? But we would never call a mosque a ‘freak,’ because we respect believers,” Özel told Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

Every religion has a house of worship, and the mosque is Islam’s, İdris Bal, a deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said yesterday, adding that the tension between Alevis and Sunnis was being created intentionally to “drain Turkey’s battery.” 

Loving Ali and humiliating Alevis in violation of their human rights at the same time does not make sense, Özel said. “[Erdoğan] is using Alevis as a political tool to gain ground against [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad.”

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled on July 25 that only mosques and masjids can be considered places of worship, overruling a request to register a cemevi in Ankara as a house of worship.

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