Ankara opens cemevi in run-up to local vote

Ankara opens cemevi in run-up to local vote

Ankara opens cemevi in run-up to local vote

The three-floor cemevi, of 4,800 square meters, will be called ‘Pir Sultan Abdal Cemevi and Culture Center.’ It was built in a central district of the city, Çankaya, near the Turan Güneş Boulevard by a municipality held by the CHP.

One of the biggest cemevis (Alevi house of worship) of the country was opened yesterday in Ankara in the presence of thousands of enthusiastic onlookers. The construction of the cemevi was led by Çankaya Municipality held by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Current Mayor Bülent Tanık of the CHP and the party’s candidate running for this post in March 30 local elections, Alper Taşdelen, in addition to several lawmakers from the same party, including Tunceli deputy Hüseyin Aygün, who is actively exerting efforts for recognition of Alevis’ rights, attended the opening ceremony.

The three-floor cemevi, of 4,800 square meters, is named as “Pir Sultan Abdal Cemevi and Culture Center,” and is built in a central district of the city, near the Turan Güneş Boulevard.

The opening of the cemevi comes at a time when content of an audio recording between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and then-Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, which is denied by all of the parties, sparked harsh reaction among the Alevi community who charged both of the politicians with being “discriminative” against Alevi people.

In the audio-recording, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Erdoğan asks to manipulate a court case against Aydın Doğan, honorary president of the Doğan Group of Companies and the chairman of the Aydın Doğan Foundation.

Critical timing

Apparently in a bid to explain why the court had not reached the desired ruling, Ergin says in a tone which is open to being interpreted as an insult by the community: “The judge is an Alevi.”

Despite confirming the authenticity of the tape on Feb. 5, Erdoğan suggested that it was “natural” to discuss an ongoing court case with “his justice minister,” he made no mention at all of the apparent slight against the Alevis. Alevism is widely perceived as a liberal sect of Islam, although many characterize it as a belief system separate from Islam. Alevis, who are described as followers of the Caliph Ali, the nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, conduct religious practices distinct from Turkey’s Sunni majority.

The Alevi worship ceremony is called a “cem,” and is traditionally held in a cemevi, while Sunnis worship in a mosque. Unlike most other Muslim practices, Alevi rituals are conducted mostly in Turkish. The ceremony features music and dance called the “semah.” The government has held a series of “Alevi workshops,” the first of which was held in June 2009, yet failed to meet expectations.