Sectarianism comes before humanity

Sectarianism comes before humanity

The day we heard about the death of former President Süleyman Demirel, news about another death was circulating around but not too many people were aware of it.

Kemal Divrikli, a real estate agent in Altınoluk in the Aegean was hit by a motorcycle while he was rescuing a turtle from the road so it wouldn’t be crushed by cars. He was badly wounded and his 59 years of life ended in the hospital.

Her daughter has posted a message from her social media account, “You don’t get killed while saving a turtle.” Divrikli gave his life for a turtle. He was a good man apparently. So much that his generosity continued even after he died: Divrikli gave life to four people as his organs were donated to patients waiting for organ transfer.

Divrikli’s son, who was in prison, could only catch the final part: the laying of the soil during the funeral. When they learned that the funeral will take place at a cemevi [a place of worship for alevis], the officials at the prison dragged their feet saying, “cemevi is not a religious place.” This is the country where political figures turn resentment into political gain by screaming, “My sisters with headscarf were not allowed in schools.”

This is a country of those who want religious freedom only for themselves. 

This is a country where religious freedom is limited to Sunni Muslims; whatever remains is crushed. 
With the exceptions of few additional protocols, Turkey has signed European Convention of Human Rights. According to the constitution, these international conventions are superior to national laws.

Let’s look at the decision of the European Court of Human rights on cemevis. The first example is the Pir Hoca Ahmet Yesevi Cem Kültür Merkezi. The electricity bills of places of worship have been paid since 2002 by a fund belonging to the Diyanet (the Directorate of Religious Affairs.) Yet while mosques, churched and synagogues are considered to be places of worship, cemevis are excluded from this category.

When the cemevi in Yenibosna applied to the court for its electricity debts, it was denied by the Diyanet on grounds that cemevis are not a place of worship and Alevism is not a religion. The dossier ended up with ECHR, which ruled that freedom of religion was violated. Despite initiatives from the government, the ECHR made its final decision in that direction.

This decision ended the debate on whether a cemevi should be considered a place of worship.

The ECHR said openly, “The state should remain equidistant to all convictions and religions. The state cannot decide on the legitimacy of a conviction.”

In other words, if your Diyanet starts broaching the topic of whether or not Alevism is a religion, then you are biased. The ECHR, which previously ruled on the case of alevi citizen Sinan Işık, which was on the issue of ending the practice of writing one’s religion on identity cards, had underlined at the time the view based on “Alevism is not a religion” does not correspond to an unbiased state attitude. Unfortunately, since we do not live in a democratic country with a supreme rule of law, the issue of cemevis still remains unsolved.

Alevi citizens keep knocking on the door of the ECHR due to the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 13 year-rule based on denial. There are two more cases in front of the court at Strasbourg. One is about the Diyanet’s use of the taxes paid by Alevis. The other is the fact that Alevi dergahs [Alevi religious buildings] are under state occupation. There is no doubt about the injustice and illegal practices against Alevis.

Let’s hope in the future, a son should not run into difficulties getting permission from prison just because the funeral of his father is at a cemevi.