President Gül visits cemevi in gesture to Alevi community in Erzincan

President Gül visits cemevi in gesture to Alevi community in Erzincan

ERZİNCAN– Doğan News Agency
President Gül visits cemevi in gesture to Alevi community in Erzincan

President Abdullah Gül chatted with members of the Alevi community at a cemevi in Erzincan late on Nov. 15. AA photo

President Abdullah Gül visited a cemevi on the sidelines of a visit to the eastern province of Erzincan on Nov. 15, in a gesture of solidarity with the Alevi community.

"This country belongs to us all. Our grandfathers, just as their grandfathers, lived together here. Therefore, everything can only be for the better as long as we treat each other with respect, love, and remain in dialogue,” Gül said.

The month of Muharrem is currently being celebrated, during which Alevis, Shiites and many Sunnis mark the martyrdom of Imam Husayn at the hands of the Umayyads in 680 A.D. Muharrem is also the first month of the Islamic calendar.

The visit comes amid growing disappointment on the part of the Alevi community over the government's apparent reluctance to officially recognize cemevis as places of worship, particularly as the latest democratization package did not include any improvement of their status.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is said to be split on the issue, with some prominent party figures such as Labor Minister Faruk Çelik having voiced their support for granting legal status to cemevis, arguing that this move should not be sacrificed to “theological and legal disagreements.”

Gül, who was received by the provincial head of the Hacı Bektaş Veli Foundation, stressed that a "shift of consciousness" was continuing in Turkey and that "progress was being made," albeit step by step. 

“Not only our Alevi citizens, but our Sunni citizens as well, as well as the west and the east of the country have problems and demands. It behooves us to lend an ear to all of these [demands] and endeavor to solve them,” he said.

The president said he was taking many notes during his visits. “I find very meaningful that [communities] in Erzincan can live with such tolerance, solidarity, respect for each other and love,” he said. 

Gül will continue his Eastern Anatolia visits in the neighboring province of Gümüşhane on Nov. 18.