Thousands of Alevis hit streets in Istanbul

Thousands of Alevis hit streets in Istanbul

Thousands of Alevis hit streets in Istanbul

Kadıköy Square on Istanbul’s Anatolian side fills with Alevis voicing demands for rights for their community. AA Photo

Thousands of Alevis gathered in a massive rally in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district on Nov. 3, demanding equal citizenship rights and freedom of faith, while also raising their voice against projects aiming to “assimilate Alevis.”

Demonstrators chanted slogans such as “We won’t be the state’s Alevis,” and “We will never bend the knee to injustice,” as well as slogans referring to the anti-government Gezi Park protests that were sparked in May.

Around 50 Alevi associations and political parties were represented in the rally.

Alevis, who follow a liberal sect of Islam, voiced several demands, including the removal of compulsory religion courses in schools, official recognition of their worship places, Cemevis, and investigations into the unknown murders of Alevis.

Legal status demanded

“We want our beliefs to have legal status so the Alevi community can perform its rituals freely,” the Pir Sultan Abdal Association stated on its website, in its call to the rally. It calls for the cancelation of a project in which a mosque and a Cemevi will be built next to each other in Ankara, in a project supported by Muslim cleric Fetullah Gülen.

“This project will have no result other than assimilation and conflict between people of different beliefs,” said the statement.

Alevis also demand the removal of the compulsory religion courses, as well as the Religious Affairs Directorate on the ground that it is a conflicting situation that “a secular country has an institution which only serves Sunni Hanefi Muslims.” They also demand the return of land, Cemevis, and other assets that were confiscated by the state. The estates belonging to Alevis such as Hacı Bektaş Veli Dergâh Şahkulu, Garipdede and Erikli Baba should be returned to Alevi communities without any cost, it said.

The perpetrators of the Alevi murders that took place in the past should be found out, Alevis demand. The Alevi’s worship places, Cemevis, must have legal ground with amendments, according to the Alevi Associations. The Massacres targeting Alevis that took place in Sivas, Çorum, Maraş and Istanbul’s Gazi Quarter must be brought to light, the statute of limitations in such cases must be removed and those responsible must come to justice, Alevis said in their demand.

They also call for the removal of Ottoman Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim’s name from the third bridge that is being built over the Istanbul strait on the ground that the Sultan is notorious for his orders that killed over 40,000 Alevis. All discriminations against Alevis in public and private institutions must be removed and all restrictions regarding rallies and expression must be removed, said the association’s statement.