Turkey: Alevis demand worship sites, tension with cabinet

Shiite minority victim of violence in the past

12 July, 15:19

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, JULY 12 - The Turkish government of nationalist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Sunni Muslim, and the Shiite Alevi community are at odds over the Cemevi, places of worship of Turkey's minority which are not officially recognized by the state.

In the past few days the president of Ankara's parliament Cemil Cicek rejected a request by an Alevi MP with the Social Democrat opposition Huseyn Aygun to open Cemevi prayer sites in Turkey's Great Assembly.

Cicek had responded that the Alevis, a minority liberal branch of Islam, are Muslims and therefore must pray in mosques, a stance supported by deputy premier Bekir Bozbag who said 'the Alevi is not a separate religion'.

Alevi leader Ali Kenanoglu, president of the association Hubyar Sultan, responded saying that 'the 'progressive' democracy of the AKP is like the tolerance of the Ottomans, a real lie'. 'Our places of worship, the Cemevi, are not a negotiable issue', he also said.

Turkey's Shiite Alevi minority has often been the victim of violence in the past. Nineteen years ago, 37 people were burnt to death in an attack on a hotel in Sivas, Anatolia, where they were taking part in a festival on Alevi poetry and literature.

Prominent intellectuals including Asim Bezirci, poets Nesimi Cimen and Metin Altiok and singer Hasret Gultekin were among the victims. A trial against the alleged perpetrators of the carnage ended without a verdict after the statute of limitation had expired. (ANSAmed).

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