Turkish police intervene in Alevi demonstration, using pepper spray

Turkish police intervene in Alevi demonstration, using pepper spray
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Alevi organisations gathered in front of the Turkish parliament against a government bill establishing a state directorate for Alevi community

Turkish police intervened in a demonstration by Alevi organisations, Turkey’s largest religious minority, who were gathered against a bill to establish a state directorate to address Alevi community’s lingering problems.

The members of the seven Alevi organisations who were amassed in front of the Turkish parliament set to vote the legislation on Tuesday, were repelled by pepper spray.

The organizations earlier slammed the bill of being “inadequate.” The representatives of the associations say the bill only relates to the cultural aspects, but does not meet their demands for the recognition of Alevism as a religious belief and acknowledging Cemevis as official places of worship. 

"Let alone meeting our demands, this ‘reform’ portrays Cemevis, our places of worship, as a problem. We oppose this bill,” Ismail Ates from the Pir Sultan Abdal Association said, adding that the government was trying to assimilate the Alevis by putting their religious leaders on payroll.

The new initiative was launched by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan last month, to provide funding and staff for the Cemevis.  

According to the bill, the state directorate to be established by the name of Alevi-Bektasi Culture and Cemevi Presidency would be responsible for Cemevi construction, paying bills, maintaining educational and other religious activities. The new entity will consist of one president and ten members, not necessarily of Alevi belief. 

Alevism is a religious belief in which Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali and his descendants were regarded as sacred. Like Shia Muslims, they adhere to Twelve Imams as the rightful representative of Islam, rejecting the legitimacy of the following caliphates who they say contrasted the imams.