Erdogan's announcement to establish "Alevi Directorate" sparks reactions
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a decision to establish a state authority to oversee the activities of Alevi houses of gathering, or djemevis.
"The Alevi-Bektasi Culture and Djemevi Directorate will carry out the administration of djemevis established by local officials, associations, municipalities or federations," Erdogan said on Friday.
"All activities, including those related to education, will be carried out with the support and under the control of this official body."
He added that spiritual leaders of Alevi communities will be given posts, upon their request, by the directorate as permanent staff members.
The chair of the Alevi Bektasi Federation, Mustafa Arslan, criticized the decision to establish a directorate, saying "it means appointing a state trustee to Alevi organizations."
Deputies for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), who represent Alevi communities in Turkey, said "it is an attempt to have Alevis under control, and to create an Alevi faith without Alevis."
Pointing out that Alevi communities' demand for the official recognition of Alevis as equal citizens has not been met, Arslan said:
"The recognition of djemevis as places of worship should be secured under the constitution. The establishment of a Alevi-Bektasi Culture and Djemevi Directorate actually means that djemevis will not be recognized as places of worship, and this amounts to denying Alevi faith."
Alevi deputy Ali Kenanoglu said that Erdogan's announcement signified "an attempt by the state to impose control over Alevis."
"The objective of this move is to end the authentic nature of Alevi communities and to impose a dependency to the state authority. We want them to leave Alevis alone, to let them live freely. The state officials shouldn't involve themselves with religious beliefs. The Directorate of Religious Affairs should be dissolved, and all beliefs should be organized in the civil sphere."
The Alevi faith is officially not regarded a distinct religious belief, but a branch of Islamic faith in Turkey.