AKP and MHP block recognition of Alevi worship places

A proposal to change the status of the Alevis’ cemevis to official places of worship has been rejected in the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipal (IBB) Council on Thursday by representatives of the ruling  Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The motion was presented for approval by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Good Party (IYI) on Monday.

However, it was rejected during Thursday’s sitting of the city council which consists of 312 members in total, with 180 members from the People’s Alliance (AKP and MHP) and 132 seats for the Nation Alliance (CHP and IYI).

The proposal reportedly stated that a total of 93 cemevis were the worship places of the Alevis, the country’s largest religious minority.

However, the Turkish state does not support the cemevis as it has not legally recognized them while it is funding other religious places of worship such as mosques, churches, and synagogues.

In line with Turkish law, the state finances the bills of electricity, water, etcetera of religious buildings from the budget allocated to the Diyanet, Turkey’s top religious body.

Among other problems, the Alevis have long complained that they are excluded from the national budget for religious and educational activities.

According to many analysts, the Alevis, as non-Sunnis, have long been victims of discrimination in many areas of life including education, social and religious life.

That was so even before the AKP tenure when a militant secularist political system was available as it recognized Sunnism as the only legitimate form of Islam in the country. Turkey has the majority Sunni population.

During the early years of power, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan initiated the Alevi opening process during which workshops were held to address the resolution of their problems.

Later, during the campaign for the June 2018 general elections, Erdogan’s AKP promised again to classify cemevis as official places of worship.

However, as in the similar case of the Kurdish problem in the country, Erdogan later changed his stance against the Alevi issue, with no concrete steps having been made until now.

Now president, Erdogan has been usually criticized by his dissents for his habit of shifting positions against the important matters by the time.

The Cemevi Foundation of the Turkish Alevis took a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 2010 when the AKP government rejected its application for the exemption of cemevis from paying electricity bills, as is the case with other places of worship in the country.

In 2014 the European court ruled that the Alevis were being discriminated against.

In 2017 the court ruled that the Turkish government was to pay the foundation 54,400 euros for material and non-pecuniary damages.

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