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Cemevi problem better be solved after elections, says minister
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 01 Apr 2011 Fri 11:05 am

Cemevi problem better be solved after elections, says minister

01 April 2011, Friday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL

State Minister Faruk Çelik said academics, theologians, members of civil society, politicians, journalists and Alevi and Bektaşi representatives agree cemevis (Alevi places of worship) should have legal status

As the final report came out yesterday from the government’s Alevi initiative, the minister who has undertaken the task of coordinating the efforts to solve the long-lasting problems of the country’s Alevi population said the issues regarding the status of the cemevis -- the most contested problem -- had better be solved in the context of the new constitution after the June general elections.

Faruk Çelik said any attempts to solve the problems before the June 12 election carry the risk of being used by politicians even though the issue needs to be handled within the framework of freedoms; it is therefore better if the issue is evaluated in the process of making a new constitution

In a press conference in İstanbul where the final report was distributed to the media, State Minister Faruk Çelik said that all interested parties agreed in workshops that cemevis or Alevi places of worship should have legal status. He was referring to the workshops organized since mid 2009 with the participation of 400 academics, theologians, members of civil society groups, politicians, journalists and Alevi and Bektashi representatives.

“But what kind of status that should be is an area that gives us two issues for debate,” he said. He explained that one aspect is about the theological dimension of the problem.

“Competent academicians in theology say even though there are various interpretations and denominations regarding beliefs, there is only one place of worship both in Christianity and Judaism, and Islam has one place of worship too, and a different place of worship will lead to different interpretations,” Çelik said.

The other dimension of the issue is the legal aspect regarding the law that closed down dervish lodges in 1925, he said.

“As you know, only mosques and masjids [Muslim prayer rooms] are protected and all dervish lodges were shut down with this law. In addition, religious titles, special to Alevi and Bektashi belief, like “dede,” “baba,” and “çelebi” were banned,” he said and added that the 1935 regulation states that houses of worship are places that work in accordance with each religion’s worship style.

“If you pay attention to that statement, you see that houses of worship are characterized in relation to religions,” he said. “Both regulations show us the views of the will power that established our Republic. Any solution produced without seeing those regulations will lead to new and bigger problems.”

Çelik said any attempts to solve the problems before the June 12 election carry the risk of being used by politicians even though the issue needs to be handled within the framework of freedoms; therefore, the issue had better be evaluated in the process of making a new constitution.

One concrete result that came out of the workshops organized as part of the Alevi initiative is new textbook content for the “Religious Culture and Ethics Information” class.

A commission that consisted of Alevis was formed to correct problems regarding discriminatory wording and to include correct information about Alevism in textbooks. Çelik said the commission’s study was evaluated, and new content for textbooks, which was developed to be in line with the 2007 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) by stressing plurality and objectivity, has been approved. He was referring to a case brought by an Alevi student’s father, and the court’s ruling that religion classes in Turkey’s state schools violate pluralism.

Minister Çelik said the new textbook will be ready for the 2011-2012 school year.

The Minister also noted the expropriation of the building that used to be the Madımak Hotel in Central Anatolia (Sivas) -- where 37 people were burnt to death -- as the place has a special significance for Alevis, who have been subject to killings throughout history. During the Alevi Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural and Literary Festival on July 2, 1993, many participants staying at the Madımak Hotel in downtown Sivas found themselves besieged by an angry mob and the hotel torched. When the fire was finally extinguished, 37 people were found dead, including two of the attackers and two hotel workers. Among those who escaped the blaze was Aziz Nesin, thought to be the mob’s main target, who published Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” in Turkey.

In the final report out of the workshops, the main issues presented are the state’s approach to solve the problems of Alevis, the historical basis for Alevism, main areas where identity problems are found and current ways to meet Alevis’ demands.

Suggestions include making the day of “Aşure” (a sweet soup prepared by Turkish Muslims on the 10th days of the month of Muharrem to be distributed to other people) an official holiday, improving the town of Hacıbektaş, the heartland of Alevis, and establishing a university in that town with the town’s name.

“People who participated in the workshops and other meetings and presented their views will be able to find their ideas in this report,” Çelik said.

“We believe that we took an important step in solving the problem. We are determined not to leave the problems to our grandchildren,” he added but also stressed that this is a “process” and solutions will be produced on the way



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