Ankara denies violation of Alevi community's freedom
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULJun 03, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Jun 03, 2015 12:00 am
Turkey argued the rights of the country's Alevi community were not violated in a case at the European Court of Human Rights. The court held a hearing yesterday over an appeal by several members of Turkey's Alevi community seeking cemevis - Alevi places of worship - to be granted official status.
Applicants to the court requested the state provide the same status to cemevis as mosques and offer free public services. Several Alevi citizens had filed a lawsuit against the Prime Ministry in 2005 after their request for cemevis to be granted a new status was rejected. They then took their case to the European Court of Human Rights in 2010. They claim Turkish authorities violated the European Convention on Human Rights concerning freedom of religion and thought and its ban on discrimination. An Alevi foundation had asked the government to implement regulations that would enable the bills of cemevis to be paid through a fund administered by the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB) that oversees the operation of mosques. Turkish courts had dismissed the foundation's application, basing their decision on the directorate's opinion that cemevis are not places of worship, but rather places of assembly in which spiritual ceremonies are held.
Hacı Ali Açıkgül, representing the government, told the court in Strasbourg, France, that the government did not violate freedom of religion and there were no obstacles in building "places of assembly," adding that there should be a separation "between places of worship and places of assembly." He also said Alevis were free to perform prayers.
A lawyer for the Alevis Cem Foundation told the court that Turkey should allocate a budget for the construction of cemevis across the country. The court is expected to issue a verdict on the case in a later date.
The status of cemevis is a major issue for Alevis, the second-largest religious community in Turkey after Sunni Muslims. They have repeatedly called on the government to recognize the status of their places of worship. The DİB only caters to the Sunni population, but its responsibility is confined to appointing clerics to the mosques built by the public. Several municipalities already offer free services for cemevis such as free electricity and water.