A state-run agency in eastern Turkey pledged to hand out bonuses to civil servants in Muharram, a holy month both for Sunnis and Alevis, in a landmark step to reach out to the country's oft-neglected Alevi community.
The Special Provincial Administration, a public service agency of the governorate, signed an agreement with a labor union in the eastern province of Tunceli on Friday to hand out bonuses every Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.
Though every civil servant regardless of their faith will be entitled to the bonus, it marks a significant development for Turkey's Alevi community, which complains of the lack of official recognition of their faith, a version of Shiite Islam.
A total of 90 civil servants working at the Special Provincial Administration will receive TL 631 ($210) every Muharram during which Alevis observe a fasting and mourning period for the death of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussain.
Nazif Yıldırım, secretary-general of the Special Provincial Administration, said they decided to include the Muharram bonus along with a bonus for Qurban Bayramı (Feast of Sacrifice). "It is a sacred month largely observed in our city, so we decided it would be appropriate to give the bonus to our personnel," he said, referring to Tunceli's sizeable Alevi population.
Mazlum Doğan, the Tunceli representative of the labor union that signed the agreement, said the Muharram bonus is likely the first-of-its-kind in Turkey in terms of making a payment to Alevi personnel by the state on the occasion. "Tunceli is a place with an entrenched culture and faith of Alevis. It is meaningful that this community is recognized and valued. We hope other cities will follow this example and recognize different faiths," he said.
Alevis constitute the second-largest religious community in the country after Sunnis, but their demands for more recognition have often been ignored. Their primary request is the granting of legal status to cemevis, their places of worship. In a set of reforms announced for the community, the government pledged to grant it as soon as possible. The status will enable state aid to cemevis and dedes, Alevi community leaders.
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