As the Turkish government prepares an Alevi initiative as part of its democratization package, one of the most contested questions pertains to the status of cemevis, which are Alevi religious houses of gathering, and whether or not the government should officially recognize them as houses of worship or not. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç signaled that the government will be pleased to grant cemevis exclusive status and privileges as nongovernmental organizations and foundations, which he noted was requested by the Alevi community.
Arınç explained that the government is conducting discussions with Turkey's Alevi community and closely listening to the statements of community leaders. "I personally think there is confusion regarding this matter," Arınç said, adding that only a small minority of Alevis request the recognition of cemevis as houses of worship.
To elaborate on his claim, Arınç referred to an instance when he was invited to an Alevi iftar dinner and exchanged ideas with a renowned Alevi figure, asking him if cemevis could be synonymous with mosques and recognized as houses of worship. In response to this, the Alevi leader reportedly said that mosques are places of prayer whereas cemevis are places of supplication.
Considering other relevant factors, Arınç said that it would be beneficial to get the views of the Directorate of Religious Affairs about the issue and reiterated the idea that the government will not hesitate to grant cemevis special status similar to those of foundations and nongovernmental organizations, which would grant them exclusive privileges.
The status of cemevis in Turkey has been disputed since 1925 when Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, closed Sufi lodges and monasteries, including the Hacı Bektaş Lodge, the main lodge of Alevis. Currently, Alevi community leaders demand an amendment be made to the relevant legislation to reopen the Hacı Bektaş Lodge where new Alevi leaders and scholars can be trained and educated. Likewise, the government proposes to address these grievances and establish academic departments in universities for Alevi studies.