Ministry of Culture and Tourism to sponsor religious journey of Alevi dedes
Feb 07, 2014 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Feb 07, 2014 12:00 am
Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Association of Turkish Travel Agencies to sponsor visit of 100 Alevi dedes to holy cities.
A hundred religious leaders of the Alevi ın Turkey, called dedes, will travel to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, revered by Shiites, and perform umrah on a trip sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Assocıatıon of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB).
The group will first visit Najaf, the burial site of Ali, the fourth caliph, in February. They will then go to Karbala, the site where Hussein Ibn Ali was martyred. Both Ali and Hussein are key figures in Shiism. The trip will conclude with umrah in Saudi Arabia.
Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik expressed his hopes the project would be a step toward reconciliation between the Sunni and Alevi communities. He called on other nongovernmental organizations to support such projects to ensure unity across the Muslim world.
"Najaf, Mecca, and Medina are all holy cities of the Islamic world and the Ministry is proud of sponsoring this journey," said Çelik.
Celal Özer, an Alevi dede who will participate in the trip, emphasized there should be no separation between the sects of Islam and thanked the Turkish government.
Turkey's longstanding Alevi turmoil erupted in 1937 and 1938 in the Dersim region, today's Tunceli province in Turkey. The Turkish military acted to put down an Alevi uprising with aerial bombings and poison gas, killing 13,806 people and displacing scores. The Alevis revolted following Turkey's 1934 Resettlement Law, which aimed to assimilate the ethnic minorities through forced resettlement.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized in November 2011 for the Dersim incident, which he described as one of the most painful and bloody in Turkey's recent history.
In the years since the Dersim tragedy, Alevi activists have demanded to be classified as a religious minority, which would grant the group official recognition and tax exemption for their houses of worship, implement elective courses on the Alevi faith in public schools, and ensure greater emphasis on non-discrimination.
An upcomıng democratization package to be introduced by the AK Party includes provisions to address some of the concerns of the Alevi community with cautious support from various Alevi organizations. The reform package is expected to reach Parliament floor on this month ahead of the local elections to be held in March.