‘All we’re asking is to be recognised’: the Alevis of Turkey struggle for equality
With an estimated population of between 15 to 20 million people, Turkey’s Alevi community is one of the country’s largest religious minorities. Despite being widely discriminated against, Alevis are being given renewed hopes in their struggle for equality in Turkey as Alevi presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu faces off against incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 14.
The Cemevi (Turkish for house of gathering) in the town of Pazarcik situated in the Kahramanmaras Province in southern Turkey has been heavily damaged by the February 6 earthquakes. The Alevi prayer house now serves as a place of storage for aid supplies.
Chairs and tables are piled together and boxes strewn about on the cracked and dust-covered floor of the partially destroyed prayer house where President Hasan Husevin Degirmenci of the local Alevi Cultural Association spoke with FRANCE 24.
The Pazarcik Cemevi, which was originally built with funds raised through the sale of "tea and coffee at weddings of the [Alevi] diaspora in Switzerland", is far from the only Alevi prayer house damaged by the earthquakes, Degirmenci said, adding that there is no rebuilding in sight.
Meanwhile mosques damaged by the earthquakes will be rebuilt, he said.
Alevism: an old syncretic religion
“We red heads (kızılbaş in Turkish refers to the crimson headwear worn by Alevis during the rule of the Ottoman empire) have nothing to do with Shias," Degirmenci said. "Ali is Shia. We pray for the 12 imams at each Cem (gathering) so that the prayer is complete.”
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