AKP, MHP downvote motion calling for legal recognition of Alevi places of worship

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Thursday voted against a motion by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) calling for legal recognition of Alevi community's place of worship, or cemevi, by Istanbul municipality, T24 said.

The AKP-MHP bloc, which maintains 180 seats of the total 312, voted against the CHP’s motion during plenary sessions of the Istanbul Municipality’s assembly, T24 said.

Legal recognition of their cemevis has been one of the long-standing issues cited by many in the Alevi community. According to Turkish law, the electricity bills for places of worship of the Muslim population are paid from the budget allocated to the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Diyanet, Turkey’s top religious body. 

But the Diyanet does not pay the electricity bills for cemevis of the Alevis, who make up some 15-20 percent of Turkey’s population as the Turkish state treats Alevi Islam as a heterodox Muslim sect.

The AKP, in power for 18 years, earlier promised during the campaign for elections in June to classify cemevis as official places of worship, and organised Alevi workshops as part of what it calls its “Alevi opening” initiative. But no concrete steps have been made until today.

Alevism is a branch of Islam that combines Shi’ite, Sufi, and Sunni traditions. Some estimate that Alevis make up as much as 25 percent of Turkey’s 80-million population, making them the country’s largest religious minority. But official figures are hard to come by as Alevism is not officially recognised as a faith, but are counted as Muslim, along with the Sunni majority.