Turkish president attends annual dervish festival

The annual dervish festival on the anniversary of the death of the Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi brings crowds to the conservative city of Konya, the Washington Post said, including this year Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“The winds of separatism are trying to spread ... to destroy our ancient unity,” it quoted Erdoğan as saying at the festival.

“I would like to request that everyone, all of Mevlana’s friends, take ownership of our faith, our values and our motherland with love, with affection, with enthusiasm.”

“Sufism – which was banned in Turkey nearly 100 years ago and survived only through underground networks – emphasises love and reflection as a more direct path to God. It encourages followers to shun material wealth and seek inner peace,” the Post said.

“Today, Sufis can practice – and whirl – at state-owned museums and cultural centres. But they still are barred from forming orders, or brotherhoods.”

However, the newspaper omitted Erdoğan’s own connection to the gnostic form of Islam: he was a member of the İskender Paşa brotherhood while growing up, and many of his cabinet ministers are said to have kept their affiliations with their Sufi brotherhoods.

Konya has been one of the economic winners of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 15 years in power, the Washington Post said, but some were unhappy with recent developments.

“When people travel, they want to be safe. They don’t want war,” it quoted hotel manager Sami Yıldız as saying.

“It’s our government’s politics – because of that, there is no safety, no tourism.”