Alevis rally in Turkish capital of Ankara to seek basic rights

Alevis rally in Turkish capital of Ankara to seek basic rights

Thousands of Alevis rallied Sunday in the Turkish capital of Ankara to demand equal religious rights from the government. (UPDATED)

Haberin Devamı

About 50,000 people, arriving from all parts of the country, gathered in downtown Ankara, chanting slogans against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and dancing traditional Alevi dances.

The demonstrators call on the government to abolish the Religious Affairs Directorate, remove compulsory religious courses at schools and legalize the community's “cemevi” prayer houses.

Protestors carried Turkish flags and portraits of Turkey's secularist founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and placards with slogans such as: "End discrimination" and "Turkey is secular, it will remain secular."

The Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) came under fire for not listening to Alevi problems. They say that despite its advocacy of broader religious freedoms, the AKP government has done little on promises for reconciliation with the Alevis.

The Alevis are the second largest religious community in Turkey, although no official statistics exist. Their interpretation of Islam differs from Sunnis, such as they pray in "cemevi", not in mosques.

Sunday's gathering is the biggest rally ever by the Alevis.

Haberin Devamı

Some political parties, including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society (DTP), are also backing the Alevi demonstration.

In Turkey, the majority of the Alevi community traditionally votes for social democrat and leftist parties. 



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