Republican People’s Party (CHP) Tunceli deputy Hüseyin Aygün filed a formal application with the parliamentary Human Rights Commission in May, requesting that a space be provided for a cemevi within the Parliament building. However, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek sent a written response to Aygün, saying that his request had been denied.
“Alevism is not a separate religion but a development that originated in Islam and a cultural treasure that emerged during the course of Islamic history, and Islam’s places of worship are mosques,” Çiçek said in his response.
Aygün then filed a suit against Parliament, rejecting its decision on the proposal of a cemevi in the parliamentary building. But Parliament recently sent a statement to the Ankara 6th Administrative Court demanding the dismissal of the case and echoing Çiçek’s argument.
“It is not possible to consider cemevis and other [such] premises as places of worship, because Alevism, which is a sub-group of Islam, cannot have a place of worship other than mosques or mescits, which are common places of worship within Islam,” the Parliament’s statement read.
The country’s Alevi population, estimated to be anywhere between 6 and 15 million, uses houses of worship known as cemevis rather than mosques as centers of worship and prayer. While the government does not formally recognize the status of cemevis as houses of worship, state leaders have given implicit recognition with visits to cemevis, including a visit by President Abdullah Gül to a cemevi in the predominately Alevi city of Tunceli in 2009.