Eren Erdem, a former deputy of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has been denied his right to a visit from a cleric of his faith after being arrested on June 29, the Çağdaş Ses news website reported on Monday.
Erdem, a member of the Alevi faith, Turkey’s largest religious minority, has seen his request to see an Alevi spiritual leader, or dede, rejected despite the right in Turkey for prisoners to have a visit from a representative of their faith once a week, his lawyer, Onur Çıngıl told Çağdaş Ses.
“This is a right that must be granted whenever possible to all detainees and convicts of any faith. There are many different sects in Turkey, and millions of Alevi citizens. At this point, there may be thousands of convicts and detainees experiencing the same problem,” said Çıngıl.
Erdem was detained last month and arrested by a court over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Tensions between the Alevi and Sunni communities in Turkey date back to Ottoman times. In 1511, the Ottoman army brutally suppressed a revolt by the Kızılbaş Turkmens of the Alevi faith on Anatolian soil, and as many as 40,000 were killed. The Battle of Çaldıran, fought between the Ottoman Empire under Yavuz Sultan Selim and the Safavid Shah İsmail in 1514, resulted in the sultan issuing an edict to kill all the Kızılbaş in the region.
During the republican era, thousands of Alevis were massacred in Dersim in 1937, and hundreds of Alevis were killed in pogroms, which many now believe were masterminded by groups inside the state, in the cities of Çorum, Yozgat and Kahramanmaraş in the 1970s.
Thirty-four Alevi intellectuals were burned to death in 1992 inside the Madımak Hotel in Sivas. In other incidents, such as in İstanbul’s predominantly Alevi Gazi neighborhood in 1995, Alevis were targeted by individuals armed with machine guns. (SCF with Ahval)