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21 Mar 2016

Issue 1 / March 2016
Dear All,
I am delighted to welcome you to the first edition of the quarterly newsletter for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Alevis (APPGA).
The APPGA was set up on 3rd December 2015 to recognise the important contribution that the Alevi community makes to British society. Our aim is to ensure that British Alevis are represented in Parliament by giving them a platform to express their legitimate socio-political aspirations, ensuring that they achieve recognition for their rights and religion in Britain and overseas.
It is important that the culture and beliefs of the Alevi community are recognised and celebrated and for their rights to protected and upheld. Your support in doing so would be welcomed and encouraged.
For our first edition the British Alevi Federation have provided introductory information about their organisation, the Alevi community in Britain and Turkey, as well as an outline of the core religious beliefs of Alevism. Also included are a selection of key dates in the Alevi calendar, as well as upcoming events hosted by the APPGA, which you are warmly invited to attend.
I hope that you enjoy our newsletter and find it informative, please feel free to share it with colleagues and friends.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Alevi community and Alevism, or are interested in joining the APPGA please get in touch!
Next week on Tuesday 22nd March between 7pm-9pm in Committee Room 14 the APPGA and British Alevi Federation are holding a panel discussion on ‘Alevis and the current situation in Turkey’. It would be great if you could attend what will certainly be a fascinating discussion, please see below for further details.
With warm wishes as always,
Rt. Hon Joan Ryan MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Alevis ALL-PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP FOR ALEVIS The APPGA seeks to promote awareness, recognition and engagement of and with the Alevi community across Britain and internationally. The APPGA also aims to advance the community’s development and supports the recognition of their legitimate socio-political aspirations.
With thanks to the British Alevi Federation for their support and assistance.
British Alevi Federation
The British Alevi Federation is an umbrella organisation representing
approximately 300,000 Alevis living in the United Kingdom.
There are twelve Alevi Cultural Centres and Cemevis (places of Alevi worship)
serving people in the UK. These centres are based in London, Glasgow,
Coventry, Bournemouth, Nottingham, Doncaster, Hull, Sheffield,
Northamptonshire and Edinburgh.
‘Our aim is to represent the Alevi community in Britain, ensuring that their
basic social and cultural needs are met. We provide many different services
for the Alevi community including: voluntary legal, advice and translation
services; educational services; youth festivals and cultural events; religious
events and rituals; funeral services; charity events; media and public
relations services to promote Alevism; and finally cultural lobbying to
highlight the difficulties faced by many practicing Alevis in Turkey.’
Recent Activities
The British Alevi Federation travelled to Austria as part of a delegation to
lobby the Austrian Government to officially recognise Alevism as an
independent belief system. The Federation is seeking to achieve recognition
for the Alevi community in Austria and are undertaking similar lobbying and
engagement efforts with governments throughout Europe.
Alevism is Turkey’s second largest independent belief community. Providing a
precise definition of Alevi beliefs often proves difficult, as Alevism is a diverse
movement without any central authority. Alevism is a broad term which covers
several different ethno-cultural communities, incorporating many different
languages and belief components.
The Alevi word for God is ‘Hakk’ which means ‘truth’. Alevis believe that
everything in the universe is an expression of Hakk. This understanding of the universe is central to Alevis, as they view the
purpose of life to become one with Hakk. Alevism teaches that all living creatures are sacred and that men and women are
equal, placing egalitarianism at the core of its teachings.
It is noteworthy that Alevis often call each other ‘can’ (pronounced ‘jan’) which means soul, as it is a gender-neutral term.
This symbolises the complete parity between men and women in Alevism. Unlike many other faiths men and women worship
side by side during Alevi rituals and are treated as equals. Alevis consider all religions and living philosophies to be different
ways of reaching Hakk and view all nations as one regardless of their ethnic, racial, gender and linguistic differences.
Launch of the APPGA on 3rd December 2015
The British Alevi Federation in Austria
An Introduction to Alevism
Central to Alevism is the cemevi, a place of assembly and religious worship. It is inside a cemevi that a cem, the main religious ritual in Alevism, takes place. This religious ceremony features music, singing and dancing, in which both men and women participate. Spiritual songs are sung in Turkish and other local languages, which aim to teach participants important life lessons. These songs are often hundreds of years old and form part of the Alevism’s oral history, having been passed down for generations.
While there are no official statistics as to the number of Alevis living in Turkey, their population is often estimated to be around 20 million, out of an overall population of approximately 75 million.
Despite Alevism’s de facto status as the second largest belief community in Turkey, Alevis have historically faced prejudice, discrimination and persecution. As a result, for much of their history the Alevi people have been forced to live closed and isolated lives in rural areas to avoid oppression.
Alevism is not legally recognised by the Turkish state, making Alevis and cemevis illegal. Without official recognition cemevis are not regarded as places of worship and are required to pay taxes, whereas mosques and other places of worship are exempt. Many Alevis view this as discrimination and argue that the Turkish government is attempting to assimilate Alevis into Turkey’s majority Sunni population by ignoring their unique history, culture and beliefs.
Alevi organisations and groups across Turkey, Europe, Australia and North America are protesting the Turkish Government’s ‘Alevi opening’ initiative as they regard it as an attempt to assimilate Alevism into Islam. Alevis claim that their rights of freedom of religion are being infringed.
- 22nd March - APPGA panel discussion on ‘Alevis and the current situation in Turkey’
The panel discussion will include short speeches, a general discussion, and a question and answer session on key, current issues, including media censorship, the imprisonment of journalists, the security situation in south east Turkey (Kurdish regions), and the treatment of the Alevi community.
Chair: Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South & Shoreditch, Vice-Chair APPGA
Speakers: Zeynep Altıok (MP for İzmir, Republican People’s Party), Hüseyin Camak (MP for Mersin, Republican People’s Party), Ahmet Şık (investigative journalist), TBC (representative from the British Alevi Federation).
Time: 7pm-9pm
Location: Committee Room 14, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
A cem ceremony taking place inside a cemevi, showing men and women worshiping together.
Meg Hillier MP, Vice-Chair APPGA
- 27th March 2016 - Doncaster Alevi Cultural Centre and Cemevi's concert
- 12th June 2016 – 6th Alevi Festival in the UK – London, Hackney Downs Park
- 2nd July 2016 - Memorial services will take place in every Alevi Cultural Centre and Cemevi across the UK commemorating the Sivas massacre of 1993
3rd July 2016 - Memorial services will take place in every Alevi Cultural Centre and Cemevi across the UK commemorating the Corum massacre of 1980
- 28th-30th September 2016 – Masum-u Paklar fasts
- 1st October – Fatma Ana fast
- 2nd-13th October 2016 – Muharrem fast – mourning of the events in Kerbela
(More events to be confirmed)
All-Party Parliamentary Group for Alevis
Rt. Hon Joan Ryan MP, Chair APPGA
020 7219 2442
House of Commons
Oxford University Semah event
Alevi Festival in Hackney
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