Turkey’s Alevis March Against Discrimination

n_66951_1Thousands of Alevis marched in rallies across Turkey on May 25, calling for an end to discrimination in the aftermath of two deaths in Istanbul.

Rallies were held in cities including Istanbul, Ankara, Adana, İzmir and Diyarbakır. Speaking in Istanbul, Doğan Demir, the head of the Alevi Cultural Associations, spoke out against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “polarizing” language.

“Enough with the prime minister’s polarizing, insulting and violent speech toward Alevis, and enough with attacks on our beliefs and cemevis [worshipping places],” Demir said.

Two people, Uğur Kurt and Ayhan Yılmaz, were killed in clashes between police and anti-government protesters last week in Okmeydanı, a predominantly Alevi neighborhood in Istanbul. Kurt was killed on May 22 by a bullet while attending a funeral at a local cemevi, and Demir described the killing as “deliberate” and “unacceptable.”

“Alevis know the culprits of the attacks against our fellow Alevis and on our cemevis. We warn the political power: Get your hands off Alevis,” he added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Erdoğan has extended his condolences to 30-year-old Kurt’s family, calling Kemal Kurt, the father of the deceased, who the police have confirmed was not involved in the protests.

Prime Ministry sources told state-run Anadolu Agency that Erdoğan pledged that the government would follow the case and would conduct every required procedure to illuminate the incident.

A second man, Ayhan Yılmaz, died from injuries on May 23 after being hit by a grenade explosion during violent clashes overnight May 22.

Anadolu Agency reported that Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek had called the families of both Kurt and Yılmaz on May 25, offering his condolences for their losses.

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