Thousands of people from Turkey’s Alevi minority have gathered in the city of Istanbul to demand their rights and freedoms they say the government has denied them for years.
On Sunday, the crowd affiliated with the Federation of Alevi Foundations (AVF) gathered for the protest at Istanbul’s Kadıköy district and marched to the İskele Square.
The demonstrators said they had been deprived of certain rights, including the official recognition of cemevis, the Alevi houses of worship, by the state.
“During the past 12 years, the government’s ambition to shape society according to [the government’s] understanding and will has increased day by day. Turkey’s current education system explicitly ignores the differences in society. The whole system is formed according to Sunni beliefs, completely ignoring the Alevi faith,” said the president of the Alevi-Bektashi Federation (ABV), Fevzi Gümüş.
For years, Turkish Alevi leaders have accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of attempting to assimilate the minority.
Alevism, which is an offshoot of Shia Islam, is mostly practiced in south and southeastern Turkey. The country is home to some 11 million Alevis.