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Mosques get millions in funding for lighting while cemevis get high electricity bills

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Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) has allocated TL 103.5 million ($7.6 million) for the illumination of mosques amid recent debates regarding high electricity bills for cemevis, Alevi houses of worship that are charged as businesses, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Thursday.

The Diyanet had allocated TL 78 million ($5.7 million) for the illumination of the mosques in 2021, according to reports Diyanet issued. 

Turks started 2022 with news of jacked-up prices, fueled by a currency crisis amid the highest rate of inflation in nearly two decades.

Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Authority announced on Jan. 1 that it had raised electricity prices by around 50 percent for lower-demand households for the new year and more than 100 percent for high-demand commercial users.

Cemevis, which are places of worship for Alevis, are considered to be businesses and therefore are subjected to the highest increase among electricity users in Turkey.

Alevi organizations recently announced that they refuse to pay the high electricity bills until they are rolled back for cemevis.

Federation of Alevi Associations President Celal Fırat, who is also chairman of the board of the Foundation for Garip Dede Cemevi, said in a tweet on Monday that they refused to pay the January electricity bill in the amount of TL 30,000 ($2,200) for the cemevi in İstanbul.

“The illumination costs of places of workshop, which were established for the people to pray and where entry is free of charge, are covered from the allocation made in the budget for the Religious Affairs Directorate,” according to a provisional article in the Electricity Market Law.

However, no allocation is made for cemevis under this provision since they are not officially recognized as places of worship.

Turkey has long denied the demands of Alevis, who are estimated to account for 12-15 million of Turkey’s population of 84 million, for state recognition, and cemevis are not officially recognized by the state, hence given no financial assistance.

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