Documentary Photographer Aydin Cetinbostanoglu is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From his project ‘Alevi Society‘. To see Aydin’s gallery of projects click on any image.
Anatolian Cultures / Alevi’s and Their “Cem” Rituals
Secular and a Society Connected to the Republic
The Alevi are a religious, sub-ethnic and cultural community in Turkey, numbering in the tens of millions. Alevism is generally considered a sect of Shi’a Islam. However, Alevi worship takes place in assembly houses (cem house) rather than mosques. The ceremony, âyîn-i cem or simply cem, features music and dance (semah) which symbolize the main planets around the Sun (by man and woman turning in circles) and the putting off of one’s self and uniting with God. In Alevism, men and women are regarded as equals, and pray side by side. Unlike most other Muslim practices, Alevi rituals are conducted mostly in Turkish.
Key Alevi characteristics include:
- Love and respect for all people (“The important thing is not religion, but being a human being”)
- Tolerance towards other religions and ethnic groups (“If you hurt another person, the ritual prayers you have done are counted as worthless”)
- Respect for working people (“The greatest act of worship is to work”)
Some consider Alevism a sect of specifically Twelver Shi‘a Islam, since Alevis accept Twelver Shi‘i beliefs about Ali and the Twelve Imams. Alevism is also closely related to the Bektashi Sufi lineage, in the sense that both venerate Hajji Bektash Wali, a saint of the 13th century. Many Alevis refer to an “Alevi-Bektashi” tradition, but this identity is not universally accepted, nor is the combined name used by non-Turkish Bektashis.
In addition to its religious aspect, Alevism is also closely associated with Anatolian folk culture.
Modern Alevi theology has been profoundly influenced by humanism and universalism. The 1990s brought a new emphasis on Alevism as a cultural identity. Alevi communities today generally support secularism after the Kemalist model.
A portfolio with stories
By Aydin Cetinbostanoglu