President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan broke his fast during a cemevi with the Alevi community to mark the day of Ashura in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Monday.
Erdoğan arrived at Hüseyin Gazi Cemevi shortly after attending a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
Participants in the fast-breaking dinner included representatives of the Alevi and Bektashi associations, Vice President Fuat Oktay, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy.
The word “Achoura” means “10”, referring to the date of the holiday in the Islamic calendar, the month of Muharram.
The president commemorated the anniversary of the historic “martyrdom” of Imam al-Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad who was killed in the year 680 during the Battle of Karbala in what is now Iraq.
“I hope that the day of Ashura and the (Muslim) month of Muharram, which are symbols of unity and solidarity, will be a good omen for the whole Muslim world,” Erdoğan said on Twitter.
Erdoğan added: “On the anniversary of his martyrdom, I commemorate Imam al-Hussein, the lord of martyrs and the grandson of the Prophet, and all the martyrs of Karbala with mercy and reverence.
Al-Hussein, along with 72 loyal companions, was killed in the infamous Battle of Karbala in the year 61 of the Islamic calendar by the forces of Umayyad Caliph Yazid I on the 10th day of Muharram.
Last month, Turkish officials condemned attacks targeting cemevis, including three in Ankara and one in Istanbul’s Kartal district.
The Alevis, who are the second largest religious community in the country with around 20 million followers, have a list of concerns over various issues, including public recognition of their identity, the legal status of cemevis – their places of worship – and funding. , as well as the prerogative for Alevi students to be excluded from compulsory religion classes in elementary and secondary schools.
Cemevis are currently considered foundations under the Turkish Ministries of Interior, Culture and Tourism, rather than recognized as places of worship, which would legally entitle them to receive state funding like mosques, churches and synagogues of recognized religious minorities in the country. Some 80-90% of all cemevis in the country have been built under successive AK Party governments since 2002, according to former minister Lütfi Elvan.