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BRITISH-based members of Turkey’s Alevi community demanded the release of British Alevi Federation (BAF) chairman Israfil Erbil today after he was detained on arrival in Istanbul over the weekend.
He had flown out to attend a commemoration service to mark the 42nd anniversary of the Maras Massacre, a 1978 pogrom in which more than 100 men, women and children were killed by Sunni Muslim extremists and Turkish nationalists, with the alleged collusion of the CIA and the Turkish state.
Mr Erbil, whose federation represents around 300,000 British-based Alevis, was reportedly quizzed about the content of a speech he made at last year’s commemoration by police.
He responded by saying: “The statement is entirely my own and I will be making the same speech again tomorrow at the commemoration…because our fight for justice continues.”
The Turkish state has banned events marking the pogrom and arrested him.
In a statement the BAF said: “Freedom of speech is not a crime and we stand together against any attempt to criminalise our commemoration. Remembering those who lost their lives cannot be criminalised.
“Alevi institutions and our leaders cannot be harassed or persecuted. We ask that you stand by our leader and friend Israfil Erbil in calling for justice and condemn attempts by the Turkish state to prosecute our leader for the commemoration of the horrors committed against Alevis.”
The BAF called on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the British embassy to ensure the safe return of Mr Erbil and for all charges to be dropped.
“We must support Israfil Erbil in the fight for equal religious rights and freedom for Alevis. We want justice for the victims of the Maras Massacre. We must stand in unity as our fight for justice still continues.”
It appealed to human rights organisations and NGOs to join the campaign for his release and called for people to write to their MPs.
Campaigners are using the hashtags #StandWithIsrafilErbil and #Justice4Alevis on social media.
The Foreign Office have been contacted for comment.
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