A week of events to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of the British Alevi Cultural Centre and Cemevi (IAKM) culminated with a special night of spiritual music and dance at the Dominion Centre in Wood Green, North London, on Saturday evening.
Titled ‘30 Yıl Semaha Durduk’ / 30 Years of Performing the Semah’, IAKM board members, British Alevis and local dignitaries were treated to live music, dance and spoken word in the 2,000 capacity venue.
Performers included Dertli Divani, Belgin Çetin, Cihan Celik, Dodan, Gülseven Medar, Orhan Bilge, Ozbi, Seher Ağbaba, Suna Alan, Vedat Yildinm, and Paul Dwyer. The backing band for the night comprised of Başer Bakır, Dursuncan Çakın, Erdal Yapıcı, Jömert Jomy, Levent Canen, Serkan Çakmak and Suat Karakuş.
Among the dignitaries present were Enfield’s two MPs, Feryal Clark and Bambos Charalambous, and the Mayors of Enfield and Haringey, Suna Hurman and Lester Buxton.
İAKM President İbrahim Has made a moving speech at the event about the incredible journey of the UK’s Alevi community, which has laid down strong roots for their faith through the establishment of the British Alevi Cultural Centre and Cemevi in London, which has served as a springboard for many other cemevi (Alevi place of worship) nationwide.
“Dear souls, the British Alevi Cultural Centre and Cemevi is 30 years old. How happy are we! In this journey, that started 30 years ago in London, we had self-sacrificing people who cared about the needs of our society. We planted a beautiful seed and today, with our 18 cemevi and cultural centres, this seed has turned into saplings and saplings into plane trees,” the İAKM President said.
Alevis have been in Britain for some four decades. During that time, the faith has spread its presence across the length and breadth of the country, as reflected in the location of the UK’s 18 cemevleri, which can be found in places such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Doncaster, Sheffield, Croydon and Bournemouth.
Mr Has’s speech included a potted history of the British Alevi community, from its early struggles to its latter-day successes. This includes creating an umbrella federation to co-ordinate and better support the individual cemevi, and that Alevism is now recognised as a separate faith in the UK. Alevis have a dedicated all-party interest group in the British Parliament and information about their faith is now included in lessons about religion in UK schools.
In a statement about turning 30, the İAKM highlighted the essence of the Alevi faith and how humanism is at the centre of it.
“Alevism is a humanist teaching that embraces love, peace, equality between men and women, and respect for nature, that lives through its rituals and fine arts, and expresses itself through its bard tradition…
“Like many humanist teachings, Alevism has been subject to oppression and persecution in the Middle East and Anatolia. Despite being subjected to massacres, it has lived for thousands of years as a colourful shade of humanism in the world and, through immigration, has also become a colourful part of the UK.”
The faith and cultural centre in Hornsey hosted a range of events as part of its 30th birthday, including a beautiful devotional unity Cem led by Alevi Baba Dertli Divani and companions at the IAKM in Hornsey, a panel discussion, and a book launch.
Their 9 December ‘30 Yıl Semaha Durduk’ gala night, which was broadcast live on Turkish television, will be reshown on IAKM’s Facebook and YouTube channels on Friday, 15 December.