Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Photo Slideshow of Tekke Damage

A photo slideshow of the damages to the tekkee is now available by clicking on the image below the donation button, located to the right.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bektashi Appeal to Human Rights Without Frontiers; And Photos of the Damage Done by the Invaders

Human Rights Without Frontiers

Newsletter "Religious Intolerance and Discrimination"

FYROM - MACEDONIA: Bektashi appeal to Human Rights Without Frontiers

20 March 2008

HRWF (20.03.2008) - Website: http://www.hrwf.net - Email: info@hrwf.net The Bektashi of Macedonia have appealed to Human Rights Without Frontiers about the non-restitution by the Government of one of their holy places now occupied by force by the Islamic Community of Macedonia (ICM). The Bektashi, a Sufi Islamic group, sued the Government for failing to reverse the Former Yugoslavia's nationalization of the Bektashi's Tetovo compound, known as the Arabati Baba Tekke. The Bektashi also filed suit against ICM, armed members of which seized part of the complex in 2002. Right now, the ICM continues to occupy the area. The ICM claimed that the property belonged to them, since the Bektashi are a "sect" of Islam; however, the Bektashi are registered as a separate religious group and alleged that the property belonged strictly to the Bektashi community and not the Islamic community as a whole.

Dear Mr. Fautre,

My name is C____, and I am writing on behalf of the Bektashi community of Macedonia.

In 2002, shortly after the war between Macedonia and ethnic Albanian separatists, a group of armed extremists invaded the Harabati Baba Tekke, located in Tetovo, Macedonia, a Bektashi religious site. The invaders are members of the Islamic Community of Macedonia, and their goal is to 'reclaim' the tekke as a mosque, although the structure has not served as a mosque at any time in its past.

Since that time the Bektashi community has sought a non-violent, legal solution to the dilemma, but to no avail; and in the meantime, the invaders have caused destruction to the property, defiled gravesites, harassed visitors, and most recently have begun discharging their firearms on the tekke grounds. The government has failed to recognize the autonomy of the religious community, has not acted to remove the men and their weapons from the site during the legal proceedings, and has not prevented them from beginning efforts at constructing a mosque on the site.

As a religious minority, the Bektashi community routinely suffers religious intolerance and discrimination both societally as well as institutionally, and only seeks return of the tekke grounds, and recognition of their independent and autonomous status as a religious organization in Macedonia. Moreover, the tekke itself is a historical and cultural site of great value to the Macedonian people which is being systematically destroyed to add a twenty-fifth mosque to Tetovo's existing twenty-four facilities.

Sir, we please ask your help. In your efforts to advocate for human rights, we ask that you bring the plight of the Bektashi community of Macedonia to the European institutions and people. We thank you for your consideration.

Bektashi 'Ashik
On Behalf of the Macedonian Bektashi Community

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Donate Now!

We have just received permission from the Bektashi Community of Macedonia to solicit donations for repair to the Harabati Baba teqe, as well as to cover the legal costs to fight for the rights of the Bektashi community.

You can donate using a major credit card - VISA/MC/AMEX etc - or PayPal, by clicking the donate button to the right. Your transaction will be conducted under a secure, encrypted socket to protect your financial information.

The money will be collected in the account, and then transferred to the Bektashi community, monthly.

If you would like to know the details, please contact the webmaster. He is more than happy to share the information.

Have a happy new year!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fax Howard Berman and Email the Commission on Religious Freedom

Howard Berman (D, California) is the current chair of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, and a good person to contact regarding the tekke situation, especially in the few weeks we have left before the NATO summit where Macedonia will be invited to join that organization. We should press him to ask tough questions of the Macedonian government about the tekke situation, and recognition of the autonomy of the Bektashi community, before they are admitted to NATO.

You can fax Mr. Berman at (202) 225-3196 and (818) 994-1050; you can send up to two free faxes a day through FaxZero, and it only takes a few minutes to do so. Enough people pestering Mr Berman with unwanted faxes every day might make a difference!

You might try telling Mr Berman:
"I, as a member of the Bektashi community of the United States, wish to express outrage and concern over the 2002 invasion of the Harabati Baba tekke in Tetovo, Macedonia by armed extremists and the unwillingness of the Macedonian government to remove these men from the compound or to register the Bektashi community of Macedonia, something which they have consistently sought since 1993.

I find it grievously incongruous that Macedonia should find admittance to NATO though it allows armed men to determine ownership of property and refuses to recognize a legitimate religious community older than the country itself.

I ask you to press the Macedonian government to find a just and peaceful solution to this stand-off and return the tekke to its rightful owners, the Bektashi community of Macedonia."

Also, please contact the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and let them know your opinion as well.

Is Macedonia Ready to Join NATO?

This April, NATO - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - holds a summit in Bucharest, Romania. It is expected that at this summit, Croatia, Albania and Macedonia will receive invitations to join the organization.

But is Macedonia ready to join NATO, dedicated to the rule of law and human rights, when it allows men with weapons to decide property-ownership, and has denied a religious minority official recognition for 15 years?

Write to Victoria Nuland, US Ambassador to NATO, and voice your concern; if Macedonia wishes to join the community of free nations, she will need to treat all her citizens fairly.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Situation Thus Far

On August 15th 2002, and group of extremists armed with Kalashnikovs and pistols busted into the expansive Harabati Baba Tekke in Tetovo, Macedonia and seized control of a large part of it, professing to be "recovering" it in order to perform the five daily prayers there. These ruffians remain there to this day, impressing their religious fanaticism on this picturesque and idyllic Bektashi compound and harassing its many visitors. With the unspoken consent of the Sunni religious hierarchy of Macedonia these men now utilize a structure call the Kubeli Meydan as an ad-hoc mosque, deafeningly blaring the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) from the loud-speakers they have attached to that structure's chimney, two of which opportunely face towards the area the Bektashis still control! They have disfigured the historical integrity of the building by tearing out part of the wall facing southeast and installing a concrete mihrab (the niche indicating the direction of Mecca). "Security" has taken up residence in the old "Mihman Evi" (guest house) and from there they regularly accost visitors telling them that this is the property of the "Islamic Community" and to keep away from the Bektashi "heretics".

The Harabati Baba Tekke was built in the late 18th century around the tomb of the great 16th century Bektashi saint, Sersem Ali Baba. Copies of vakf (Islamic religious trust) documents exist attesting to the fact that the compound was indeed meant to be a Bektashi tekke from the beginning, not a mosque. In fact one of these documents affirms that the compound is to be used as a Bektashi monastery ad infinitum and in the event that this ceases to be the case ownership of all of the properties of the tekke are to revert back to the family of the donor, Rexhep Pasha. The Harabati Baba Tekke was used as a Bektashi lodge until 1945 when the communists confiscated it and removed its last shaykh, Baba Qazim Bakalli. In the 1960s it was turned into a tourist attraction and three of the seven buildings that make up the tekke were utilized as a hotel, a restaurant and a disco. The Kubeli Meydan was put to use as a small art museum. The drunken depravity of many of the "hotel's" guests led to repeated incidents of desecration (tombstones smashed and urinated on, fornication carried out in the türbe etc.) and in 1992 a fire started in the main türbe structure by inebriated partygoers caused significant damage to the graves of the many saints buried within. In 1994 the Bektashi community, led by Baba Tayyar Gashi and Baba Tahir Emini, had enough of this befouling of their sacred site and it staged a sit-in, an act which eventually gained them partial control of the complex. A positive resolution to the issue of ownership of the property was well on its way until August of 2002 when religious fanatics claimed the tekke as a mosque.

It must be emphatically stated that the Harabati Baba Tekke was never used as a mosque. In addition to the testimony offered by the original vakf documents, the fact that the Kubeli Meydan (where the extremists now hold prayers) was devoid of a mihrab should be a rather significant indication that the five canonical daily prayers were never offered here. Bektashis have no need for mihrabs in their meydans, seeing that their ceremonial prayer does not require one. Another discernible sign that the structure was never a mosque is that the Kubeli Meydan does not have a minaret from where the call to prayer is made (adhan). Nevertheless to alleviate this oversight the extremists intruders have hoisted loudspeakers up the building's chimney.

Why would the Sunnis need to appropriate this tekke to use as a mosque? There are over twenty-five mosques on the city of Tetovo, twelve of which are in the locality of the tekke. Why is it that these extremists couldn't see fit to pray in these places? Could there be other reasons for this belligerent invasion? Could it be that the main intention of these fanatics boils down to the control of property?

The Harabati Baba Tekke has the potential for tremendous wealth due to the fact that its vakf property holdings are quite vast. If the tekke, inshallah, is restored in its totality to the Bektashi community, the funds that could be generated through these properties will be significant and they will provide ample income for the maintenance of the community's needs.

To date the Macedonian government has taken little interest in resolving this case. In fact the Bektashi community has not been recognized by the government as a separate religious community vis-à-vis the Sunnis despite regular appeals since 1993. The lack of response from the Macedonian government is rather suspicious given that other Macedonian Sufi orders (Halvetis, Rifais, Sadis, Kadiris and Naqshbandis) have an organization call the Islamic Dervish Religious Community which is recognized by the state as an entity separate from the Sunni community.
The legal action taken by the Bektashis to remove these fanatics has, to date, come to nothing; and in early March, 2008, reports have filtered out of Macedonia that the extremists have taken control of larger portions of the complex, that they are rebuffing any visits, and have begun discharging their machine guns on the tekke grounds.

Please contact your democratic representatives, and let us bring pressure to bear on the Macedonian government to act towards a just and peaceful resolution to this conflict.