On 2 – 7 September 2015 IARF delegation paid an official visit to the Bektashi Order in Macedonia, an IARF Member Group, as well as its sister communities in Albania and Kosovo. The delegation consisted of Wytske Dijkstra, IARF President and Derek McAuley, the chairman of our Europe and the Middle East region. Arben Sulejmani, chair of the Macedonian Bektashi Community, acted as the host on behalf of the Order.
The order has its origin in the teachings and life of the 13th century Haji Bektash Veli in Anatolia, in present-day Turkey. In the early 16th century it took its present shape as a Sufi order. Four years after all Sufi orders had been prohibited in Turkey in 1925, the central power was shifted to Albania.
When, in 1967, all religious practices were being prohibited, all places of worship in Albania were shut down. The order is now in the process of re-establishing itself. Bektashiism has incorporated elements of a wide range of religious traditions – Sunni, Sufi, Shia, and Christian among them. It is, and has been throughout its history, open to new ideas. Mysticism is eminent in all teachings and practices. Scriptures consist of poetry rather than doctrinal teachings. Music and art is used as a vehicle to convey teachings.
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The main purpose of the visit was to highlight the situation of the Bektashi in Macedonia and Kosovo, where the community suffers various disadvantages compared to other religious groups, and to attend the opening ceremony of the Odeon at the Kryegjyshata Botërore Bektashiane, the Order’s new assembly hall in Tirana, Albania, which brought together representatives from the region’s whole Bektashi community as well as religious leaders from all over the world.
To advocate the Bektashi cause and bring it to the attention of international bodies, the delegates met with several important figures, including ambassadors, other diplomats and representatives of international organizations in the region. Additionally, they investigated possible venues for the 2016 Europe and Middle East Conference to be held in Skopje, Macedonia, and made other preparations for the event in collaboration with persons who will be in charge of hosting it on behalf of the Bektashi. A more detailed account of the activities and meetings follows below.
On 2 September the delegates met with Dr. Skender Asani, director of the Institute of Spiritual and Cultural Heritage of the Albanians in Skopje. They discussed the IARF and its mission, the activities of the Heritage Institute and its position in Macedonian society.
The relationship between IARF and the Bektashi order has been excellent since 2009, resulting into the Macedonian branch of the Bektashi Order becoming IARF members in 2012. The present World leader, Hajji Dedebaba Edmond Brahimaj, has attended the IARF World Congress 2010 in Kochi; the present president of IARF has visited Bektashi events in Tirana, such as the annual symposium to commemorate Dedebaba Reshat Bardi and the most important feast of the year, Zoltan Nefruz, regularly since 2011.
Among other visits, the delegation met with Mr. Tibor Váradi, political officer at the EU office in Skopje. Their account of the situation regarding registration of the Bektashi by Macedonian authorities and the situation of the Harabati Tekke resulted in Mr. Váradi offering to look into the matter and bring the issue to the attention of colleagues in Brussels who are preparing the next progress report. He advised to contact DG Near of the European Commission about raising the Bektashi issues in EU-Macedonian dialogue.
Kosovo TV’s report on the opening of the Odeon with interviews of IARF delegates (starting at about 19:00)
To raise awareness of the plight of the Bektashis, IARF has also established a working group in The Netherlands and will continue to promote the cause through publishing on its website.
Finally, the delegation attended the opening event of the ODEON building at the Kryegjyshata Botërore Bektasiane. It had an audience with His Holiness Dedebaba Edmond Brahimaj, who promised to attend the IARF EME conference in Macedonia on 23 August 2016. As the EME regional conference 2016 will be hosted by the Bektashis, it is hoped that yet more attention will be drawn to their predicaments.
Photographs from the visit: