Alevi Opening 2.0

Published 09.11.2014 22:59
Updated 10.11.2014 15:44

The Turkish government is truly committed to address several concerns and wishes of the Alevi community

Although the media has lately been preoccupied with the future of the Kurdish reconciliation process, the Davutoğlu administration's commitment to reaching out to the Alevi community in addition to its interest in continued dialogue with the PKK leadership sends a strong message to skeptics. In the future, the government must not be discouraged by the actions of radical elements willing to resort to violence in order to prevent reconciliation. The moderate majority within the community should, in turn, join forces with the authorities in an effort to tackle existing problems. addressed the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government's internal security reform and mentioned that there was "talk in the backrooms of the Turkish capital that the government will also take additional steps to alleviate the pressing problems of the Alevi community." Accounting for approximately 15 percent of the nation's entire population, Alevis have spent the good part of the past century as one of the primary targets of policies of assimilation and denial.

In recent years, certain groups within the broader Alevi community became the center of media attention particularly in association with the Gezi Park protests and acts of urban violence. As such, empowering moderate Alevis through constructive government policy has come to represent a crucial requisite of social peace in Turkey.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu took a big step in the right direction when he spoke at the 4th International Ashura Day, which marks the 10th day of the Islamic month of Muharram and the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala where Hussein ibn Ali, a Shiite imam and a grandson of the Prophet Muhammed, lost his life at the hands of Umayyad Caliph Yazid I. Mr. Davutoğlu touched upon the proposed road map for Alevi reforms and reiterated his government's commitment to addressing several of the community's concerns and problems.

With regard to K-12 religion courses, whose traditionally Sunni emphasis has long been criticized by Alevis and others, Mr. Davutoğlu said that his government was prepared to abolish the courses altogether if they "humiliated or defamed any given faith." Explaining the reasoning behind this proposal, Mr. Davutoğlu pointed out that he cannot discriminate against any citizen while in office. Furthermore, he called on the Alevi community to address pressing issues in cooperation with the authorities. "We will not sweep any problems under the rug. The Alevi faith is part and parcel of this land," he said.

Most important, however, was Mr. Davutoğlu's statement about the Madımak Hotel where 33 people - mostly Alevis - perished as a result of the 1993 arson of the building by a Sunni mob. Although many observers believe that the Turkish deep state was deeply involved in the traumatic event, the authorities have thus far been largely unable to offer closure to the Alevi community. "These sad memories hurt our hearts. We can turn [the hotel] into a living museum," Mr. Davutoğlu said on Saturday.

Although the media has lately been preoccupied with the future of the Kurdish reconciliation process, the Davutoğlu administration's commitment to reaching out to the Alevi community in addition to its interest in continued dialogue with the PKK leadership sends a strong message to skeptics. In the future, the government must not be discouraged by the actions of radical elements willing to resort to violence in order to prevent reconciliation. The moderate majority within the community should, in turn, join forces with the authorities in an effort to tackle existing problems.

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