Alevi opening and a historic chance

Published 19.11.2014 02:22

The government's determination on the resolution of the Kurdish issue is ongoing and new negotiations have enabled new channels. To compensate for the gravity of the incidents that took place on Oct. 6-7, when about 50 people were killed and thousands of houses and workplaces were sabotaged after provocations from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its political wing the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the PKK and the HDP now need to start thinking rationally again. The reconciliation process is ongoing and has become more settled. While taking steps with regard to the Kurdish issue, it is impossible to avoid facing another issue, which is even older, more deeply-rooted and more traumatic.

The exact number of Alevis living in Turkey is not known. State institutions have been unable to confirm a specific number so far. But it is certain that their population is well into the millions. As Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, Alevism, which had not been a problem within Anatolia until the 13th century, only became a controversial issue once the conflict between the Shiite Iran Shah and the Sunni Ottoman Emperor began. In the first half of the 16th century, Alevism suffered its first profound trauma in Anatolia. Thousands were killed during that period, forever poisoning relations. This poison is still hard to wash away. And the relationship between the state and Alevis can never be reformed.

There was a possibility of normalizing relations during the Turkish War of Independence. However, after Turkey won the war, the doors were shut on reconciliation again. The Republican People's Party (CHP), which seized state rule and founded a single-party dictatorship, closed the tekkes (dervish lodges) and zawiyahs, which were historical roots for Alevis. This was the biggest blow to them. Afterward, the party inflicted the greatest trauma of their recent history: the Dersim Massacre.

Each time, the state missed the chance to purify the traumas. For instance, the years between 1950 and 1960 were the times when such a chance was taken. The Democrat Party took the place of the CHP and most of the Alevis favored this "right-wing" party. The party received over 50 percent of the votes in the 1954 elections in provinces such as Tunceli, where Alevis are densely populated, something that cannot be imagined today.

However, with the 1957 elections, it can be said that this relationship reversed and Alevis tended to shift from a Sunni right-wing party to the CHP, which started to adopt a non-Sunni left-wing stance. Although the CHP did not provide Alevis with any legal, political or social guarantees, the tension Alevis had with the Sunni majority in the country caused them to be drawn to the CHP, despite the slaughter the latter had perpetrated. Although it is an irrational approach, it can still be understood in this context.

And today we are at a historic turning point. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party), currently the ruling power determined to solve these issues, has organized programs for their issues and has worked on a new road map. One still has to accept that even though the AK Party has officially apologized for the Dersim Massacre on behalf of the state, the move did not make any changes in the Alevis' approach to the AK Party. But of course, it cannot be denied that the apology has at least diluted the ill sentiment.

However, recent years have shown a lot of indications that Alevis have shifted to their former traumatic position again. Although many reforms were made for Alevis in religious education classes, schools' curricula, and their social and political organizations, it is obvious that the sympathy shown to the CHP, which carried out a massacre against Alevis, is not shown to the AK Party. Charging the Alevis for this would mean missing the point since the problem is not only based on 30 years of violence and a 100 years of ignorant policies, like in the Kurdish issue. This one is even more deep rooted.

Therefore, with the reconciliation process ongoing and Turkey rapidly advancing into an election atmosphere, it would be beneficial to implement the programs that meet the rightful demands of the Alevis. Turkey will have better progress if this historic chance is not missed again.

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