The road map for the Alevi initiative

Published 27.11.2014 01:53

Just a month ago on Oct. 29, I noted in my column that the Turkish government had begun readdressing the Alevi initiative to improve the rights of Alevi citizens and shared suggestions that were raised on the matter. Last month, the government displayed an attitude revealing how seriously it is taking the matter. Policy makers held a number of closed-door meetings regarding how to carry out the Alevi initiative and which steps would be taken. They elaborated on the options that could be presented as the formula for a solution.

While studies on formulas were continuing, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu came together with Alevi citizens in public meetings to show that the government had the political will to maintain the Alevi initiative. The first of these meetings was held on Nov. 8 in Hacıbektaş, a popular pilgrimage site venerated by Alevis and followers of the Bektashi order in Turkey. On Nov. 23 Davutoğlu went to Tunceli, the city where the Dersim Massacre took place and constituted the historical background of the Alevi question. Here, Davutoğlu visited a cemevi - an Alevi house of worship - and met Alevi citizens to listen to their grievances.

All this traffic and information coming from the back stages of Ankara discloses that the government is setting a road map for the Alevi initiative, suggesting that concrete steps will be taken to clear up the problems of Alevi citizens while many of them have already been determined. For instance, Alevis are concerned that Alevism is being forgotten in Turkey and that it cannot be passed down from one generation to another. In order to resolve this anxiety, Alevism will be an elective course in educational curriculum in public schools. The Ministry of National Education will take the first step on the matter and will address the issue of teaching Alevism as an elective course at next week's educational council.

Alevis have complaints about compulsory religious courses that are taught in public schools to introduce different religions and beliefs. They argue that Sunni Islam is imposed on Alevi students during these compulsory courses. The government will take steps on this matter to expand and elaborate the Alevism section of textbooks. This section, which also aims to remove Sunni students' prejudices against Alevism, will be prepared by Alevi opinion leaders.

The name of the city of Tunceli is another topic of discussion for Alevi citizens. The name of the city of Dersim was changed to Tunceli in 1936 - two years before the Dersim Massacre, which killed 13,000 civilians, took place that. Alevis want the original name of the city restored. Sources say that the government will fulfill this request as well. Another problem seen by Alevis is that they are treated as inferior in the state bureaucracy and in appointments for senior positions. The government is said to be planning to crack down on this matter as well to resolve systematic blockages.

The status of cemevis is the crux of the matter regarding Alevi rights. The government is studying five different options to end the discussions about the status of cemevis and cover their expenses. These options, along with technical details, suggest that the requirements of cemevis should be met by municipalities or foundations, that the law that closed tekkes and zawiyahs - dervish lodges - should be abolished and that another religious institution for Alevism should be formed independent of the Directorate of Religious Affairs. The government will put one of these options into practice after consulting with Alevi opinion leaders and receiving their approval.

Before these concrete steps are taken, Davutoğlu will discuss the government's suggestions and options for a solution to the status of cemevis with Alevi opinion leaders. Within this framework, two meetings will be held in the upcoming days. Following these meetings, the government will begin taking concrete steps. According to sources, the government is resolved to offer a comprehensive solution to the Alevi question in 2015.

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