Government’s upcoming reform package forces CHP to address Alevi issue
by Daily Sabah
ANKARAJan 17, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Jan 17, 2015 12:00 am
While the government is working to finalize a comprehensive reform package, which is expected to be launched in February and will attempt to tackle the age-old problems of the Alevi community, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) also took a step to address the Alevi issue to avoid public pressure from its voter base.
According to sources at CHP headquarters, CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has ordered 130 CHP municipalities to recognize cemevis, Alevi houses of gathering and worship, as houses of worship. Kılıçdaroğlu said that all 130 CHP municipalities must quickly approve the amendment of recognizing cemevis as houses of worship.
He met with various Alevi foundations and associations at CHP headquarters earlier this week where directors of Alevi associations spoke with Kılıçdaroğlu to express their gratitude for recognizing the status of the cemevis in Maltepe and Didim municipalities as a sanctuary. Following the visit from the Alevi leaders, Kılıçdaroğlu orderd all 130 CHP municipalities to take the same route. Kılıçdaroğlu affirmed that "cemevis will have the same rights as all other houses of worship in Turkey." Meanwhile, sources at the Prime Ministry said that the upcoming reform package will not engage in discussions over the status of cemevis as recognized houses of worship and will leave it to the initiative of the members of the Alevi community, as there are different opinions about this issue in the Alevi community. Rather than the discussion of the status of cemevis, the government is supposed to make arrangements that will meet the basic needs of the Alevi community such as covering the expenses of cemevis. To this end, apart from the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), a supreme board will be established to supervise and regulate Alevi religious affairs.
In previous years, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has taken a series of steps to understand and respond to Alevi identity-based claims. AK Party-Alevi relations, which for a long time had been at a stalemate, have become much more dynamic with the AK Party's second term in government. The government initiated the Alevi Opening in 2010, a belated yet sincere attempt to understand the Alevi issue and respond to the demands of Alevi citizens.
Moreover, then prime minister and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, visited a cemevi and became the first Turkish prime minister to visit one and also the first Sunni leader to visit Ali's mausoleum in Iraq. Furthermore, Erdoğan offered a public apology for the 1938 Dersim massacre of thousands of Alevis in the southeastern province of Tunceli during the single-party period of the CHP. Last November Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu visited Tunceli where he said the government is strongly against the discrimination of Alevi citizens and that he will "personally follow-up" any kind of official discrimination. "We will not let any kind of discrimination take place against our Alevi brothers and sisters. I will talk to Alevi opinion leaders about the status of cemevis. From now on, we will have only one criterion in our official appointments: Qualifications. I will personally follow up if there is discrimination against our Alevi citizens on any official level," he said in his speech at Tunceli University. Davutoğlu also added that the old military barracks in Dersim, the previously used Kurdish name of Tunceli, will be converted into a museum, religious sites will be restored and the roads leading to these sites will be maintained and the name of Tunceli University will be changed to Munzur University.