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December 01, 2011, Thursday

What do the Alevis want?

In my last column I tried to find an answer to the question “Why could the Alevis not give up on the CHP?” And when I ask why the Alevis could not give up on the Republican People’s Party (CHP), I am not saying I am uncomfortable with them voting for the CHP and that they should support other parties -- like the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). I am not concerned about the political preferences of the Alevis.

I am concerned about the overall situation of the Alevis, their problems and their priorities. I am concerned about how the Alevi issue will be resolved. Therefore, the real matter is the resolution of the Alevi issue, which is seated deeper than the Kurdish problem. Let me go beyond and say this: When referring to Dersim and the massacre committed against the residents of Dersim -- yes, a massacre -- I find revengeful acts and responses pretty dangerous. Let us face our history. However, it would not be any good to exploit the past’s pains and sufferings and create polarizations out of these pains. And this will be no good for the country as well. Quite the contrary, the problem grows bigger, the conflict gets deeper and we will have to leave peace, dialogue and conciliation to another century.

Let us admit this: Quite rightly, the Alevi citizens are experiencing a problem of trust. They were intimidated and persecuted during the Ottoman and republican eras. Justice should be done to them; they should be treated with mercy and tolerance. I believe that Yavuz Sultan Selim would have sought a different way had he predicted what would happen in Dersim and appreciate the gravity of the current problem that the present generations have to deal with.

We should be able to take a look at the future instead of being stuck in the past; and we should be able to construct a social peace project in the name of coexistence in peace and harmony.

How could we do this? Of course, a new civilian constitution and the adoption of new bills is important. But more important than this is overcoming the prejudices and obsessions between the Sunnis and Alevis. This requires good faith and sincere efforts. Everybody should express themselves on this matter. Above all, we should go back to the fact that we are all humans. Regardless of our religious belief, sect or faith, we are human beings first. And on this soil, on this planet, we would like to live as humans. Yes, we need a transformation in democratic mentality and a principle of equal citizenship. But we cannot do things right without seeing each other as humans and appreciating the value of a human being. Otherwise, we would be trapped by misleading one another, fake dialogues and materialistic approaches.

Appreciating the human being requires respect for each other. This means respect for the ideas, views and lives of others. Of course, we cannot agree with all the views of others. There might be many areas of disagreement as well. But we also have a large sphere that we could share and agree on. The first step is to be able to listen to each other, to understand each other and to reach a level of reconciliation.

We need to overcome the issue of the lack of confidence and trust between different social groups in this country, not only the one between Sunnis and Alevis. Turkey cannot resolve the Alevi issue or the Kurdish issue without normalization. I could rephrase this as follows: Turkey cannot be democratic without resolving the Alevi issue and the Kurdish problem; and it cannot attain domestic peace. We need a comprehensive climate of dialogue and tolerance in society.

Obviously, the Alevis conclude that they are under threat in the predominantly Sunni Turkey. They want to have trust and faith in the rulers. The AK Party and the political administration need to take action to address this sentiment. Even though I am not questioning good faith, I should underline that sometimes we experience disturbing actions and discourses that bother all of our Alevi peoples.

In a democratic Turkey, where freedom of expression, religious freedom and the rule of law are secured, political preferences will be free. I believe wholeheartedly that Turkey is on this track.

Previous articles of the columnist