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December 06, 2011, Tuesday

The Sunnis’ responsibility on the Alevi issue

What is the Alevi issue? The issue is that the Sunnis represent the center and the Alevis the periphery. You could say the same with respect to the Kurdish issue. The Turks are part of the center in this country whereas the Kurds represent the periphery.

But the same warning should be made with regard to the two issues as well. It was not us, the citizens, who made these impositions. Neither the Sunnis, nor the Turks, as human beings or neighbors, have brought about this alienation or discrimination. The republican regime has since the beginning adopted a policy by which it sought to homogenize the people in an attempt to create a new nation. “We are Turkish nationalists; the foundation of the republic is the Turkish community.” (Mustafa Kemal Atatürk) “Our duty is to convert the non-Turks within the homeland into Turks.” (İsmet İnönü) “It is my conviction and view that the nation itself is Turkish. Those who are not Turks are entitled to only one right in Turkish lands: to be servants.” (Justice Minister Mahmut Esat Bozkurt, 1930)

Coups d'état, experiences such as the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military takeover, coup plots that were found to have been hatched shortly after the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power and similar incidents all point to the existence of shady networks within the state. When ongoing coup plot trials such as Ergenekon, Sledgehammer and other related cases are brought to an end, many taboos of the recent past will most probably be destroyed.

The guardianship mindset inherited from the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) constituted the republican philosophy. The ruling elite did not leave the people-less republican regime after transition to the multiparty system. Despite the elected, they relied on polarization among the people to establish their rule in the country. The provocations of the deep state are the most pressing reason for the polarization between the Sunnis and Alevis, the Turks and Kurds, and the seculars and religious people. Let me give just two examples: On Jan. 24, 1993, Cumhuriyet columnist Uğur Mumcu was murdered. Hundreds of thousands of people were asked to chant “Damn Shariah” at his funeral. Six months later, on July 2, 1993, 33 intellectuals and two personnel who came to Sivas to attend an event to commemorate Pir Sultan Abdal, a beloved Alevi figure, were burned to death at the Madımak Hotel as it went up in flames in the presence of military units; while this was happening, 15,000 people who gathered around the hotel building were made to chant religious slogans.

But there is an important issue, as important as the repercussions of these cases. The Sunnis have to be self-critical with respect to the Alevi issue. We have to destroy our prejudices pertinent to the Alevis. True, today, the conservative circles have been going through a process of sincere transformation towards democratization. But good faith is not always sufficient. The Alevi opening, the progress made in the sacred days of the Alevis this year, reunions and others -- all are good. But despite good faith, the Sunnis still rely on a discourse of discrimination vis-à-vis the Alevis. For instance, you may not notice your rudeness or mistake when you tell an Alevi, “I love Alevis; our maid, driver and doorman are all Alevi.”

The Sunni investigation into the Alevi faith and into their preference of their own places of worships instead of mosques is contrary to the freedom of religion and conscience. The real matter is to be able to become real democrats and Muslims -- democrats for all.

Efforts by some to transform others are unacceptable. A person is defined by how he defines himself. The obsession to convert the Alevis into Sunnis is nothing but disrespect for the status and identities of the people. Respect for identity is also respect for faith, cultures, traditions and ideas. This is the first matter.

Second is past polarization attempts and provocations, which should be investigated. The files of Sivas, Çorum and Kahramanmaraş should be reopened. Those asking for the truth should be heard. Those who ordered the murder of Mumcu, Çetin Emeç, Abdi İpekçi, Doğan Öz, Turan Dursun, Musa Anter, Necip Hablemitoğlu, Eşref Bitlis, Hrant Dink and Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu should be identified.

We should engage in self-criticism, but we should also be prudent in seeking justice to effectively abort plots staged against us.

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