In the wake of Alevi activist Cafer Solgun's calls for the removal of representations of Kemal Atatürk from Alevi places of worship earlier this month, Solgun's lawyer, Gülçin Avşar, says that a disturbing number of death threats have begun pouring into the activist's mailboxes.
“Watch your step, we're after you!” stated one message that Avşar read from an email to Solgun during an interview Thursday with Today's Zaman. Avşar says that such letters, which have swamped the inbox of Solgun's email and have been found among mail sent to Solgun's Confrontation with the Past Association, an Alevi rights group, have threatened both the activist and his family with promises of violence.
Solgun, a vocal proponent of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's apology for the 1937 massacre of Alevi tribesmen in the restive province of Dersim, has called in recent weeks for a reassessment of Atatürk's role in the massacres and has suggested that Atatürk's portrait, today ubiquitous in Alevi places of worship, will begin to disappear in the coming years.
“The portrait will not be thrown out; it is you who will be thrown out,” read one enraged sender's letter regarding Solgun's predictions. Yet such threats are exactly why Solgun, who has also publically supported the Ergenekon trials, believes that a more proactive state dialogue is necessary for guaranteeing the rights for the country's 16 million Alevis and for the creation of a more democratic future.
“They cannot make us forget what we have lived through -- not in a country where people's lives have been taken for their ideas, like Hrant Dink,” Solgun told Today's Zaman. “I will not shirk from the road of justice and truth. On my shoulders I will feel the weight of the responsibility I have in our country's normalization process. I feel it for the sake of our children's memories [of these events].” Solgun stated he is optimistic that the country has begun to face a number of “critical” issues, among which he also lists the Turkish-Kurdish question and the process rewriting the Constitution.