Alevi-CHP rift continues to grow after Öymen remarks

Alevi-CHP rift continues to grow after Öymen remarks

In the aftermath of controversial remarks by one of his fellow party members, CHP Deputy Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was booed off stage in Vienna at a meeting of Alevi unions. Kemel Kılıçdaroğlu (small picture)

November 24, 2009, Tuesday/ 16:48:00
More Alevis have been leaving the Republican People's Party (CHP) following a Nov. 10 speech by its deputy chairman, Onur Öymen, who implied that a 1937 rebellion of Alevis in the city of Tunceli, then known as Dersim, was a terrorist revolt.

Öymen did not apologize for his remarks, and the party administration has stood by him, resulting in growing anger from Alevi communities at home as well as Alevi groups who have migrated to European countries. About a hundred people in Tunceli resigned from the CHP yesterday. Three CHP mayors, two district administrators and executive board members, and former CHP deputy Hasan Göyüldar yesterday announced their resignations. These resignations follow a series of earlier resignations by Alevis from party membership both in Tunceli and other cities. Alevis have traditionally voted for the CHP, but the ever growing reaction to Öymen's faux pas seems to hint that this might be changing.

Those who have announced their resignations include former deputy Göyüldar, Pülümür Mayor Mesut Coşkun, Ovacık Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül, former independent mayor of Nazimiye who later joined the CHP Cafer Kırmızıçiçek, CHP Pülümür district president Hayri Kesik, Nazimiye president Abdullah Kırmızıdağ and members of the district board as well as members of municipal councils.

The resigning members announced their decision yesterday as a group in a press statement. Ovacık Mayor Sarıgül, who spoke for the group, said, “The wound of the people of Dersim has been reopened with the speech made by CHP Deputy Chairman Onur Öymen on Nov. 10.”

He said Öymen's speech clearly indicated that he was pro-violence in addressing questions and not pro-solution. “The people of Dersim, with their culture, beliefs and lifestyle, are members of a society committed to secularism and democracy, who serve peace and brotherhood in this country and who want every individual to live as equal and free people; and they have paid a high price for these values.”

Sarıgül said it was a shame for humanity to view Dersim, considered the home of real Alevism, and the people of Dersim, as an enemy. He said it was impossible for him and the others who are resigning to be part of a party that attempts to legitimize the massacre of tens of thousands innocent people in the incidents of 1937 and 1938.

Kılıçdaroğlu in Europe

Another CHP deputy chairman, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who was born in Tunceli, has been having an extremely hard time this week visiting European Alevi organizations. On Saturday, he could barely finish a speech he was delivering in Munich as the guest of an Alevi organization. On Sunday, he was actually forced to leave the stage during another speech he gave in Vienna at a meeting of the Alevi unions and had to step down from the stage due to intense booing and loud protests. The organizers had to call the police when they found it hard to subdue the protestors, who shouted out “Fascist CHP” in the hall.

The incident follows a similar protest in Germany on Saturday. Speaking at a forum titled “Transformation in Politics” organized jointly by the Alevi Culture Center and the Turkish-German Friendship Association, Kılıçdaroğlu said, “Mr. Öymen did not mean to offend Dersim residents with his words, but his words reopened a scabbed-over wound.” However, his words caused anger in the hall, and he was interrupted by Mehmet Akgül, a member of the Europe Alevi Federation administration. Akgül said: “We strongly condemn Öymen’s statements. It is unprincipled to ignore remarks that praise the Dersim massacre. It is unprincipled for people who define themselves as Alevi, revolutionary and democratic to stay in the CHP. We are protesting this, and we are leaving this convention.” The group walked out of the conference hall.

Alevi associations in Turkey and Europe have reacted angrily to Öymen’s remarks about a 1937 rebellion in the Alevi town of Tunceli, formerly known as Dersim, depicting a massacre in which 90,000 were killed as an anti-terror campaign.

Kılıçdaroğlu was initially silent but then called on Öymen to resign a few days after the incident. However, he backpedaled later when CHP leader Deniz Baykal indicated that he was going to stand by Öymen, and did not repeat his call for resignation.

There have been protests in various cities almost every day since the statement was made, nearly three weeks ago. Following Öymen’s remarks, residents of Tunceli put up posters throughout the city showing Öymen with a Hitler-like toothbrush moustache to protest the remarks.

Meanwhile, CHP member and former Tunceli deputy Sinan Yerlikaya also expressed the opinion yesterday that Öymen should have resigned. He said Öymen’s refusal to resign was putting all CHP members in a difficult position.

“If he had resigned, the party wouldn’t be in such a difficult situation. Because of his words both Deniz Baykal and the rest of us are in a difficult position. Kılıçdaroğlu also called on him to resign, but he didn’t get any results,” Yerlikaya said.

Yerlikaya also said his father’s family was burnt to death when the rebellion was being suppressed. He said the wounds caused by the campaign were still too fresh.

In a speech on Sunday Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also criticized the CHP’s Öymen. He said he hoped the country’s Alevis, who have traditionally always voted for the CHP, will finally see the CHP for what it really is. He said he had no doubt that Öymen’s words were not a slip of the tongue or a mistake, but rather a conscious and deliberate reflection of the CHP’s true mentality. He also criticized Kılıçdaroğlu in his speech.

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