The new government formed under Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu following the Aug. 10 presidential election is set to readdress the much-discussed Alevi initiative that has occupied Turkey’s agenda for a long time. Holding the first meeting on the Alevi question, Davutoğlu met his cronies to dwell on the previous studies on the matter.
Davutoğlu is supposed to make two important speeches, including messages for the Alevi community, and to meet Alevi opinion leaders at an iftar dinner, which will be held on the occasion of the holy month of Muharram in the upcoming days. It is also said that a comprehensive study will be launched in November regarding the new steps that will be taken to handle this social question completely.
The Alevi initiative in Turkey was launched during Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s tenure as prime minister in 2009, and seven discussion workshops were held with the participation of Alevi opinion leaders and representatives from different segments of society over six months. The first workshop started with representatives from different social sections gathering around the same table to thresh out the matter with its deep-rooted history. When the seventh workshop was organized six months later, there was the same group of representatives who listened to and understood each other and developed a sincere dialogue to sort out the problem. Despite disagreements about some key points, an ultimate text unfolded and the general framework of the steps to be taken was presented to the government.
Of course, it would be impossible to remove such a fundamental historical and social problem in just a few workshops. This was the first attempt, and as part of the results from the workshops, the government took a series of steps to alleviate the Alevi community’s concerns. For example, the symbolic Madımak Hotel, where the Sivas massacre took place in 1993, which killed 35 people, mostly Alevis, has been turned into a museum in commemoration of the Alevi people who were killed. However, we have not yet reached the desired level on the Alevi initiative largely because of the dominant Sunni sensitivity of Turkish society and the failure of the Alevi community to reach a consensus on basic issues among themselves. The Syrian civil war, which has intoxicated Turkey’s domestic politics, and the Gezi Park protests’ negative impact on social peace are also the main obstacles to the progress of the Alevi initiative.
Now the government is gearing up to launch the second endeavor. This time, what is sorely needed for the success of the initiative is to go one step further than the previous discussions and suggestions and to introduce a comprehensive option that will satisfy Alevis and all other segments of society. The government has not yet introduced any certain formula of how to tackle the issue. However, it has been reported from the backrooms of Ankara that a formula that will be welcomed by all sections of society has started to flourish, though it is not yet certain. Apart from several options, the general framework of the formula is highlighted as follows:
While the government is handling the Alevi question, it 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 among Alevis themselves. Rather than the discussion of the status of cemevis, the government is supposed to make some arrangements that will meet basic needs of the Alevi community such as covering the expenses of cemevis. To this end, apart from the Directorate of Religious Affairs, a supreme board will be established to supervise and regulate Alevi religious affairs. Not only Alevis, but also all faith groups that do not associate themselves with the Directorate of Religious Affairs, can apply to this supreme board with the associations and foundations they establish. Upon these applications, the supreme council will allocate funds to their associations and foundations. So the question of taking a share from the state budget and meeting the needs of Alevi citizens and all other faith groups will be solved. Although this formula is not enough to immediately eliminate an age-long social problem, it is a concrete proposal that might be a good start for a healthier solution to realize abstract expectations.