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The zencis of Turkey without an Obama : The Alevi

Who are the « zencis » of Turkey ? Let me explain for those who don’t know

mercredi 19 novembre 2008, par Mehmet Ali Birand

The term « zenci » is used for those who are oppressed, despised, whose expectations and wishes are ignored. There are some segments in Turkey that see themselves as zencis. Some portions of Kurds, Alevi and the pious think they belong to this category.

Those who see themselves as zencis in the sense of religious expectations see Tayyip Erdoğan as the Obama. For, after his leading the government they no longer feel as zencis.

Praise be due, except for not entering universities or state offices with a headscarf, they have obtained most of their expectations. Forget about being a zenci, they have passed onto the status of White Turks and Obama Erdoğan has become Bush, meaning he now stands next to the government he used to fight against. He has become the state’s voice. They reached their target through politics.

According to a section of the Kurds, (outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party) PKK claims their rights. But unfortunately the PKK uses terror and kills innocent people. What’s left are the Alevi. According to research by KONDA, there are 6 million to 7 million Alevi in Turkey.

The direction of the wind causes the administration to sometimes embrace the Alevi community. When the pious movement grows furious, they are Turkey’s secular insurance. But in general there is a precise discrimination.

The state’s political weight is in the hands of Sunnis and the Sunnis don’t like Alevi at all. They claim they are not Muslims. They even label them in a degrading way. They see Shiism as some kind of community not included in Islam.

When they have a chance, they shut their eyes to slaughters at Madımak, Çorum and Kahramanmaraş. A Sunni state does not make an Alevi a general. Not even a governor. Moreover, it pursues a policy of turning them into Sunnis by force through religion.

The Alevi have submitted to this oppression for years. They accepted their role as « zenci ». Since 1980 their attitude has changed and they have started to demand justice.

They have never leaned towards the rebellious or been violent in their searching for their rights. They have always acted in a peaceful manner. They did not burn cars ; neither stoned shops nor took down the shutters. They published announcements, made a statement. Were promised words by the administration that were not kept over and over, but they never took this out to the streets.

Now the situation is changing

The Alevi for the first time have come out. It is obvious that from now on they will pronounce their needs in a louder voice. The AKP (ruling Justice and Development Party) is in a strange mood. The prime minister amazed everyone this January. He took an extremely positive step. He gave the impression that he was ready to meet some of the Alevi’s expectations.

Later he either backed off or forgot. The administration and state no longer push the Alevi around but turned their back on Alevi expectations. But they are making a mistake. For the Alevi are the state’s real insurance. Before they lose their patience we need to claim them without waiting for them to pick up sticks and stones. What do they want ?

The only problem is that the Alevi do not share a singular voice. The left and right split weakens them to a considerable extent. If they could be one with a single voice they’d be more effective. Their needs and expectations change according to their groups. The list is long but their basic demands are as below :

1. To be treated equally : There can’t be anything more natural than this. They, like any Turkish citizen, also like to take a role in every rank of the state and be accepted.

2. To abolish mandatory lessons in religion : This wish can come true especially if the state conforms to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. An Alevi child is being forced to learn about Sunnism. The Alevi want this to be optional, not mandatory. They are right.

3. The abolishment of directorates : This is a difficult, if not impossible demand to be met. The Alevi would be more effective if they’d fight for the directorate to embrace them.

4. Help for Alevi places of worship, Cemevi : With taxes obtained from the Alevi, the state promotes Sunnism through religion. The Alevi naturally react to this. At the very least, they want the taxes collected from them would be spent on their place of worship, along with recognition of its legal status.

5. Recognition of the Alevi community organization : Not only does the government not recognize the Alevi but it also does not accept their organization as an addressee. The government meets some but rejects those whose attitude is not in the lines of the administration. The administration of the religious centers is also off limits to the Alevi. 6.

To make Madımak a museum

The burning alive of 37 intellectuals in the Madımak Hotel in Sivas was one of the most bloody and bitter events in history. If the Turkish government and especially the present administration wants to be at peace with its past it should provide for this righteous expectation. It would rinse its bloody hands off of this contemptuous event. In summary, it is the responsibility of the government and administration to take steps that will satisfy the Alevi.

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Source : HDN, November 2008

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