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Εκδήλωση για τους Αλεβίτες στις Βρυξέλλες

Εκδήλωση για τους Αλεβίτες στις Βρυξέλλες

Welcome. Thank you very much for being here, on this important occasion, as we discuss how political and social developments in Turkey have affected the livelihood of the Alevi people, among many other minorities in the country.

The radical form of political and civil secularism applied in Turkey for some years, which Alevi populations traditionally have supported, has been insufficient to protect the country’s political life from the different communal and cultural establishments of its citizens. The situation is further complicated by an absence of high level administrative decentralization, since governance is exercised, mostly unfairly, by the central state authority.

In an effort to establish a strict national identity with clear moral norms, easily manipulated by the government, more and more authoritarian practices come into play. The situation concerning freedom of media, freedom of expression and cultural identity is deteriorating considerably during the last years.

Ethnic diversity on the national level and doctrinal diversity on the religious are the most significant features on the landscape of a multicultural Turkish society, each appearing to have clear political reflections. Multiculturalism based on toleration negates the politics of exclusion. Being a permanent phenomenon of the Turkish politics, Alevism, since its spiritual revival the past two decades, is a fact requiring genuine solution based on justice and fair play. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the situation.

The Alevi population forms almost ¼ of the entire Turkish population, making them the largest minority in the country. Similar to other minorities in Turkey, the Alevi face various forms of political and social marginalization. Their demands, including the recognition of cemevis as the community’s house of worship, the abolition of compulsory religious courses from the schools’ curriculum and the dissolution of the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate, the ministry with most public expenditure, which only serves the Sunni population, against the principles of secularism, have not been addressed accordingly. There is no adequate representation of Alevi people in most sectors of public life. All these factors lead to the marginalization and the discrimination against Alevi people.

Assimilation is a word that is being used a lot in order to describe the policy of the Turkish government concerning internal population issues. Assimilation is the erosion and elimination of the cultural identity and history of groups different than that of the majority or that of those in power.

Many would argue that assimilation is the biggest threat to the Alevi people in Turkey, as well as for other minorities. State initiatives on the matter are many times treated with suspicion, including the joint mosque/cemevi project, which was viewed by most as just another effort by the government to indoctrinate.

The Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has ruled Turkey for the past 11 years, has tried to show many times that it has a liberal approach to the issue, different from right-wing parties of the past.

However, the AKP’s exclusive reliance on its election victories for legitimacy and increasingly authoritarian practices, in the context of Erdogan’s «Islamic Democracy», has had devastating effects in the fields of freedom of cultural expression and coexistence of different lifestyles. Popular discontent with these practices and unending restrictions on media freedom resulted in major protests in May and June 2013 in Gezi Park.

Gezi was about democracy, a true crisis of representation which highlighted in a major way the various groups of the population which felt unrepresented and indoctrinated.

The sort of Turkish identity the AKP promoted, does not seem to have such a strong hold anymore since the conditions which allowed it to flower have seized to exist. Economy is heading for a downfall, talks with the EU have frozen and the complete domination of the public life by Erdogan state seems to be losing its grip.

On the other hand, recent events in Syria, such as the massacre of the 9th of February in the Alevi village of Maan and the tensions in the borders of Turkey with Syria, make the subject of solving the Alevi issue even more urgent. Indeed, there have supposedly been some gestures of good faith from the part of the state lately, which seems to be opening the doors but we will have to wait and see.

Many political analysts say these events have gained momentum because of the Syrian crisis. Such reasoning cannot be challenged, as Turkey has seen the necessity of ensuring Alevi-Sunni unity in case that the relations between Turkey and Syria deteriorate.

No matter the motive, there seem to be, at least at a theoretical level, some developments to solve the issues of democratic rights and freedoms for the largest religious minority of the country. The Alevi case has not obtained political and media attention equal to its magnitude. That is why events like the one held today are important, that’s why we are here, to paint the picture of the situation the Alevi people are in. Supporting the creation of local government is one of the most important steps, in order to protect cultural identities and to accept different cultural identities, not assimilate them.

Looking at this crowded conference room today, it is evident that the Alevi populations of Europe have a very important role to play in the future developments. This issue is gaining more momentum and attention as the situation in Turkey continues to destabilize and it is important to continue working together in trying to find a suitable solution to this issue. We must not forget that, Turkey’s move for EU membership is still in effect and it can be considered as an important factor for Alevis to affect the policies of the state and in order to put a halt to the assimilation practices. Copenhagen criteria are still in force since they have been adopted by the Turkish government and they provide the safeguards for the protection of cultural identity.

It seems then that there certainly is a European prospect for the Alevi struggle. The numerous Alevi populations in Europe certainly are the most significant moving force behind raising awareness on the subject and the EU is ever vigilant concerning the political and social developments in Turkey, especially now that Erdogan’s presence seems to be a destabilizing factor and simultaneously a factor of change.

As you probably know, the end of this parliamentary term is drawing near. I am glad that today we have the opportunity to discuss such an important issue and highlight the critical dangers that threaten the cultural identity of the Alevi people. I hope that the conclusions reached today will help the new Parliament to have a clear view of the situation and to be able to link the Alevi issue, as well similar issues for other minorities, to the civil crisis that is boiling up in Turkey.

Speech by Marilena Koppa in the event she organised in Brussels under the title «The Attack against Secularism and the policy of assimilation of Alevi people in Modern Turkey»

 

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