The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will soon finalize plans to grant new rights to Turkey’s Alevi population, a sect of Islam in Turkey that professes a distinct interpretation of the religion.
According to some estimates, there are 15 million Alevis in Turkey and the AKP has been working on an Alevi initiative for two years. Now, after suffering a setback in local elections in March, the ruling party is speeding up its legal steps with four high-level conventions with Alevis starting in May and continuing at 15-day intervals.
"We are very close to a reaching an outcome," Istanbul Alevi deputy from the AKP, Reha Çamuroğlu, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
The AKP has included an expert academic, professor of sociology Necdet Subaşı of Muğla University, as the coordinator of its studies on the Alevi initiative. Subaşı, who is not an Alevi, will also be a consultant to State Minister Said Yazıcıoğlu, who is responsible for the Religious Affairs Directorate, and will meet with representatives from public institutions and civil society.
The first high-level meeting will bring together associations and Alevi leaders for a wide discussion of the Alevi initiative. Academics specializing in Alevi studies will speak at the second meeting. The third meeting will hear from theology professors and the final meeting will gather representatives from other political parties.
Key Alevi demands likely to be met
Subaşi will lead a team in producing a final report that will be submitted to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Cabinet members.
The report will include suggestions for Alevi representation at the state level, compulsory religion education in primary and high schools, granting official status to the Alevi house of worship, the cemevi, and compensation for their electricity and water costs.
AKP’s Çamuroğlu opposed Alevi representation in the Religious Affairs Directorate, a government body attached to the Prime Ministry, but said he is optimist about the four meetings under Prime Ministry’s auspices.
"Even this stage is very important. A district governor discriminated against the Alevis and was immediately removed from office. In previous times, he would be rewarded," Çamuroğlu said. "This will now set an example for other bureaucrats."
Çamuroğlu resigned from his post as the prime minister’s consultant on Alevi matters last June in reaction against what he called a lack of interest from his party in Alevi problems, especially discrimination. Çamuroğlu remained an AKP deputy and has since continued to work on matters concerning Alevis.
"I am very hopeful that a solution will be reached. Alevis will be represented at the state-level," Çamuroğlu said.
State Minister Yazıcıoğlu earlier opposed Alevi representation in the directorate, instead offering to open an Alevi Cultural Development Directorate within the Culture Ministry as an alternative. The latter proposition was dropped upon Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay’s refusal.