Alevi votes no piece of cake for İhsanoğlu, CHP
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been having a hard time since the announcement of Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu as a joint candidate for the presidential election in August.
Different groups within the party, from nationalists to socialists, have been criticizing the idea of having a joint candidate with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), as well as nominating İhsanoğlu himself.
One of the toughest reactions came from the Alevis, most of who vote for the CHP, with two of the country’s largest Alevi organizations calling for the community to not vote for İhsanoğlu.
“As Alevis, we do not think İhsanoğlu, who comes from a Turkish-Islamic background, will be a suitable candidate for presidency,” Müslüm Doğan, chairman of Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association, was quoted as saying in Akşam daily. Doğan added İhsanoğlu is “closer to the MHP” than the CHP and Alevis “will not vote for a MHP candidate.”
Alevi Bektaşi Federation chair Fevzi Gümüş recalled that İhsanoğlu was once an advisor to Alparslan Türkeş, the founder of the MHP and the legendary leader of the nationalist movement in Turkey.
“İhsanoğlu, who does not meet public expectations, cannot be the Alevis’ candidate,” he said.
In such an environment, Kılıçdaroğlu, an Alevi himself, stands tall behind İhsanoğlu, arguing he is a candidate that fits the party’s profile.
Similar reactions rose from the Alevi community when the CHP nominated Mansur Yavaş of the MHP as their candidate for the mayor of Ankara in the March 30 local elections. Many Alevis believe MHP members were behind the vicious, deadly attacks in the late 1970s targeting Alevis, especially the massacres in Kahramanmaraş and Çorum.
One of the locals who ran against Yavaş was Sabahat Akkiraz, a world-renown singer who was elected to Parliament on the June 12, 2011, general elections by the CHP. And in a surprise move, Kılıçdaroğlu asked Akkiraz to convince Alevis to vote for İhsanoğlu.
After meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu, Akkiraz accepted the task. “[The] Alevi community is a rationalist community, they do not turn their back to a candidate who will support their struggle [to gain] their rights,” Akkiraz said after the meeting. “There will be two sides in the elections, they will either vote for those who Alevis booed in the election rallies, or our candidate who has never done this.”
Maybe İhsanoğlu never openly criticized the Alevi faith, but the propaganda is already out there. An undated, unsourced quote claimed to have been said by İhsanoğlu, after Islamists set a hotel in Sivas on fire on July 2, 1993, killing 33 intellectuals and two hotel workers, has already been shared thousands of times on social media. “Those who defy Allah are tested with fire” İhsanoğlu said of the massacre, they claim.
İhsanoğlu probably did not say that, but we are yet to hear his view on Alevis and Alevism. He spent years as the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) fighting against Islamophobia, which he said was a type of racism and a global problem.
The Alevi community in Turkey has members who have various ethnic and political views, but almost all agree on two fundamental demands, which will require a clear statement from the joint candidate.
Will İhsanoğlu back the official recognition of cemevis as a house of worship, or will he stick to the general Sunni view in the country, also supported by the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), that Alevism is part of Islam and the only houses of worship are mosques?
And will he oppose compulsory religious classes in primary schools, like the majority of Alevis do, or will he prefer to keep the situation as it is: An almost doctrinal education system based on Sunni belief?
Akkiraz is right when she says Alevis are rationalists. They have been long complaining that their support for the CHP is taken for granted, and this time they will need to find solid reasons to vote for any candidate in the presidential elections in August.
İhsanoğlu will be walking on thin ice when trying to convince Alevis and secular CHP voters, and have a foot on the conservative constituency.