PM Erdoğan blunder

PM Erdoğan blunder

Where did the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blunder?

When he said:

A- “Kılıçdaroğlu you can be an Alevi. I can respect that. Don’t be afraid of it. Say it openly. I am a Sunni; I can say that very comfortably. Selahattin Demirtaş is a Zaza.”

B- “They have also said a lot of things about me. One of them came and said I was a Georgian. Then another came up and, I beg your pardon, called me uglier things, saying I was Armenian…”

C- On both occasions

D- None of them


Let me give you a clue. Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) a month ago made public the results of research on religious life. There were statistics on issue like, how many Turks are from the Hanefi sect, how many people fast, how many people pray five times a day and how many people go to Friday prayers.

Some people started saying: “Where are the Alevis? Diyanet ignored them.”

Yet, there was a simple explanation to it: Diyanet stopped gathering information from Alevis and removed them from the survey. It was a conscious decision undertaken by the group. However, it was not done ignoring Alevis, but it wanted to avoid being accused of “stigmatizing Alevis.”


Another clue:

United States President Barack Obama is not a person that routinely goes to church. He is not as pious as Bush who never used to miss Sunday prayers.

Despite the fact that all this was common knowledge and that his liberal leftist identity was known to all... He had a headache because of the racist and discriminatory tone of the sermon delivered by the priest at the church he attended. The church was questioned and he was held accountable for the sermons delivered in that church.

He could not get away from the criticism despite saying he condoned the sermon and the views shared by the priest. The Obama family found salvation by leaving the church.


The lesson is this:

If someone is asking for the nation to vote for him, the person’s past will be scrutinized: who that person is, the place where they were born, how that person was raised or whom this person has acquainted themselves with, are all areas that will be analyzed under the political and public microscope.

If the person is Sunni: which mosque do they go to, which brotherhood are they a member of...
If they are an Alevi: which cemevi (Alevi place of worship) do they go to, which rituals do they follow.

There is nothing wrong with that.

There is nothing wrong with Erdoğan telling Kılıçdaroğlu that he should not be afraid of revealing his sect. Saying a Sunni is a Sunni, an Alevi is an Alevi is not being discriminatory. It does not have a negative connotation attached to it.

When at the ring, your rival has every right to ask, investigate.

If I was born in Cairo, I would never be ashamed if someone were to tell me that to my face. I would not feel ashamed of being a Zaza like Demirtaş.

It’s a problem when you cannot say a Zaza is a Zaza, a Kurd is a Kurd or an Alevi is an Alevi; not vice versa.


But there is something still wrong here.

Ethnic or religious identities cannot be used with negative connotations.

You would be wrong if you mention being an Alevi, Sunni, Zaza or Armenian as something to be sorry about, as it is considered ugly and shameful.

His words on being Georgian or Armenian are open to discussion.

It is clear he means that those who call him “Georgian” or “Armenian” are aiming at attacking him and are using these terms in a demeaning and negative way.

Even if what he meant was right, his expression is open to misunderstanding and needs correction.

The right expression should have been: “I could have been a Georgian, an Armenian or a Zaza … But I am a Turk from Rize.”