The Alevi factor
Events like the Gezi protests or the funeral of Berkin Elvan are not at all movements based on sects or identity; they are widespread popular protest demonstrations. Berkin was sent to his final sleep by a huge crowd.
Yet, it is true that the tendency to protest against the established order is stronger among Alevis. The protest trend and longing for equality is stronger in circles that feel excluded from the state’s practices and the majority. It was like that in history for the Catholics in England, Protestants in France, and Catholics and “blacks” in liberal America. They went through bloody oppression.
Sociologist Hilmi Ziya Ülken talked about how Jewish communities who were socialist, internationalist and ultra-secular became religious and nationalists after their migration to Palestine.
Can you see how the nature of political order is more determinant than the gist of identities?
From reticence to the streets
Unfortunately, it is not without reason that Alevis feel victimized. This truth needs to be seen and felt with even the most conservative Sunni. Alevis have lived in a rather discrete way and remained introverted among themselves. It is partially because of this, as well as some legends that were made up about them. Yet, urbanization and education took them out of that reticence. They now have educated spokespersons, associations and foundations. They demand equal treatment from the state. They go to the European Court of Human Rights, they demonstrate in the streets.
Polls on Alevis
The findings of polling company KONDA show the anti-government and protest tendencies among Alevis.
-The ratio among Sunnites that consider the use of the pepper gas by the police as a violation of human rights is 59 percent, whereas it is 90 percent among Alevis.
- The ratio of Sunnis who find police behavior during popular demonstrations wrong is 50 percent; it is 80 percent of Alevis.
- The ratio of Sunnis who consider the Gezi events as a demand for rights is 31 percent; it is 92 percent among Alevis.
- The ratio of Sunnis who consider it necessary for the press to criticize the government is 87 percent; this ratio is 93 of Alevis.
- The ratio of Sunnis who find it normal to marry someone from a different sect is 53 percent; this ratio is 85 of Alevis
- The ratio among Sunnites that say newspapers and TV broadcasts should be monitored when the need arises is 60 percent; it is 39 percent of Alevis.
Both the streets and the figures show that Alevis have a more critical attitude to the established order.
If the questions of KONDA were asked to the followers of Fetullah Gülen’s Cemaat, or to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) constituency during the Feb. 28 period, don’t have any doubt that you would have the same protest tendency.
In fact, the AKP was established and developed upon the longing for a democracy with freedoms. But it became authoritarian in its third term in government.
Therefore, if the feelings of oppression in society are not ended, protest movements will not end; actually, they will gradually increase.
That’s why the state’s political neutrality and “the state remaining equidistant from all religion,” the most important factor in the definition of secularism is not the fantasy of some philosophers, but legal principles that were taught by the history of democracy, which is full of great grievances.
Governments have the state’s immense powers. Increasing the feeling of oppression among political opponents based on pluralism achieves nothing, but fuels tension in society. The only way to be a peaceful and stable society is to have laws, implementation and rhetoric that are equally important, that increase the feeling of a “neutral state” and realize “equal citizenship” among all sectors of society.