Alevi leaders have expressed pessimism over Parliament trying to produce a truly democratic constitution, charging that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was not sincere in pledges to respect all religious and ethnic groups.
Speaking at the Second Grand Alevi Congress Sunday, Ercan Geçmez, chairman of the Hacı Bektaşi Veli Anatolia Culture Association, stressed that the government had failed to meet basic Alevi demands despite initial promises of reconciliation.
“We would have expected that the issue of cemevis be resolved before the new constitution is drafted. They have not done that; they do not want to do it. Those who are holding us in contempt are now shouting at rallies that they will bring democracy and a new constitution to this country,” he said.
The cemevi, or house of gathering, is the main Alevi place of worship, but they are not officially recognized as such and, therefore, lack the state assistance that mosques receive.
Geçmez also urged Parliament to issue a formal apology for the killing of thousands of Alevis in Dersim in the 1930s. Other participants underlined the need for the Alevi faith to be included in school textbooks, while others expressed worries of lingering divisions among the Alevi community.
In a final declaration issued at the end of the Congress, the participants stressed that the constitution-making process should go hand-in-hand with government efforts to reconcile with Alevis, Kurds, Armenians and other ethnic groups, including the restoration of the original names of their settlements and permission for relocated people to repair properties they had left behind. The declaration also called for an end to judicial onslaughts on Kurdish politicians, journalists and civic activists.
“All legislation pertaining to the freedoms of thought, speech and organization must be urgently reviewed, and preclusive reforms should be undertaken in the democratic and liberal spirit that the constitution is said it will have,” it said.
Members of Alevi associations from Europe and representatives of Syrian Alevis participated in the congress, along with Republican People’s Party, or CHP, lawmakers Hüseyin Aygün, Kamer Genç, Ali Hatipoğlu and Refik Eraslan.
In comments on the unrest in Syria, Geçmez said the turmoil was part of the United States’ Greater Middle East project and intended to drive a rift between Alevis and Sunnis.
“We won’t allow such a conflict to happen in Turkey,” he said.