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Cablegate: Turkey: Alevi Groups Weighing Election Options

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DE RUEHAK #1288/01 1451321
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 251321Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2282
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001288

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/24/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL OSCE TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: ALEVI GROUPS WEIGHING ELECTION OPTIONS

Classified By: Political Counselor Janice G. Weiner, reasons 1.4(b)(d)

1.(C) Summary: Several leftist Alevi organizations failed to
agree on an election strategy at a May 19-20 Istanbul
conference. Some attendees supported the recently concluded
center-left alliance, while others insisted it was not nearly
broad enough to represent their interests. The conference
reflected the eclectic nature of Alevis and their increasing
frustration that no party advances their causes. Our
contacts believe that despite this disillusionment, most
Alevis will stick to tradition and vote for a mainstream
center-left party such as the Republican People's Party
(CHP). Overtures from other parties to run Alevi candidates
and incorporate some of the issues Alevis support into a
party platform are unlikely to do much to change the
equation. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- ----------------
Alevis Groups Attempt to Combine Forces, Strengthen Influence
--------------------------------------------- ----------------

2.(C) Several leading Alevi organizations, including the Pir
Sultan Association, Haci Bektasi Association, and El-i-Beyt
Foundation, met May 19-20 in Istanbul to formulate a strategy
for the July 22 parliamentary elections. Kazim Genc,
President of the Pir Sultan Alevi Association, told us he
organized the conference to strengthen the political
influence of Turkey's large Alevi population. Until now,
according to Genc, Alevi influence has been
disproportionately weak -- Alevis make up approximately 20-25
percent of Turkey's population. Genc described Alevis as
independent-minded and unwilling to tie themselves to a
specific political party.

3.(C) Genc hoped that he could increase the influence of Pir
Sultan's 25,000 members by joining with other Alevi groups.
Alevis are disappointed with the current parties, none of
which sufficiently address Alevi concerns, according to Genc.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is, he
claimed, interested in establishing sharia law and is
corrupt. CHP is now alarmingly close to the military and has
failed to reward Alevis for their support during the 2002
election. By combining forces, Alevis could magnify their
influence on parties' platforms, he explained.

--------------------------------
Fractured Groups Unable to Unite
--------------------------------

4.(C) Despite high hopes, Alevis were unable to forge
consensus, and left the conference almost as divided as they
came. Attendees told us that prominent Alevi Veliyettin
Ulusoy led a "moderate leftist" camp that declared it would
support the CHP-DSP alliance. The "hardcore leftists," such
as Genc, rejected the CHP-Democratic Left Party (DSP)
alliance unless it significantly broadened its tent. Most
individuals criticized Alevis who planned to run with AKP or
the new Democrat Party (DP) -- the result of the Motherland
Party (ANAVATAN) and True Path Party (DYP) merger.

5.(C) Many participants signed a broad statement released at
the conference's conclusion, with three main points:

-- No political party had recognized in its platform the
plight of Alevis.

-- Political Islam, supported by the U.S.'s "moderate Islam
project," had been trying to take full control of the
government, as evidenced by AKP's attempts to control the
Presidency, Speakership, and Prime Ministry. This political
Islam promotes racism, backwardness, and sharia.

-- The best solution is a broad alliance of leftist parties,
unions, and other groups. The alliance of CHP and DSP is not
sufficient because it excludes many leftist groups.

--------------------------------------
Alevi Groups Continue to Weigh Options
--------------------------------------

6.(C) Following the conference, most of our Alevi contacts
remained unwilling to commit to a party and open to

ANKARA 00001288 002 OF 002


overtures. While Genc continued to espouse a broad coalition
of leftists parties, one of his Vice Presidents said he would
consider supporting AKP or DP if they agreed to address Alevi
concerns.

7.(C) Alevi expert Dr. Aykan Erdemir of Middle East Technical
University (METU) was not surprised by the lack of unity.
"It is impossible to characterize Alevis as supporting one
political line -- the community is quite heterogeneous," he
told us. Some at the conference largely discouraged the use
of military intervention to solve Turkey's Kurdish problems
in the southeast, but others pushed for such intervention.
Some Alevis practice their religion devoutly, while many are
purely secular. Erdemir predicted most Alevis would unite
around a common fear that AKP is trying to increase the
influence of Sunni Islam in society by consolidating control
of government institutions such as the Religious Affairs
Directorate (Diyanet). The unifying concern would lead them
ultimately to vote for a mainstream leftist political party
such as DP.

8.(C) Comment: As the conference showed, the Alevis'
heterogeneity makes it difficult for them to form a cohesive
bloc in support of one candidate or party. Several parties,
including AKP, are courting Alevi voters and seeking Alevis
to run as candidates. Center-right parties, however, are
unlikely to meet their specific, long-standing demands, and
AKP is clearly anathema to many Alevis. In the end, most
Alevis will probably stick to tradition and vote for a
mainstream center-left party such as CHP. End comment.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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