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Cablegate: Turkey: Alevi Groups Deem Chp "Least Bad" Option

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PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHAK #1822/01 1990838
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 180838Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3005
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5//
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU//TCH//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/TSR ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001822

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/18/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL OSCE TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: ALEVI GROUPS DEEM CHP "LEAST BAD" OPTION
IN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

REF: A. ANKARA 747
B. ANKARA 1288

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

1.(C) Summary: Leaders from Turkey's leading Alevi
organizations are frustrated that no party on the ballot
espouses their main interests: an education free of
religious rhetoric, the right to worship freely in cem
(prayer) houses, and a secular democratic system not biased
toward Sunni Islam. They unite, however, around the common
belief that that the ruling Justice and Development Party
(AKP) pushes an Islamist agenda and presents the most serious
threat their secular, independent way of life. Although
Turkey's estimated 15-20 million Alevis are heterogeneous and
have never supported one party en masse, our contacts agree
that most will vote for the main opposition Republican
People's Party (CHP) because they deem it the "least bad"
option. End summary.

-----------------------------------
Alevi Groups Clear: Anyone But AKP
-----------------------------------

2.(C) Leaders from Turkey's leading Alevi organizations,
including Pir Sultan Abdal Alevi Association President Kazim
Genc, Husein Gazi Association official Ali Yildirim, and
Professor Izzetin Dogan, Chairman of the Alevi Cem
Foundation, conveyed to us in recent meetings their
frustration that no party in the current election advances
Alevi causes. All party platforms failed sufficiently to
take into account Alevis' main demands: an education free of
religious rhetoric, the right to worship freely in Alevi cem
(prayer) houses, and a secular system not biased toward Sunni
Islam.

3.(C) These leaders unanimously view AKP as their greatest
threat. Dogan and Yildirim told us AKP's platform and
rhetoric promote a strictly Sunni Arabist view of Islam and
has done nothing to further Alevi causes. Genc described the
GOT's Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, as an
exclusive, discriminatory Sunni organization that employs
only Sunnis, and only meets with Alevi groups that share its
views. He found AKP's inclusion of several Alevis on its
election list, and PM Erdogan's campaign visits to several
Cem houses as disingenuous efforts to attract votes.

4.(C) Other parties also disappointed these Alevis. Neither
the Democrat Party (DP) nor the National Action Party (MHP)
platforms mentioned Alevis and MHP's espoused Koran courses
in school and freedom to wear the turban (headscarf) in
government offices and universities, neither of which these
Alevi leaders support.

-----------------------------------
Alevis View CHP as Least-Bad Option
-----------------------------------

5.(C) CHP's platform is imperfect, but the least
objectionable, according to our Alevi contacts. CHP's
platform states that the party supports Alevis' right to
worship in Cem houses, opt out of now-compulsory religion
courses in school, and a Diyanet that supports all religious
believers equally. Though several Alevi contacts see CHP as
having become alarmingly close to the military, all concurred
that a large majority of Alevis would end up voting for CHP.

6.(C) Middle East Technical University (METU) Anthropology
professor Aykan Erdemir, Turkey's foremost expert on Alevi
issues, is unsurprised that Alevi groups are dismissing AKP's
overtures as window dressing. Although Alevis are a
heterogeneous group who never support one political line,
they share a strong fear that AKP is trying to increase the
influence of Sunni Islam by consolidating control of
government institutions such as the Diyanet. Erdemir
believes most Alevis will conclude that voting for CHP is the
most effective way to counter what they see as a dangerous
rise in Islam in society.

7.(C) Professor Dogan stressed Alevi patience is running out.

ANKARA 00001822 002 OF 002


Unless the new government proves willing to implement fully
Article 10 of the Constitution, which establishes the
principle of equality of religions, Alevis would have to come
together to create their own party. Dogan explained Alevis
have avoided this to date because unlike "Arabist Islam,"
Alevism is not political. He added that Alevis feared
creating political divisions based on religion, such as the
Sunni-Shia divide that has torn up the Middle East.

8.(C) Comment: Even though Dogan's fear of an Alevi-Sunni
political chasm is unrealistic given Alevis' thorough
integration into numerous Turkish institutions, many Alevis
genuinely feel they are treated as outsiders. AKP's
increased outreach to Alevis during the campaign was a
positive step toward inclusivity but not nearly enough to
overcome Alevis' deep-seated suspicion that AKP is pursuing a
secret Islamist agenda or alleviate Alevi resentment at not

SIPDIS
being recognized as a distinct, official religion. Until
Alevi groups are able to overcome their differences to form a
cohesive coalition or political party, however, they are
unlikely to have more than their current "least bad" choice
of CHP to represent their interests.

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

WILSON

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