Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent strategy of allying with the far right and his turn to nationalism are limited by the Sunni sectarian nature of his politics. A closer examination of the failure of his Alevi reform initiative of 2009-2010 reveals the structural obstacles Turkish Islamists encounter in their attempts to reach beyond the Sunni community to coopt Turkey’s Alevi electorate. In a similar manner, Erdoğan’s nationalist policies will continue to exclude Alevis, entrench sectarianism further, and expose the limits of belonging to his Sunni “nation.”
Erdoğan marginalises rival minority in Sunni push
A Muslim minority in Turkey which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan failed to bring into the fold during an attempt earlier in his presidency is now being left out of his sectarian Sunni conception of Turkish nationhood, a report by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies said.
The Alevi minority in Turkey, who likely make up around 25 percent of the population, follow an eclectic folk Islam that draws some traditions from Shia sources, but their faith is marginalised in parts of society and in school religious education classes.
“The Turkish president knows full well by now that the country’s Alevi electorate is not interested in any Faustian bargains with the AKP,” the think-tank wrote.
“In the absence of any opportunity to co-opt Alevi voters, Erdoğan will be committed to what is true to his heart and what he does best – entrenching sectarianism and delineating the limits of his Sunni ‘nation’.”
A previous attempt to co-opt Alevi voters failed when meetings instituted by the government and designed to approach the issue cut out the community altogether, while including many hostile to the group – including one man accused of involvement in a massacre of Alevis, the report said.