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Erdogan’s misguided Alevi strategy

Is Erdogan’s sectarian brinkmanship a political ploy or recipe for disaster?
Alevi demonstrators shout anti-goverment slogans during a protests against the latest violence in Okmeydani, a working-class district in the center of the city, in Istanbul May 25, 2014. Two people died last week after clashes between Turkish police and protesters in Okmeydani, a working-class district of Istanbul, stirring fears of further unrest as the anniversary of last year's anti-government demonstrations approaches. Okmeydani is home to a community of Alevis, a religious minority in mainly Sunni Musl

The Sunni-Alevi rift, one of the multiple fault lines of Turkey, is simmering thanks to the increasingly sectarian discourse and politics of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. For decades, the Kurdish question used to be the most volatile issue in the Turkish political and societal agenda. But, for over a year a “peace process,” although imperfect and uncertain in how it will evolve, where it will lead and how it will end, has provided relative peace. There have been no coffins of “martyrs,” as the fallen security personnel are defined by state officials, or of the Kurdish fighters as named by their organization, the notorious Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The “peace process,” which bears the imprint of Erdogan more than anybody else, has evoked tremendous optimism for the country toward overcoming its seemingly most intractable problem.

Now, particularly after the Gezi Park events of last summer, the sectarian chasm is replacing the ethnic one that pitted the security forces of Turkey against the Kurdish insurgency led by the PKK. By what may have been an extremely bizarre coincidence, all those who lost their lives during the Gezi protests and their aftermath were Alevis, some of them children.

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