Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the opposition bloc’s presidential candidate and chairperson of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), released two videos titled “Kurds” and “Alevi” last week. He claimed that “millions of Kurds were treated like terrorists for a few votes” in the first video. In the second, he identified as “Alevi” and called on young people to “tear down this discriminatory system claiming that an Alevi cannot (hold office).”
The pro-PKK Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) imprisoned former leader Selahattin Demirtaş, Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) Chair Ali Babacan, and Future Party (GP) Chair Ahmet Davutoğlu promptly endorsed those messages, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairperson Devlet Bahçeli accused the main opposition leader of “exploitation” and “making a sharp turn toward identity politics.”
Kılıçdaroğlu’s attempt to equate Türkiye’s Kurds with the PKK terrorist organization was obviously intended to push back against criticism over the PKK’s so-called commanders supporting his presidential bid.
Bringing up his Alevi identity, in turn, may have been part of an effort to prevent potential attacks. In other words, Kılıçdaroğlu deliberately engages in a new kind of identity politics. One might describe that approach as the politics of seemingly positive polarization. It gives the impression of positivity because the main opposition leader positions himself as a candidate promoting fraternity and acknowledging diversity.
At the same time, it is polarizing by accusing his opponent of a crime he has not committed. Specifically, Kılıçdaroğlu charges the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government with discrimination by claiming that “millions of Kurds are treated like terrorists.” Ironically, he accuses his opponent of discrimination and polarization while engaging in reverse polarization.
Kılıçdaroğlu pledges to address the Kurdish question at the Parliament as the Green Left Party (YSP) – i.e. the HDP, which endorsed his presidential bid – talks about the release of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and other PKK members as well as autonomy and Kurdistan. Likewise, the main opposition leader does not object to the endorsement from terrorist organizations, namely the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and the PKK.
That is why many citizens worry about the possibility of Türkiye facing a real threat if Kılıçdaroğlu were to become president.
Instead of explaining how he intends to combat those two terrorist entities effectively, the opposition bloc’s candidate accuses the government of treating Kurds “like terrorists.”
Ironically, Türkiye’s current government has clearly distinguished between the PKK and the Kurds. As a matter of fact, it played a key role in granting identity rights to the Kurdish community.
Furthermore, Erdoğan assumed the significant political risk of launching two reconciliation processes to reveal that HDP and PKK promoted separatism as opposed to the Kurdish community’s rights.
Does anybody need a reminder of the CHP’s history of denying and oppressing the Kurdish identity during the single-party years?
Isn’t the PKK but a pawn directed by imperialists who inflicted more harm than anyone on the Kurds?
Doesn’t the HDP face criticism over its failure to distance itself from PKK terrorists?
Kılıçdaroğlu’s same trick
Kılıçdaroğlu uses the same trick to bring up his Alevi background. It is likely that his campaign managers recommended he bring it up himself, believing that some voters may discuss the main opposition leader’s background in private chats.
It is no secret that the Good Party (IP) opposed Kılıçdaroğlu’s presidential bid, arguing that his Alevi identity rendered him unelectable.
The “Sunni” endorsement of Kılıçdaroğlu’s “Alevi” video (by Babacan and Davutoğlu) suggests that the Nation Alliance treats that issue as a major component of their election campaign. It is therefore possible that the main opposition leader merely wanted to claim his Alevi heritage and reject hurtful sectarian discussions and distinctions.
Yet his attempt to blame the AK Party government for the kind of discrimination that, he claims, Alevis face in Türkiye was a textbook example of reverse polarization.
In doing so, Kılıçdaroğlu positions himself as the “victim” – which is appalling.
Which system has actually discriminated against Alevis?
Wasn’t the CHP in power during the Dersim events?
Wasn’t it the Kemalist regime that repressed the Alevi identity?
Wasn’t it the AK Party that held workshops on Alevi identity and granted a cultural status to the cemevis within the Ministry of Culture?
In this article
- 14 May 2023 Turkish General Election
- 2023 Turkish General Elections Presidential Candidates
- 2023 Turkish Presidential Election
- Alevi Community | Alawite Community
- Alevi Identity | Alawite Identity
- Daily Sabah
- Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
- Kurdish Community
- Table for Six | Turkish Opposition Alliance
- Turkish Opposition
- Türkiye's 2023 Elections
- Türkiye's Republican People's Party (CHP)
- Türkiye's Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson