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The Struggle to Unite Diaspora Alevis and the Working Class: Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan Magazine

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Abstract

Kavga/Kervan is a magazine published by the London chapter of the Turkish Communist Party between 1991 and 1998. Rıza Yürükoğlu, the editor is credited as the main architect of the magazine’s intellectual structure. This article will use discourse analysis to examine the relationship between Alevism and socialism as postulated by the magazine and its editor. It aims to analyse the efforts of the magazine as a platform to unite Alevis and socialists in Turkish socialist history even if the magazine may not have had as much impact on the Alevi and socialist collectives in Turkey and abroad.
May 2020
Volume: 8, No: 1, pp. 91 112
ISSN: 2051-4883
e-ISSN: 2051-4891
www.KurdishStudies.net
Copyright @ 2020 KURDISH STUDIES © Transnational Press London
Article History: First Submitted: 26 July 2019 Received: 8 February 2020
DOI: https://doi.org/10.33182/ks.v8i1.513
The Struggle to Unite Diaspora Alevis
and the Working Class: Alevism in the
Kavga/Kervan Magazine
Tuncay Bilecen1
Abstract
Kavga/Kervan is a magazine published by the London chapter of the Turkish
Communist Party between 1991 and 1998. Rıza Yürükoğlu, the editor is credited as
the main architect of the magazine’s intellectual structure. This article will use
discourse analysis to examine the relationship between Alevism and socialism as
postulated by the magazine and its editor. It aims to analyse the efforts of the
magazine as a platform to unite Alevis and socialists in Turkish socialist history even
if the magazine may not have had as much impact on the Alevi and socialist
collectives in Turkey and abroad.
Keywords: Kavga/Kervan Magazine; Rıza Yürükoğlu; Alevism.
Abstract in Kurmanji
Têkoşîna gihandina Elewiyên dîasporayê û çîna karkeran: Elewîzm di kovara
Kavga/Kervanê de
Kervan/Kavga kovareke e ku ji teref beşa Londonê ya Partiya Komunîst a Tirkiyeyê
di navbera salên 1991 û 1998an de hatiye çapkirin. Rıza Yörükoğlu, edîtor, weke
avakerê esasî ya pêkhateya entelektuel a kovarê hatiye nîşandan. Ev xebat, wê tehlîla
vegotinê bi kar bîne bo nirxandina têkiliya di nav Elewîzm û sosyalîzmê de, weke ji
teref kovar û edîtorê wê hatiye ferzkirin. Ev gotar armanc dike ku hewlên vê kovarê
tehlîl bike, ya ku weke platformeke Elewî û sosyalîstên di dîroka sosyalîst a Tirkiyeyê
de bigihîne hev, digel ku kovar xwedî tesîrê nebe li ser Elewî û kolektîfên
sosyalîst ên li Tirkiyeyê û derve.
Abstract in Sorani
Xebat bo yekgirtnî 'elewîyekanî dayespora legell çînî krêkar: 'Elewîzm le govarî
kavga/karvan
Karvan/kavga govarêke le lenden lelayen lqî lendenî partî komonîstî turkî le nêwan
sallekanî 1991 we 1998 derdekra. Rıza Yürükoğlu sernuser krêdîtî endazyarî serekî
sitraktorî roşnibîrî govarekey pêdedrêt. Em twêjîneweye ravey gutarî bekar dênêt bo
hellsengandinî peywendî nêwan 'elewîzm û soşyalîzm bew şêweyey ke govareke û
1
Tuncay Bilecen, Research Fellow, Centre for Transnational Business and Management, Regent’s University
London, Regents Park, Inner Circle, London. UK. E-mail: bilecentu@regents.ac.uk. Associate Professor at
Kocaeli University, Turkey. Dr Bilecen has received a research grant from The Scientific and Technological
Research Council of Turkey (2219 Postdoctoral Study Abroad Scholarship).
92 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
www.KurdishStudies.net
sernuserekey daynawe. Em wtare deyewêt ew hewllaney govareke wek sekoyek bo
yekgirtnî 'elewyekan û soşyalîstekan le mêjuy soşalîstî turkî rave bkat tenanet eger
govarekeş hênde karîgerî leser têkrray 'elewî û soşyalîstekan le Turkya û derewe
nebûbêt.
Abstract in Zazaki
Lebata yewkerdişê elewîyanê dîyaspora û sinifa karkeran: kovara Kavga/Kervan
de elewîyîye
Kervan/Kavga kovarêk a ke mabênê serranê 1991 û 1998î de hetê beşê Londra yê
Partîya Komunîstan a Tirkîya ra weşanîyaye. Edîtorê ci, Riza Yurukoglu, sey mîmarê
bingeyênî yê awanîya kovar a zîhnîye hesibîyeno. No cigêrayîş do pê analîzê dîskûrsî
têkilîya mabênê elewîyîye û sosyalîzmî de ke hetê kovare û edîtorê ci ra ferz bena,
aye tehlîl bikero. Hedefê na meqale yo ke lebata kovare ke a tarîxê sosyalîzmê Tirkîya
de bibo platformê yewbîyayîşê elewîyan û sosyalîstan, aye analîz bikero - herçiqas
ke elewî û sosyalîstanê zere û teberê Tirkîya ser o tesîrê kovare zaf çin bî zî.
Introduction
In recent years, there has been a boom in studies of Alevism within the social
sciences, with many political and international reasons to explain this
increasing interest. Even though the discourse on the ontology of Alevism is
beyond the scope of this study, it is necessary to examine and provide a brief
overview of the literature. There are many classifications of the Alevi faith
within the literature.
2
In addition to considering Alevism/Alevis as a sect
within Islam, others interpret it as an un-Islamic, self-proclaimed religion.
This is because Alevism expresses an ethnic, political and sometimes
diasporic identity that is too broad to be contained by religious discussions
alone. Massicard (2013: 18) aptly describes this complicated case: “we are
facing an identity movement with an unknown identity, which is full of
contradiction!” Alevism is an identity crosscutting ethnic origin, language
and other identities (Hopkins, 2011: 448; Ertan, 2015). This multi-layered
identity is a result of the history of the Alevi movement. While Sunni
theology has been formed by religious and doctrinal jurisprudence, Alevi
cosmology has been shaped by political revolts. Thus, a discussion of
2
For example Tekdemir (2017: 7) divides Alevism into four forms: traditional religious Alevism, modernist
secular Alevism, opponent leftist Alevism and dissociative ethnical Alevism. Erman and Göker (2000: 105)
also divide it into four: Leftist-Alevism interpreting it as a “liberation theology” like the Marxists influenced
by Catholicism in Latin America; Mystical-Islam Alevism organised around the Haji Bektash Veli
Foundations which emphasise love; Central Alevism represented by the Cem Foundation and Shia-Oriented
Alevism interpreting Alevism within the 12 Imam Doctrine. For Shankland (1993: 85-86) “The Sunni define
Islam mainly by literal belief in the Koran, praying in the mosque, and the “five pillars”. The Alevi minimise
the importance of these criteria, saying that they possess 'Alevi conditions' of Islam. (...) 'Be master of your
hands, tongue and loins!' These conditions are not exclusively Alevi; they are present throughout Turkish
culture as a whole, in the mystical or Sufi side of Islam, where they are known as edep. But the Alevi have
raised them to a jural level, so that they are the defining characteristic of their form of Islam, at the expense
of, rather than as an accompaniment to the 'five pillars'.”
Bilecen 93
Copyright @ 2020 KURDISH STUDIES © Transnational Press London
Alevism naturally includes politics as much as culture and religion.
Referring to the Alevis in Turkey, Kehl-Bodrogi (1996: 52) asserts that they
comprise the second biggest community after the Sunnis, approximately 15
to 20% of the population. He further explains that although most of them are
ethnically Turkish, there is a large group of Alevi Kurds speaking the Zazaki
(also Kirmanjki) language and a small community of Kurmanji speakers.
Since Alevis have had an isolated existence, being marginalised both
geographically and politically, they have been characterised by endogamy
(intra-family marriage), which, along with discrimination and exclusion,
forced them to live as an “invisible community” for a long time. Thus, the
preservation of their traditional values and the social solidarity typical of
their belief system enabled them to protect their Alevi identity (Soner and
Toktaş, 2011: 421). According to van Bruinessen (1996: 47), migration to the
cities and the political polarisation of the 1970s made the Alevis more visible
in Turkey. Here, we need to consider the transitivity between Kurdish ethnic
identity and Alevism. Çamuroğlu (2010: 105) associates the rise of Alevism
with the collapse of real socialism, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and
the Kurdish revival. Some Alevis emphasise their identity and belonging as
Alevi against a rising tide of Kurdish nationalism.
Alevism as a political identity emerged simultaneously in Turkey and
Europe in the late 1980s. Here, the rise of Alevi-Leftist reaction against the
combined Turkish-Islamic doctrine of the 1980 military coup and the
prominence of cultural, ethnic and religious identities following the end of
the Cold War played a crucial role. After keeping their identities and
religious rituals secret for a long time, the fact that Alevis began to
proactively self-organise can be interpreted as a reaction to the rise of Sunni
Islam in Turkish politics and increasing religious Sunni events being held in
Germany. The Alevis were uniting against a perceived threat during a
period that witnessed a rise in identity politics and ensured that this
increasing level of Alevi organisation would eventually become an
independent movement (Bora, 2017: 712). Alevi concerns about the
predominantly Sunni-Islam discourse in Turkish politics led to the
development of the Alevi movement both inside and outside the country:
Alevi organisations were established, and these organisations
attracted many young people which had formerly participated
in the forefront of various leftist and Kurdish organisations. The
members of some small leftist organisations were Alevi; and
after that time, they, along with their Marxist-Leninist identities,
started to emphasise their Alevi identity and demonstrated a
tendency of considering Alevis as a nation by mentioning
Alevistan as their own country. These movements abroad have
evoked the Alevi revival in Turkey where the religious and social
94 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
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establishment of Alevi organisations was possible thanks to a
gradual political liberalisation (van Bruinessen, 1996: 47).
For Shankland (1998), the discourse on Alevism remained on the agenda
during the 1990s due to Alevis migrating from isolated rural areas to the
cities, as a result of Turkey’s industrialisation and modernisation coupled
with an eagerness to learn about their own roots. During this period, cultural
studies focused on the essence of Alevism; cemevis
3
were opened in Alevi
areas in Turkey and the diaspora, whilst the number of religious and
intellectual publications increased. Erol (2012: 836) states that Alevism has
become visible thanks to the associations, foundations and cemevis
established by Alevis living abroad. Considering the formation and size of
the Alevi diaspora, one can easily claim that their tendency to migrate
outside Turkey is significantly higher when compared to Sunni Turks. The
dede
4
had an important role in establishing Alevi associations in Germany,
and in 1990, the European Alevi Communities Federation was established
there. The recognition of Alevi identity in Germany, which later expanded
to other European countries, enabled Alevi immigrants to rediscover their
identities.
5
The Alevi associations in Europe provided financial support for
the Alevi associations in Turkey and, as a diasporic power, made the
resolution of the Alevi question a condition of Turkey’s accession to the EU
(Soner and Toktaş, 2011: 422). Moreover, the European Union progress
reports and the verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
contributed to greater international recognition of Alevism. The EU reports
have drawn attention to the Alevi question since 1998 (Massicard, 2013: 348)
and in its 2004 report, Alevis were, for the first time, defined as a “non-Sunni
Muslim minority” (Zırh, 2015: 83). In 2014, the ECHR ruled that compulsory
religious education lessons in Turkey discriminated against Alevis
(Massicard, 2013; Coşan Eke, 2015: 93). As a result, the Alevi question has
become a case with political ramifications, monitored by international
institutions.
The Kavga/Kervan
6
magazine published 71 issues in Turkish between 1991
1998, at the height of the Alevi revival. It was published by the oppositional
wing within the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) in London which
published the newspaper İşçinin Sesi
7
under the leadership of Nihat
3
Prayer hall of the Alevis.
4
Religious community leaders are called “dede” in the Alevi tradition.
5
Gül (1999: 92) suggests that Alevis from Turkey living in Germany perhaps had the opportunity to
experience a cem for the first time in their lives thanks to this rapid organisation.
6
Started publication as Kavga and from 22nd issue and thereafter published as Kervan.
7
The İşçinin Sesi magazine, which published 473 issues between 1974–2000 under the leadership of Rıza
Yürükoğlu, brought the issue of Alevism onto the agenda of socialist discussions especially at the beginning
of 1990s. After the publication of the book Okunacak En Büyük Kitap İnsandır (The Greatest Book to Be Read Is
Man) in which Yürükoğlu established historical bonds between Alevism and socialism, Alevism featured in
almost every issue of İşçinin Sesi. The book Okunacak En büyük Kitap İnsandır was first introduced in the 388th
Bilecen 95
Copyright @ 2020 KURDISH STUDIES © Transnational Press London
Akseymen also known as Rıza Yürükoğlu.
8
Kavga/ Kervan, having begun
during the Alevi revival, aimed at bridging the gap between Alevism and
socialism by claiming that these religious and political movements are not
intrinsically separate. Adapting Alevism to socialism with an assertion of an
“indigenousness and cultural element” was the main purpose of the
magazine. At this point, the Turkish left was criticised by the magazine in
two ways: firstly for ignoring the Alevi question and humiliating it as
traditionalism; secondly for ignoring a historical movement with
revolutionary roots native to Turkey. According to the magazine,
incorporating Alevism into Turkish socialist ideology and encouraging
Alevis to participate in the struggle was a historical, dialectical and class
necessity.
Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine: Where does Alevism
fit in Islam?
From its very first issue, the magazine published articles discussing
Alevism, covering a broad range of subjects such as news on community
organisations, festivals and commemorations, interviews with notable
people and dedes and analyses of important actors in the history of Alevism.
Whilst many articles mentioned the problems faced by Alevis in Turkey and
abroad, others attempted to define Alevism. Interestingly, the articles offer
different perspectives on the history, culture and politics of Alevism, rather
than a single discursive unity. From this, one can deduce that various
positions on Alevism are present in the journal, that some authors might
have changed their positions over time, and that the journal’s position on
Alevism as a whole was unsystematic and dependent on social conjuncture.
In the first issue of the magazine, the differences between Alevism and
Sunnism were clearly explained in an interview with Ali Özsoy Dede. He
explained why Alevis do not fast, pray or go on pilgrimages, with the core
difference being that Sunnism is based on the five pillars of Islam whereas
Alevism is more focused on controlling human physicality; or the debasing
impulses defining human existence. At its core, Alevism is based on an
issue of İşçinin Sesi, dated 5 February 1990. This book was then kept on the agenda constantly. Kerim Bal, a
writer for İşçinin Sesi, expressed at the Haji Bekhtash Veli Festival in 1990 that Rıza Yürükoğlu’s book had
the same effect on the Alevis as the effect of Lenin’s What’s to be Done? in Russia and that this book can be
used as a guide for the organisation of Alevis with socialists.
8
Nihat Akseymen became a TKP member after participating in the 1968 students’ movement and moved to
London as a result of political conflicts. Although he joined the Central Committee (CC) of TKP in 1974, his
membership was dismissed due to lack of discipline (Babalık, 2003). He later formed a splinter group named
“TKP-İşçinin Sesi(Bora, 2017: 644) which declared itself as an independent body, claiming that they were
“the party” in 1979. The party’s agenda was to democratise Turkey, bringing peace and equality. After the
significant influx of migration of political refugees from Turkey in the late 1980s, Akseyman realised the
importance of Kurdish/Alevi’s participation in the socialist movement and therefore started to publish
magazines that targeted these groups in London.
96 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
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individual’s control over their ‘hands’ (i.e. not to steal), ‘tongue’ (i.e. not to
lie) and ‘loins’ (i.e. not to fornicate). Regarding his point of view on the
subject of Alevism as a philosophy or religion, Özsoy Dede (1991[1]: 14),
argued that Alevism is a major philosophy, containing a significant number
of Sufi beliefs while using Ali as the vessel of this philosophy in the region.
9
The editor, Yürükoğlu, separated Alevism from Islam completely.
According to Yürükoğlu, Alevism exists within the sphere of Islam but is
independent of its rules and expectations. Haji Bektash and Alevism try to
enhance people’s insights and help them to reach the truth of existence and
consciousness at higher spiritual levels (1992[1]: V).
Yürükoğlu highlighted the Sufi aspects of Alevism while separating it from
Islam. He gave many examples that emphasise this separation.
Which ones of you goes to the mosque? I think you do not go.
Because your Kaaba and mosque are human. You sit head to
head and that’s enough… Music is actually forbidden in Islam.
(…) However, in Alevism, it is everything. Painting is also
forbidden in Islam. But it is not in Alevism. Women cannot pray
with men in the mosques. But in the cem
10
it is not forbidden for
women to pray (Yürükoğlu, 1992[11]: V).
We can say that the magazine consistently separated Alevism from Islam:
“Until quite recently, the ones giving fatwas saying ‘Alevis are not Muslim;
it is obligatory to kill them’, today say, after some political manoeuvring,
‘Alevis are Muslim; they are our brothers” (1992[19]: 19). Though Alevism
is considered a branch of Islam, there are different interpretations too.
According to Pehlivan (1992[19]: 17) there are some Islamic traces in
Alevism; but it is actually an original philosophy, worldview and way of
life. It is a synthesis of Central Asian and Anatolian cultures.
According to the magazine, the most important difference between Alevism
and Islam, in addition to their diverging rituals, is the human perception of
Alevism. The primary reason for this is that Alevism has become integrated
in Anatolian philosophy. In fact, Anatolian Alevism is a modern
amalgamation of Islam with the traditions of central Asia and the
civilisations of Anatolia. That is to say, although Alevism is not at the core
of Islam, they both mutually affect one another to the extent that they cannot
be perceived as two completely discrete belief systems (1993[26]: 17).
While drawing a distinct line between Alevism and Sunni Islam, there were
also many articles putting some distance between Shia beliefs and Alevism.
9
To remove confusion, references to the magazine will be given by firstly indicating the date and then the
issue number.
10
Praying ritual of the Alevis.
Bilecen 97
Copyright @ 2020 KURDISH STUDIES © Transnational Press London
Most notably Gazioğlu (1994[44]: 19), in his article for 14 Masum Magazine
published by a group of Shias, claims that Alevism cannot be conceived
without dergâh
11
, dede, cem, saz
12
, song and semah
13
. He adds that it is
impossible to force Anatolian Alevis to follow the Shia mollah mosque
prayers.
In the magazine, the philosophy of Alevism was associated with
materialism, especially in the articles by Ismail Kaygusuz (1996[58]: 14;
1998[70]: 3-4). The magazine had, from time to time, a modernist and
positivist attitude in the definition of Alevism, whereby Alevism was no
longer a religion but a scientific truth beyond a philosophy. In his article
“Real Walls Do Not Fall”, Ali Haydar Dede spoke about the necessity of
establishing a scientific institution of Alevism (1992[20]: 15). Many titles of
the articles reflected this preoccupation with science, including: “We are the
ones to marry science” or “Only the stars are in the sky” (1991[10]). For
example, in an interview, Aşık Nezir Erdal says: “Alevism is not a religion.
It is an institution having emerged within Islam. It is a product of thought,
a philosophy and school of thought” (1993[27]: 18). This materialist
definition of Alevism also reveals its historical and class revolutionary
character, which is fed by the mythological history of Alevism. According to
Cem Aydın: “Alevism is unique and special for the land of Anatolia. It has
always been on the opposition side, and therefore, has always been regarded
as progressive and revolutionist” (1991[2]: 2).
The influence of Yürükoğlu on the Alevis attracted the attention of the
contemporary popular press in Turkey. For example, the magazine Aktüel,
published an interview with him. It was featured on the cover of the 44th
issue of the magazine with the heading “Alevism is within Islam”. Here
Yürükoğlu defined Alevism “as a mystical thought and belief system
affiliated to the sectarian Imam Cafer; represented by Bektashism, which has
appeared by combining the Shia thoughts of Islam with esoterism and as a
Sufi interpretation of Islam”, adding that “I absolutely refute that Alevism
is non-Islamic.” (1994[44]: 4). These quotes featuring in the popular press of
that period demonstrate the occasionally ambiguous attitude of magazine
writers, with many other articles classifying Alevism as distinct from Islam.
11
Religious lodge.
12
A musical instrument used in cem ceremonies.
13
The semah performed during the service (cem) as required by Alevi and Bektashi belief is a means of
reaching God through mystical and aesthetic movements executed in harmony with the rhythm of music and
song accompanied by a saz.
98 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
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The relationship between Alevis and official ideology
according to Kavga/Kervan
The Alevi tragedies in Turkey strengthened Alevi solidarity and were very
influential in creating a political consciousness and will to self-organise
based on a common purpose. The incidents in Maraş (1978), Çorum (1980),
Sivas (1993) and Gazi (1995) were the turning points for Alevi organisations
both inside and outside Turkey (Gül, 1999: 111; Ata, 2015: 133, Zorlu, 2015:
150; Massicard, 2013; Coşan Eke, 2015: 94). As the magazine was continuing
circulation during the period of the Alevi revival, it bore witness to many
acts of social violence targeting Alevis. The magazine published
commentaries on them and took every opportunity to remind its readership
of former Alevi traumas and encourage the establishment of an identity
around common sorrows with an ultimate solution proffered in the class
struggle. In regular interviews with Alevi dedes under the heading “Dedes
Speaking”, the historical massacres targeting the Alevis were frequently
mentioned. Bringing up the continuous oppression of the qizilbashes
14
, the
conclusion is drawn that these struggles must be communicated broadly and
that Alevis should be educated about them if a positive outcome was to be
reached in Turkey (1991[10]: 19).
The Alevi massacres were mentioned in nearly every issue of
Kavga/Kervan: “Ottoman inquisition showed one of its mass and extensive
cruelties against Alevi-Bektashi belief during the period of extermination of
Bektashi Dergahs. Hundreds of unarmed and unguarded people were
investigated, oppressed and killed just because of their beliefs not
complying with sharia” (Yıldırım, [61]: 9). In this respect, the magazine
defined Ottoman history as a history of cruelty against the Alevis. By
reminding readers of the execution of Sheikh Bedreddin, Pir Sultan Abdal
and the massacre of Alevis during the Jalali Revolts, this narration
established a sorrowful narrative of Alevi identity.
Although the magazine’s attitude towards the Ottoman period is clear, it is
indecisive about Republican Turkey. The writers of the magazine
predominantly maintained the status quo of supporting Kemalism against
“fundamentalists”. However, they also emphasised that Kemalism did harm
Alevis and claimed that responsibility for the injustices and massacres
during the Republican period lay with a state dedicated to Kemalist
ideology. Though it appears contradictory, this narrative emphasised that
14
Kizilbash, (“Red Head”), any member of the seven Turkmen tribes who wore red caps to signify their
support of the founders of the afavid dynasty (15011736) in Iran. The name was given to them by Sunni
Turks and was applied later to the followers of a Shia sect in eastern Asia Minor as a term of abuse.
Bilecen 99
Copyright @ 2020 KURDISH STUDIES © Transnational Press London
the Alevis are not historically aligned with the state but reluctantly
supported the Kemalist state for adopting secularism.
In the first issue of the magazine, the noted Article 163
15
of the Turkish Penal
Code on reaction was opposed. The heading of the magazine article
proclaimed “Article 163 should not be retracted” (1991[1]: 8) with the sub-
heading reading “163 is perhaps the most democratic article”. In the article,
the author claimed that the “abrogation of Article 163 will be a death blow
for more than 20 million Alevi citizens
16
living in Turkey. Governing the
state by religious laws means being governed by Sunnism. If this happens,
it is not difficult to estimate the extent of cruelty against Alevi citizens”. Then
the author raised the question whether “we are at the same point with the
Kemalists on some aspects of secularism” to which the answer was: “There
is no reason for us to take offence at this. Our attitude is a part of an
integrated truth and it is possible for it to coincide with the attitudes of other
groups on various subjects. We, without hesitation, can say that we are in
agreement with the Kemalists on the secular nature of the state and the
attitude against religious fundamentalism” (1991[1]: 8). Yürükoğlu, the
author of this article reiterated these opinions in an interview featured in
Aktüel magazine:
We take no offence. Whether Kemalist, social democrat or
democrat. What is important is to be secular; to support
democracy, that much or this much. One’s perception of
democracy and secularism can be more limited or extensive than
ours, which is not a matter of separation. All powers supporting
democracy, secularity, republicanism should come together
(Yürükoğlu, 1994[44]: 5).
The same subject was emphasised in Birgül Değirmenci’s article “Neither
Reconciliation nor Fight!” in the 4th issue of the magazine (1991[4]: 4): “The
abrogation of Article 163 aims at institutionalising and thus increasing the
religious-reactionary oppression and the reactionary attacks against Alevi
society.” Another example of the magazine’s alignment with the “status
quo” was revealed in the articles pertinent to the closure of the Refah Partisi
(Welfare Party). A title in the 36th issue of the magazine even proclaimed:
“Sharia follower party should be closed”. The heading of another article was
“Closure or ‘bite the hand that feeds you’?” (Turan, 1994[41]: 15). Yürükoğlu
(1994[36]: 5), in his article entitled “Why nobody says the sharia follower
party should be closed?” said: “We are addressing the secular majority of
15
Article 163 had outlawed politically motivated religious activity and prohibited the establishment of
religious organizations or political parties aimed at creating an Islamic republic.
16
Although it is not clear from where this number was taken, the magazine writers always wrote about an
Alevi population of 20 million; and at times even claimed more than this.
100 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
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Turkey. Isn’t the definition of a secular state the separation of religion and
state affairs?” And he added: “The party supporting sharia contradicts the
principle of secularism. It should be SHUT DOWN!”
17
According to Soner and Toktaş (2011: 421) the secular reforms introduced by
the Kemalist state have transformed Alevis into one of the most loyal groups
of the Kemalist modernisation project. The magazine writers, adopting the
secularity principle of Kemalism to a large extent, had no doubt on the
Turkish Republic being organised around Sunni-Islamic beliefs. Yürükoğlu
aptly summarised this matter stating that the history of Alevism is full of
sorrow. Underlining the lack of education on Alevism, Yürükoğlu (1992[11]:
17) suggests that Sunnism prevented peace within the country whilst Alevis
faced persecution by the state. Whereas Sunnis received education in both
schools and mosques, Alevis were regarded as “illegal”. This prevented a
large number of them from familiarising themselves with their own beliefs.
For example, the Kemalist closure of dervish lodges and zawiyas was widely
regarded as adversely affecting Alevis (Yürükoğlu, 1993[23]: 12) with the
magazine later calling for the law in question to be repealed (1993[29]: 21).
According to the magazine, Sunnis could pray in their mosques, transfer
their knowledge via the compulsory religious education lessons and reach
even the most remote villages through the Directorate of Religious Affairs
(Diyanet İşleri Bakanlığı). However, the wounded Alevi identity could not
find any channel to express itself because of the law, prejudice and
oppression.
Another subject that was consistently covered by Kavga/Kervan during its
publication was the necessity of closing the Directorate of Religious Affairs.
The fact that some Alevi organisations were affiliated to the Directorate of
Religious Affairs, receiving economic assistance, including salaries for
dedes, was strongly criticised by the magazine. Those organisations were
accused of discrediting the history of Alevism and were labelled as
disgraceful traitors and the “Hizir Pashas among us”. The authors who
defined the inclusion of Alevis in the Directorate of Religious Affairs as a
“state trap”, defended the abrogation of this institution and repeatedly
demanded the cancellation of religious education lessons.
18
It can be said
that the magazine followed a radical secular line, for it not only refuted the
17
During this period, the psychology of the Sivas massacre and the discontent of Alevi society after the
triumph of the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi, RP) in Ankara and Istanbul in the local elections were also
reflected in the magazine, which organized campaigns under the Secular Front on Duty! Sharia Party must
be Closed” slogan. Articles on this subject were entitled, for instance, The Shariah-follower RP must be
closed”, (Erdilek, 1994[37]: 5) or Call for secular-democratic front” (1994 [39]: 5).
18
In an announcement advertised by Alevi organisations in the 26th issue of the magazine, the announcement
of Alevi federations and associations organised in Turkey and Europe, which came together on 27-28 March
1993 in Ankara, was published. The first article of the announcement was about the need for the abrogation
of the Directorate of Religious Affairs ([26]: 18).
Bilecen 101
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inclusion of Alevis in the Directorate of Religious Affairs but also argued
that all religious matters must be separated from the state.
The murder of Alevi intellectuals and artists during an arson attack on the
Madımak Hotel in Sivas on 2 July 1993 alerted Alevis both in Turkey and
abroad. The events following this massacre were very influential in the
creation of a diasporic Alevi identity. A traumatic exit from the homeland
(Safran, 1991: 83-84; Griffiths, 1999: 33; Cohen 2008) is one of the
characteristics widely referred to in the literature on Alevi diaspora. The past
experiences of Alevi/Kurdish communities who had to leave Turkey via
regular and irregular migrations and the incidents experienced abroad have
led to more intense relationships with their homeland, which has
contributed to the formation of diasporic communities (Bilecen, 2016).
Such traumatic incidents coupled with the social indignation caused by the
assassinations of journalists and writers such as Metin Göktepe, Uğur
Mumcu, Onat Kutlar and Turan Dursun were also influential in creating
awareness and the will to self-organise. In this regard, the magazine focused
greatly on the Sivas massacre, defining a “group within the state” as the
“mastermind, the executor and the chief actor of the massacre”. Yıldırım,
(1993[30]: 14-15) wrote that “sharia and state are one within the Turkish
Republic in a fake secularism” and supported the idea that “without holding
the state to account, it is not possible to reveal those responsible for the
massacre and to learn from it”. The same writer drew attention to the
responsibility of the state the massacre in his article “Planned and
Programmed Massacre” (Yıldırım, 1993[31]: 14). The Gazi Incidents were
evaluated similarly by the magazine contributors. In the article “Gazi
massacre was countered by the power of people” (Güven, 1995[47]: 2), the
author stated: “The sharia-follower Islamist movement responsible for the
massacre is one of the arms of the fascist state. This is very clear in people’s
minds. Shouting the ‘murderer state, murderer sharia’ slogan is the proof of
it”.
19
The massacres and murders of notable Alevis during the publication life of
the magazine caused the relationship between Alevism and official ideology
to be questioned and there were numerous articles challenging the religious
and oppressive actions of the state. However, despite the longstanding
articulation of Sunni-Islamic beliefs within official state ideology, the
19
Following the Gazi protests, the magazine faced increasing legal pressure for its clearly anti-governmental
editorial line. The magazine was heavily fined, its editor-in-chief was imprisoned for two years and
numerous issues were forcibly withdrawn from sale, which eventually forced the magazine to cease
publication altogether. When the magazine started to be published again, their new focus was on presenting
the historical, mythological and belief-related dimension of Alevism after the 67th issue, but had to finish its
publication life after a short time.
102 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
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magazine did not abstain from supporting the secular implementations of
Kemalist ideology.
Despite its ambivalent position on Kemalism, the magazine writers differ
from the official ideology regarding the Kurdish issue. The Kurdish issue,
like Alevism, was discussed within the context of the struggle of oppressed
nations in the publications and congress resolutions of the TKP. The
magazine İşçinin Sesi approached the Kurdish movement from this
perspective and supported the independence struggle of Kurdish people.
For example, in an article “The Working Class is with the Kurdish People”,
it was stated that “the working class advocates the self-determination of
Kurdish people including their right of separation and supports the Kurdish
people” (Can, 1986: 3). Also, at the fifth party congress, the Kurdish issue
was evaluated within the context of “the self-determination of nations”.
Respect for the self-determination of nations is obligatory for the
democratisation of society. (…) Turkish Kurdistan is the internal
colony of Turkey. (…) The Kurdish problem is the key problem
for a revolution in Turkey. The enemy is common. The only
option is to unite the powers in a revolutionist movement (İşçinin
Sesi, 1986: 8).
Yürükoğlu (1996: 5-6) perceived the Kurdish people as a vanguard
preparing Turkey for a revolutionary state. In this respect, according to him
what the revolutionists had to do was to support the struggle of the
oppressed people whilst avoiding any nationalist behaviour. Therefore, the
Kurdish problem could only be solved with a socialist revolution. However,
there was no consistency within the magazine on the Kurdish issue due to
the changing political agenda and the different ideas of different writers.
The religious organisation of Alevis in the Kervan/Kavga
magazine: Dede, cemevi, dergâh
Kavga/Kervan magazine was also a channel for discussing the religious
organisation problems of Alevism. In a period of rapid increase in the
number of Alevi associations in Turkey and abroad, the primary agenda of
the magazine was to attract the attention of those associations with a Leftist-
Alevi line. In this regard, the three main goals of the magazine were to attach
importance to and modernise the dede institution; gathering around the
holy dergâh and to increase the number of cemevis.
The viewpoint that the dede institution was outdated was popular amongst
young Alevis who participated in the socialist movement during the
migration period to the cities in the 1960s and 1970s, and caused such
religious dignitaries to lose most of their authority. “The young generations
considering the dedes as the ones ‘stupefying’ and ‘exploiting’ the people,
Bilecen 103
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rejected following them” (Kehl-Bodrogi, 1996: 54). In this respect,
rehabilitating the dede institution and adapting it to a modern context was
given special importance in Kavga/Kervan. For this reason, from the start,
the dede institution was highlighted on every possible occasion and a
regular feature called “Dedes Speaking” featured interviews with dedes
living in Turkey and abroad.
The magazine’s drive to revive the dede institution was underpinned by
what they regarded as the loss of traditional Alevi values during the
urbanisation process of the 1960s and 1970s. According to Yürükoğlu (1990:
274), Sunnism is institutionally present in even the most remote villages due
to its historic inseparability from official state ideology. However, Alevism
has no such official presence. With the progress of urbanisation in Turkey,
the dede institution regressed and lost its main function of uniting and
connecting Alevi society.
In his article “Today the dede institution requires modernisation” (1991[4]:
20) Yürükoğlu outlined the importance of the dedes’ role, but added that it
had not kept up with the times. Yürükoğlu idealised the dede as a religious
leader, guide and fully equipped intellectual. This approach of the magazine
writers was both romantic and modernist. According to Yürükoğlu, “An
Alevi dede should know about Bach, listen to Negro spirituals, watch opera
and learn about other cultures in the world.” “A dede should be equipped
with literature, saz, music, philosophy, economy etc., which contributes not
only to Alevis but also to the whole of humanity” (1991[4]: 20). In one of the
“Dedes Speaking” interviews with Ali Haydar Celasun (1991[6]: 11),
Celasun presented an intellectual dede profile as knowledgeable about
history, medicine, music and law: “Each dede should read at least 3-4
newspapers a day and 1-2 books in a month. If someone comes and asks
‘Dede, who is that?’, ‘Dede, what is feminism’ etc., and if the dede cannot
give a satisfactory answer, then, he/she will go and learn it from
somewhere/one else.”
The positivist approach taken by the magazine led to content suggesting
moves that could potentially revive the dede role, which included the
initiation of specific programmes in universities and establishing a Dede
Training Institution. Another subject discussed in the magazine was
whether the dede title should follow a line of descent. Initially, Yürükoğlu
suggested that there was no need for this, nor indeed was there any need to
have Alevi heritage to be an Alevi (Yürükoğlu, 1993[24]: 11).
One of the prerequisites for adapting the dede institution to modern times
were the cemevis. Yürükoğlu stated in a conference hosted by the Alevi-
Bektashi Association in the Netherlands that Alevis cannot only be
organised through associations: “If cemevis are opened everywhere around
104 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
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Turkey and in Europe, the dede institution will adapt to the conditions of
the century” (1992[21]: 13). According to this idea, there is no Alevism
without dedes and there will be no Alevi organisation without cemevis. The
cemevis will provide the civil organisation function for Alevis in terms of
being a place not only for fulfilling religious rituals but also for socialising
and holding cultural events.
20
The magazine published the news of the foundation of cemevis in Turkey
and abroad, emphasising that they are a necessity for the Alevi community
with article titles such as “We will found our cemevis everywhere”
(1993[27]: 23), “Let’s found our cemevis wherever Alevis are” (1994[36]: 13),
“A cemevi in every district and a cem every week” (1995[45]: 16), “Let’s
bring our youths to the cem and to the cultural centre” (1994[36]: 14). The
development of Alevi organisations after the second half of 1990s made the
Alevis more visible in public and political arenas. In his article entitled
“Cemevis and Alevi Organisations” Aslan (1998[67]: 14) claimed that “Alevi
associations etc. have been organised in many regions during the last five
years and the foundation of cemevis has accelerated”. “Cemevis are
important for the Alevis and also historically important in ensuring Alevism
is perpetuated in future associations and foundations. What Alevis need is
to ‘unite’”.
According to Yürükoğlu, gathering Alevis around the dergâh is the way to
revive the dede institution and to ensure that cemevis are at the centre of
Alevi life. This is a necessity for the centralisation of Alevis and for
transferring their values to the next generation. He pondered how best to
revive and organise Alevism for the Alevi working class and ultimately for
the whole of society. He found the solution in the Haji Bektash Veli dergâh
and went on to suggest a holy bureaucratic mechanism similar to the vilayat-
i faqih
21
in Iran (1992[21]: 13).
Yürükoğlu continued to promote his ideas on dergâh consistently in his
speeches abroad. For example, at a conference in Australia he increased the
number of his conditions on the organisation around dergâh from three to
ten. Among these conditions he included opening cemevis, modernising the
dede institution, not giving a salary to the dedes, ratifying the dede position
20
With the initiative of the Workers’ Union in London in January 1993, the Alevi Society performed their first
cem with the participation of Dertli Divani, a Turkish Alevi troubadour, born in 1962. This event was greatly
appreciated by the magazine and regarded as an opportunity for opening a cemevi in London. The magazine
proudly presented the news about the first cem: “Brothers! Together; to God! Let’s take our gloves off and
have a cemevi in London. And pave the way with cem in our cemevi!” (1993[24]: 17).
21
Rule or guardianship by a jurist. The concept gained wide currency in the Shia world when it was used as
the title of a published series of lectures given by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1969. It became the form of Islamic
government in Iran when Khomeini came to power in 1979 and became the supreme arbiter of all matters of
government in Iran. The concept derives from the historical understanding that the exclusive right of
interpretation of Islamic law belongs to religious scholars (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com).
Bilecen 105
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through an education institute affiliated to the dergâh and gathering all
associations in Turkey and Europe under a general coordination board
(Yürükoğlu, 1993[23]: 14).
Yürükoğlu, in his speech at the 74th foundation anniversary of the TKP (later
published in Kavga/Kervan), clarified his thoughts on dergâh:
First of all, let’s talk about why unity can only be organised
around the dergâh: i) Alevism is a belief system. It has
institutions that have developed over centuries. If you ignore
them, you eradicate this society. The primary one of these
institutions is the dergâh. And then cem, dedes, babas. If there
are none of them, there is also no Alevism. ii) A practical reason:
today, the dergâh rules over approximately 2/5 of Alevi society.
The remaining 3/5 is scattered and separated incomprehensibly”
(1994[42]: 12).
To critics who held that he suggested “the ‘theocratical’ government of the
postnişin and wanted to create a clergy in Alevism” he replied: “I think the
one saying this does not understand the philosophical practical tendencies
of Alevism. Was there any ‘theocratical’ government during the period of
unity of Alevi society around the Dergah?” (1994[42]: 13).
The magazine’s dergâh opinion was actually a reply to the “Alevi Party”
opinion in that period. Efforts to establish an Alevi party in Turkey were
strongly opposed in the magazine. In this respect, raising the Alevi party
initiative in an interview with Veliyettin Ulusoy, the representative of the
Haji Bektash Veli dergâh, was important. Ulusoy stated that “founding an
Alevi party is contrary to the principle of secularism that we believe in and
support.” (1995[53]: 18). The interview was published under the headings
“An Alevi party cannot be founded. I don’t approve of it” and “An Alevi
party will be the party of the system”. The magazine published numerous
articles on the issue of an Alevi party being formed, mainly arguing that the
initiative was a betrayal and a trap. The magazine’s writers also spoke about
the issue at the Haji Bektash Veli Festival and distributed a brochure entitled
“Yes to the organisation of Alevis; but no to an Alevi Party!”
The arguments used by the magazine writers to promote key concepts of
Alevi organisation, summarised as the dede, cemevi and dergâh, are
inconsistent and have a problematic relation with reality. The religious and
social guide, the dede, was also expected to be an organic intellectual,
continually improving himself in every field. Intellectuals interested in
Alevism from other nations and societies could become a dede and would
need to be educated at the Education Institute. The magazine, on the one
hand, tried to combine science and logic with Alevism, emphasising their
interconnectedness; on the other hand, it envisaged a holy organisation
106 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
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model whose framework was set within the strict lines of the dergâh. This
vision of an organisational structure which included a hierarchical clergy
gathering around a holy place was arbitrary and inconsistent. From time to
time, Yürükoğlu attached new components to this organisation type and
sometimes changed some of them. Moreover, a hierarchical organisation
type, supported by the magazine, was contradictory to the core of the Alevi
belief. Alevism has not constituted a canonical unity at any time during its
history and Alevi religious knowledge has been passed down verbally in
specific families considered to be holy (ocak). According to KehlBodrogi
(1996: 53) “these families gain their legitimacy from their imaginary kinship
with Ali or the Twelve Imam paternity.” Therefore, it would be an
inconsistent and fruitless initiative to stereotype a structure operating
traditionally for hundreds of years into a strict and randomly planned
organisation. On the other hand, we can agree with the magazine’s claim
that the establishment and dissemination of cemevis could ensure the
organisation of Alevis as this has been the case when we consider diaspora
Alevis. The Alevi societies in both Turkey and abroad have adopted their
beliefs and cultural values and sometimes been introduced to these values
for the first time. This situation ensures, especially for Alevis living abroad,
that they can be a political power (Bilecen, 2016).
22
The fraternity of Alevism and socialism in the Kavga/Kervan
magazine
In his article “Human is both the Subject and the Aim” published in the
405th issue of İşçinin Sesi, Yürükoğlu (1990: 4) stated that “for us, the
ancestor of communism is Alevism. (…) We have much to learn from
Alevism. (…) I can clearly say that we haven’t benefitted sufficiently from
Alevism yet. So long as we discuss Alevism, our comrades think about
bringing the Alevis who are open to the left into the communist movement”.
When the issue of Alevism became part of Turkey’s agenda in the 1990s for
various reasons, the TKP’s İşçinin Sesi started to give wider coverage to it.
At that time, Kavga/Kervan asserted that Alevis and socialists were
inherent allies for historical and class reasons. Another reason for their
proximity was the organisation of the Alevi population in Europe which the
magazine compared to the immigration of Alevis to cities in Turkey. It is no
coincidence that during a period in which Yürükoğlu focused on Alevism
and published Kavga/Kervan, a wave of Kurdish/Alevi migration from
Turkey to England was taking place.
22
Particularly the cemevis organised by German and English Alevi Federations in various areas of those
countries contribute to the religious and cultural gatherings of Alevis and play an important role in their
political organisation, the creation of a diasporic identity as well as lobbying activities in Turkey and the
countries they live in (Bilecen, 2016).
Bilecen 107
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The most important aim of the magazine was to reunite Alevis and socialists,
with the objective of creating a fraternity amongst two groups connected
from a historical, dialectical and class perspective. The aim of
Kavga/Kervan was to align Alevis and socialists. From the magazine’s
viewpoint Alevis had witnessed that at its core, Alevism was not
inconsistent with socialist ideals and the socialists comprehended the
revolutionary side of Alevism, which they had previously shunned as a
traditional and feudal religion. Moreover, the history of Alevism has been a
leverage for Turkish socialists to surpass the “nativism problem” because
the class revolts and revolutionaries of this history are the native source vital
to socialism in Turkey.
According to Kavga/Kervan magazine, “Alevism, with its communal
values and class sense, has been the philosophy of the oppressed
communities revolting against the dominant classes throughout history.
Values such as labour, respect, equality and solidarity defended by socialism
today have also been defended by the Alevis as early as 1000 years ago”
(Ertan, 2015: 54). Yürükoğlu expressed continuously that the TKP became
the representative of the Alevi left. “What do we say about Alevism?
Alevism is the ancestor of communism in Anatolia. And if Alevism does not
approach the working class and its history, it will deny its own honourable
place in history. And these are the native roots of the left.” Yürükoğlu
opposed the claim that Alevi ideology would absorb the socialist ideology.
“On the contrary: firstly, the socialist ideology involves the profound
heritage, the thought, attitude and wealth of Alevism in the concrete
conditions of Turkey, and secondly, it puts it under the microscope of
dialectical and historical materialism” (1994[42]: 12). Yürükoğlu received
criticism of producing ideas that associate a religious movement with a
political one. His response was “in Alevism the value given to people reflects
their cultural wealth. Therefore, if we incorporate this understanding into
our belief system, we can fulfil a deficient part in ourselves” (Yürükoğlu,
1994[44]: 4).
Yürükoğlu (1990: 265) defined the history of Alevism as a history of revolt
against the dominant classes. He anachronistically named it an “anti-feudal,
democratic peasant movement”. According to Yürükoğlu, the duty of
today’s working class was to absorb this movement of Anatolian peasants
into the revolutionary tradition and to find ways to rely on it. Through this
process, native roots would be discovered. Leftists in Turkey, speaking
French, performing their revolutionism utilising foreign concepts and not
analysing their own history would find the true revolutionary spirit through
108 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
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a consideration of Alevism’s history.
23
According to Yürükoğlu, values such
as “companionship, sharing, democracy, women’s rights, anti-exploitation
movements, social justice etc.” which are generally championed by the left,
play a crucial role in Alevism (1994[44]: 5). Alevism is, at heart, a communal
life plan and for this reason, the understanding of “not yours; not mine; but
all wealth belongs to God”. Yürükoğlu was insistent that the native source
he found for socialist thought, often accused of having foreign roots, played
an inseparable part in the history of class struggle. He visited Cuba with
such a mindset. In his article “The Unbelievable Cuba” (1997[65]: 12), he
claimed that “theory is painted with the colours of its country” and asked
whether Alevism was not “the native pattern of Turkey’s socialism”. For
Yürükoğlu the participation of Alevi society in the political struggle with the
socialists meant “a politicisation suitable for its core and consistent with the
notions created by its own revolutionism in history” (1995[53]: 7). In his
article “Marxism, Atheism and Alevism”, Sabri Yücel (1998[67]: 32) argued
that there has always been a natural alliance between the Marxists and the
Alevis claiming that the labour-based history of the Alevi struggle
developed the basis of this alliance.
The notion that Alevism and socialism are the same at heart has from time
to time caused the depiction of a world that we can say is a leftist-Alevi
utopia. For example, in the article “Workers and Alevis, shoulder to
shoulder, to establish the city of consent”, the “city of consent” in Alevi
mythology was, through the ideas of Marx, More and Campenalla, depicted
as “an utopia without property where money is not used and everything is
made with consent” (1995[55]: 9). Turkish folk music singer Musa Eroğlu in
an interview said that “after the law of Alevism is established, there will be
no need for borders or passports” (1991[7]: 14). As can be seen, the magazine
writers were in a romantic, revolutionary mood while trying to reunite
socialism with Alevism.
The ideological affinity between Alevism and socialism was not only
emphasised through historical examples but also current political
developments. For example, the topic of the panel held by the magazine on
10 September 1993 was “Alevis-workers are together at heart”. It proposed
that “Alevis and workers are companions” (1991[7]: 4).
24
On many occasions,
23
Criticising the alienated leftist intellectual prototype, Yürükoğlu, (1994[42]: 12), wanted to bring the Turkish
left and important characters of Alevi’s history together: “The Marxist formation of Turkey has mostly been
superficial. It has performed socialism with French colours. However, the Marxist movements of every
country should be based on their own country, history and society. If a communist in Turkey is not affected
when hearing about Hüseyin, Nesimi, Mansur, Haji Bektash Veli, Bedrettin and Pir Sultan, then, what kind
of a communist is he or she? When we hear about Luxemburg, we are affected. It’s okay. But the former one
is similarly obligatory.”
24
The emphasis on making the working class companion (fraternal of the way [what does this mean?]) with
Alevis was a slogan frequently reiterated in Kavga/Kervan magazine. It was at such a point that even the
Bilecen 109
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the magazine writers called for Alevis to participate in the socialist struggle,
framing this as a historical and dialectical class necessity and an obligation:
“Today, the only political platform for the Alevis is the leftist idea” (1998[67]:
7). The Kavga/Kervan magazine was criticised both by the leftists and by
various Alevi organisations. Among those criticisms were the exploitation
of Alevism and instrumentalisation for “gaining men” to the socialist
movement. Yürükoğlu, expressing that he found socialism through Alevi
songs (1990: 9), replied to those criticisms:
First of all, they should show us which thoughts, suggestions or
practical attitudes of ours deserve these criticisms… Whilst
many of the intellectuals and progressivists within the Alevi
society consider the dedes as a reactionary institution, we were
the ones who supported them. While everyone was chasing
“modern” dreams of reuniting with this or that association, we
were the ones saying, “unity must be created with the
descendants of Haji Bektash”. (…) So, I ask, where is our political
agenda, here?” (1994[42]: 12).
Conclusion
The Kavga/Kervan magazine began its publication at a time of intensive
mobilisation of Alevis in Turkey and abroad, with the aim of unifying Alevis
with the socialist struggle, offering examples from the history of Alevis,
showing that solidarity, humanitarian values and practices of struggle were
hidden in their history. The magazine, through its anachronistic behaviour,
tried to reveal the history of Alevism and the revolutionary characters in it.
The Kavga/Kervan writers were influential in the organisation of Alevis
abroad, especially in London, and affected the Alevi communities living
there. In conferences held in England, Germany, Holland and Australia,
Yürükoğlu tried to bring the Alevis into the fold of the socialist struggle and
supported the idea that Alevis should be organised in the triangle of dede,
cemevi and dergâh. He visualised the ideal Alevi organisation as a
“modern” basis for the dede institution, an organisation around the cemevis
instead of other associations and reuniting these synergies under a holy roof
(dergâh). However, the ideas expressed by Yürükoğlu and the magazine
writers were not always holistic and consistent. The contributors interpreted
Alevi history and Turkish policies with a melancholic and often unrealistic
romantic viewpoint. For example, with the rigidity of the magazine after the
Gazi incidents, its attitude switched from “there isn’t a revolutionary
condition; there is counter-revolution in Turkey” to “there is a revolutionary
music cassettes advertised in the magazine were promoted as a “humble step for working-class and Alevi
brotherhood”.
110 Alevism in the Kavga/Kervan magazine
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condition in Turkey”, which made it more radical. This radicalisation led to
issues of the magazine being pulled from the shelves and writers being
imprisoned. Therefore, during its final years, the magazine lost the
momentum it had achieved at the beginning of 1990s and was closed
because of political pressures and the deterioration of Yürükoğlu’s health.
Kavga/Kervan was criticised by Alevis and leftists alike during its
publication period. It could address neither the Alevi community living in
Turkey and abroad nor the socialists, with the exception of the ones living
abroad. Despite having a weak influence, Kavga/Kervan gained a unique
place in the socialist tradition and deserves to be remembered for its efforts
in bringing socialist thought and Alevi beliefs together.
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