Alevis in AKP’s Foreign Policy

When the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) policies are analyzed, the most striking point is to see a hegemonic structure with an authoritarian outlook. The party is thus shaping the new paradigm with these outlines. It emphasized the EU anchor and freedoms in its first era (2002-2007) in power, but the authoritarian and hegemonic character has risen in the past five years.

The AKP introduced itself as a “conservative democratic” party in the early days of its administration, but the adjective was used with a different meaning throughout the party’s first period in power. The western political system evaluated AKP as being “Muslim democrats” and considered the party in parallel to “Christian democrats” in European countries. Toward the end of the second term, until the referendum period in 2012 AKP started to challenge the political system of Turkey.

The conservative Turkish media started to label Alevi citizens ‘local Baathists,’ thus making them a target.

Alevis have always been considered an essential barrier for the “political Islam” paradigm of AKP. Thus, the values of national belonging and citizenship paved its way to the concept of Islamic brotherhood to cover the identity of Kurds and Alevis. As a matter of fact, Sunnism was covered behind the Islamic identity and there appeared a resemblance of neo-Ottomanism, or a “union” under the framework of Sunnism. The AKP approach to Alevis was to see them as an “obstacle” and Sunnism was agreed on as an “official sect” in AKP administration. The Alevis’ demands could be heard in combination with urbanization on sociological issues, and the Alevi issue was thus created.

For the Sunni Islamic brotherhood framework of the AKP, Arab countries had a special importance. Foreign Minister Prof. Ahmet Davutoğlu mentioned a great power’s assistance to find a periphery in his “Strategic Depth” approach. In the present term of AKP, the United States outshined the EU and this situation did not take place accidentally.


Muslim Brotherhood governments came to power with the so-called Arab Spring and became a strong milestone for Sunni Islamism. These governments were underlined in the context of U.S. President Barack Obama’s experiment in U.S. policies. Following the Islamist attack on the U.S. ambassador to Libya, (Sept. 12, 2012) the experiment’s disclosure is being understood. AKP’s keenness to offer refugees immigration and offering to draw a buffer zone in Syria was opposed even by the U.N. Security Council, and its hegemonic approach on Syrian policies continue to see Turkish Alevis as a threat. The conservative Turkish media started to label Alevi citizens “local Baathists,” thus making them a target. There are strong allegations that the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is the armed opposition group in Syria, is being trained in Turkey’s refugee camps. Unfortunately, Hatay – a city near the border – has been called the “dark city,” and it is being said that al-Qaeda militants threaten the local Alevi citizens outside the camps. The AKP’s ambition to overthrow al-Assad and to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power has increased the risk of the Lebanonization of Syria and the fragmentation of the Arab Republic on ethnic and sectarian lines. At the same time, the Kurdish region of Syria is being converted to become an entity within Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government. Political Islam miscalculated that the reason was the Kurdish reality in the region.

On the other hand, a possible Alawite state in the post-Assad era has become a nightmare for AKP officials. The main U.S. approach is about creating an anti-Iran front in the Middle East, but al-Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq are indispensable for Iran. This “influence map” is called a “Shia axis” by the West. So far, AKP’s Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the new Egypt seem to be the pioneers of the Sunni alliance in the region. The aforementioned approach in the context of Sunni foreign policy perceives Alevis as a threat.

Before the Sept. 12, 2010 constitutional referendum, AKP’s partisan media targeted Alevi judges, public prosecutors, and committed to disqualify them with new articles of the constitution. (Hummersledge). Alevi officers from the army. A number of attacks on Alevis and cases of marking Alevi homes is justified by “hate speech” against Alevis in the partisan media.

AKP tangibly reflected the hegemonic codes to alienate Alevis from education, the judiciary, the academic world, daily life, and its foreign policy. Instead of national belonging determining the AKP’s approach, its mission is to the Islamic Ummah and carrying out a subcontractor foreign policy for the Sunni alliance.
Giving up the secular foreign policy and replacing it with an aggressive, interventionist and sectarian approach will damage Turkey’s territorial integrity, social peace, the region’s future, and the EU approach.

About Deniz Tansi

Yeditepe University Economic and Administrative Sciences Faculty Public Administration Department