Struggling with Kılıçdaroğlu's 'Alevi' declaration, Erdoğan tells him to conceal identity, live it privately

After struggling for days to find a political response to Kılıçdaroğlu’s “Alevi” declaration, Erdoğan has told the CHP leader to conceal his identity and live it privately. Erdoğan’s comments came despite he himself addressed Kılıçdaroğlu as an Alevi in several previous rallies and told him to embrace his identity.

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has targeted main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader and Nation Alliance's presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu once again, telling him to conceal his Alevi identity.

“Who asked you if you are Alevi or not? We have also respect for Alevis, have respect for every kind. Why do you have to say this (identity)? You live your Alevism, but there is no need to explain about it,” Erdoğan said on April 30 during an election rally in the capital Ankara.

Erdoğan’s comments came despite he himself, on several occasions in the past, referred to Kılıçdaroğlu as an Alevi and called on him to emphasize this.

Videos surfaced on social media showing how Erdoğan has contradicted himself once again, as he is heard saying during previous rallies that Kılıçdaroğlu “comes from Alevi culture” and “has grown up with Alevi culture.”

In a previous rally, Erdoğan is heard saying: “Kılıçdaroğlu, you can be an Alevi. I respect you. Do not be shy about this, don’t be scared. Say this comfortably. And I am a Sunni. I say this comfortably. There is no reason to refrain from (saying) this. So, there is no reason to befool the nation.”

On April 19, in a historic speech, Kılıçdaroğlu talked about his Alevi identity, something Alevis in Turkey hesitate to openly say due to fear of discrimination. In the video titled “Alevi,” Kılıçdaroğlu called on young people who are going to vote for the first time to “pull this country out of the harmful sectarian debates.”

In response to Kılıçdaroğlu’s openly embracing his Alevi identity, Erdoğan has found himself struggling to formulate a political response, as the president’s usual strategy is to utilize a polarizing discourse.   

On April 30, Erdoğan once again targeted Kılıçdaroğlu through the classical discourse of terror accusations and said that Kılıçdaroğlu was “receiving instructions from Kandil (Mountains),” referring to the base of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “What is Kandil saying? ‘We are now supporting Mr. Kemal.’ Would someone whose friend is Kandil baron be of service to this country?...Organization executives who are unable to put a distance from the separatist terrorist organization are begging for votes for Mr. Kemal,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan’s accusations stem from the CHP’s increased collaboration with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to unseat the president and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the upcoming elections. Erdoğan frequently targets the HDP to attract nationalist votes and accuses the party of having links with the PKK. Amid dwindling support, Erdoğan has stepped up his accusations against the HDP and CHP.

Insulting Kılıçdaroğlu and referring to him as “pitiful,” Erdoğan once again raised the CHP leader’s time at the Social Institute Institution (SSK). Between 1992-1999, Kılıçdaroğlu served as the general manager of the SSK, which handled health and insurance services on behalf of the Turkish public.

Erdoğan argued that Kılıçdaroğlu mismanaged the SSK and bankrupted the institution, a claim widely uttered by the president. “Can this country be handed to this pitiful who was unable to manage the SSK? You know what we have done in the health (sector),” Erdoğan said.