Erdogan Rival Embraces Minority Roots in Latest Turkey Election Pitch

(Bloomberg) — Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu made a rare acknowledgment of his roots as part of the country’s biggest religious minority, his latest pitch for support ahead of next month’s election against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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“I am an Alevi,” Kilicdaroglu said in a Twitter video late Wednesday that was viewed over 12 million times. If elected, “We’ll no longer talk about discriminations and differences. We’ll talk about our partnerships and common dreams,” he said in the address, which was specifically aimed at young and first-time voters.

The speech, delivered on the eve of a religious holiday by the leader of the secularist Republican People’s Party, aimed to convince young voters to support Kilicdaroglu against what he called the “discriminatory system” under Erdogan, whose party has been in power since 2002 and has roots in Sunni Islamist movements.

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Erdogan’s government has denied discriminating against Alevis, who were outraged when he named a bridge over the Bosphorus Strait after an Ottoman sultan who massacred their ancestors. The European Union has flagged discrimination against the group — who make up about a fifth of the population — as a problem for the country’s stalled membership bid.

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Alevis in Turkey have been the targets of violent attacks, including a 1993 arson attack on a hotel in the central city of Sivas that left 37 people dead, including several Alevi writers and singers. Nationalists and religious extremists also went on a week-long rampage in the southern province of Kahramanmaras in 1978 that killed more than 100 Alevis.

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