We're always looking for ways to make better. Have an idea? See something that needs fixing? Let us know!

Turkey: Challenges to Public Order
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > Crisis in Turkish Democracy > Challenges to Public Order


Turkey faced recurrent political violence throughout the 1970s. Political parties, particularly those of the extreme right, organized strong-arm auxiliaries for street fighting. Kurdish nationalism and sectarian divisions were also factors. From time to time, specifically from 1971 to 1973 and again in December 1978, the frequency of such violence and the involvement of increasing numbers of persons led to the imposition of martial law in parts of the country.

Most of the violence-prone groups of the right were apparently attached, directly or indirectly, to Türkes and the MHP. The best organized of these, the Gray Wolves, were armed and regularly resorted to terrorist tactics. Other groups -- particularly those on the left -- used violence in the hope that the reaction of the state would lead to revolution. Their members assaulted politicians and public officials, the police, journalists, and members of rival groups. United States military personnel stationed in Turkey were also targets of attack. Some groups involved in the violence were identified with the Kurdish nationalist movement.

The Ecevit government initially tried to play down the significance of Kurdish separatism and to avoid actions that might alienate the many Kurds who supported the CHP and lead them to join extremist groups that they might otherwise ignore. Opposition members in the Grand National Assembly, who tended to identify any sign of restiveness in the Kurdish regions with Kurdish separatism, insisted on stronger measures from the government. In April 1979, the martial law that had been proclaimed in some parts of the country the previous December was extended to provinces with Kurdish-speaking majorities.

Estimates vary, but some sources claim that as many as 2,000 persons died in political violence in the two-year period 1978-79. The single most serious incident erupted in the town of Kahramanmaras in December 1978, when more than 100 persons were killed in sectarian conflict between Sunni and Alevi Muslims. The incident led to the imposition of martial law in the Kahramanmaras Province that same month.

The military became increasingly uneasy over continued criticism of the armed forces in the Grand National Assembly. The apparent inability of successive governments to deal with problems of the economy and public order led many in the military to conclude that the 1961 constitution was defective. Their frustration with the political process was confirmed in September 1980, when the assembly was unable to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to elect a new president.

Data as of January 1995

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Turkey Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 40 of 206


Click any image to enlarge.

National Flag

(TL) Turkish Lira (TRY)
Convert to Any Currency


Locator Map