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Turkey: Internal Security Concerns
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Internal Security Concerns


Since the late 1960s, Turkey has been plagued by recurrent political violence. Radical groups responsible for terrorism have included movements of both leftist and rightist orientation, as well as ethnic and religious extremists. By far the most serious source of violence since the mid-1980s has been the Kurdish separatist insurgency, which by the mid-1990s had nearly assumed the character of a civil war in the southeastern area of the country bordering Syria and Iraq.

During the 1970s, various political groups -- particularly ones on the left -- used violence in the hope that civil disorder and the consequent suppression by the state might lead to revolution. In the months preceding the assumption of power by Turkey's generals in September 1980, the toll of political killings rose to more than twenty a day. The government's repression of political activism and the detention of an estimated 30,000 persons suspected of terrorism were accompanied by arrests of union members, university students, and journalists. The stern measures of the military commanders were vehemently criticized by Turkish intellectuals and foreign observers; however, the measures did reduce the violence.

Even after civilian rule was restored in 1983, the continuation of martial law in certain areas, the expansion of police powers, and legal constraints on political movements dampened politically inspired violence. Terrorist incidents continued to occur in urban areas, but these were for the most part individually targeted bombings and assassinations, including attacks on United States installations and personnel. The number of such incidents peaked at seventy-five in 1991, most of them attributed to leftist protests against Turkey's strategic role in the international coalition against Iraq. Nevertheless, the preoccupying security issue for the Turkish government continued to be the mounting separatist insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkere Kurdistan -- PKK). The uprising of Kurds in northern Iraq after the Persian Gulf War focused attention on the condition of Kurds in general; the PKK used the occasion to intensify its military operations in the Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey.

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

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