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Turkey: Terrorism of the Left
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Internal Security Concerns > Terrorism of the Left


Marxists and other groups of the extreme left have never been more than marginal factors in national politics, even during those periods when they were permitted to function as legal parties. Just before the military crackdown in 1980, four of the seven Marxist-oriented parties legally recognized at the time contested local elections but were able to gather a total of only 1 percent of the national vote. During the 1970s, the leftist movement turned increasingly to violence and terrorism; at the same time, left-wing ideologies became popular in the universities and among alienated and often unemployed urban youth.

In 1987 the leaders of the banned Turkish Workers' Party and of the Turkish Communist Party returned from exile to form a new Turkish United Communist Party. Both politicians were arrested and charged under the provision of the penal code that specifically outlawed communist organizations and the dissemination of Marxist-Leninist theories. After being decriminalized in 1991, the Turkish United Communist Party was again proscribed after the Constitutional Court upheld a ban on the grounds that it had violated Article 14 of the constitution, which prohibits "establishing the hegemony of one social class over another."

The most active of the left-wing terrorist groups is the Revolutionary Left Party (Devrim├ži Sol -- Dev Sol). Virulently anti-American and anti-NATO, Dev Sol was responsible for most of the attacks against United States targets and other political violence during the Persian Gulf War. In one incident, two United States civilians working for a United States defense contractor were killed. The Turkish government reacted vigorously, conducting raids against Dev Sol safe houses and enacting new antiterrorist legislation. Dev Sol is believed to have several hundred members, including several dozen armed militants. Because of police raids and internal factionalism, attacks by Dev Sol have been less numerous since 1991. Sympathizers among the foreign Turkish population in Western Europe have helped fund the organization; training support is believed to come from radical Palestinians in Lebanon.

The Turkish Workers' and Peasants' Liberation Army and the Marxist-Leninist Armed Propaganda Unit committed numerous acts of terrorism in the 1970s and early 1980s, including bank robberies and bombings of businesses, courts, and key government offices. Members of the latter group were sentenced in 1984 after convictions for eighty-seven killings, including the murders of five United States servicemen in 1979. Since 1990, however, the other extremist groups of the left have been overshadowed by Dev Sol.

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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