Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Who is behind the terror wave in Turkey?

About 60 underground organizations are believed to be behind the current wave of political violence in Turkey, which has claimed nearly 2,000 lives so far this year.

Most of them are leftist groups of various sizes and tendencies, ranging from independent revolutionary Marxists to pro-Soviet, pro-Chinese, or even pro-Albanian factions.

About these ads

The 20 or so rightist groups seem to be less divided ideologically than their leftist rivals. Turkey's rightist extremism manifests itself mainly as an ultranationalist of neofascist movement, rather than an Islamic resurgence, although some Muslim fanatical gangs also have been involved in recent violence.

Oddly, in spite of their sharp ideological differences, both the violent left and right have a lot in common. They use similar methods of terrorism -- mainly murder of important people as well as their rivals. Both groups also are involved in bomb attacks and robberies. (None of them, however, seem interested in kidnappings, as in Italy.)

Both leftist and rightist terrorists are highly professional and sophisticated -- so much so that unless one group claims responsibility for a crime, it is difficult to determine which side did it.

Their targets are usually similar: local officials and political personalities, policemen, intellectuals (from university professors to teachers) , students, and ordinary men known as active members of a legal or illegal organization.

Both sides aim at destroying the present democratic system in order to replace it with the kind of regime they dream of.The right wants the Army to take over and establish a right-wing authoritarian regime similar to some of the Latin American countries.

The left is aware that mounting violence might bring the Army into power and that such a system would not tolerate their brand of socialism. What they hope is to provoke a popular movement or a people's uprising that ultimately would bring them to power.

Another similarity between the two opposing forces is that at present both lack a single, strong leader. In the early 1970s, when the leftist militants organized themselves and started their terrorist campaign, leading figures such as Deniz Gezmis and Mahr Cayan (the former was caught and executed, the latter was killed during a shoot-out) had emerged. Today there are no well-known names. Various groups have their own, local leaders.

About these ads

Terrorists of both left and right tend to be young people whose ages range from 18 to 25, although boys and girls in their early teens also are recuited. Most are students. They come from the rural areas and belong to poor or lower-middle-class families. The same kind f background and environment can lead to diametrically opposite ideological tendencies -- but quite similar violent action.

Last but not least, rightist and leftist militanmts have a common approach on the source of political violence in Turkey -- both blame it on the other. Both claim that they are fighting to prevent the rival force (the "fascists" in the words of the leftists and the "communists" in the words of the rightists) from taking over control. And yet both sides have created throughout the country so-called liberated areas that are fully under their command.

On the leftist side, the most active and well-known groups are Dev-Yol (revolutionary way) and Dev-Sol (revolutionary left). Both are pro-Moscow; the former is active in rural areas and the latter in urban areas. Former premier Nihat Erim was assissinated recently by Dev-Sol gunmen.

A splinter group of the Turkish People's Liberation Army Front (THKP-C) which emerged in the early 1970s, calling itself the Marxist Leninist Armed Propaganda Squad, has been particularly active in killing American servicemen (seven in two years).

There are a number of so-called Maoist groups and a few Kurdish organizations actively engaged in violence.There also are at least half a dozen Kurdish terrorist groups under different names all aspiring to achieve independence.

On the right, the main source of political violence is centered in so-called idealist youth associations or idealist centers, which in the past have been the youth branches of Alparslan Turkes' National Action Party.

The right-wing militants are also known under the names of Bozkurt (gray wolf) and "commandos." These militants are trained with a military discipline, which many observers consider close to national socialism.

The "commandos" aim mainly in the leftists and consider the left as a threat to Turkey. They see Bulent Ecevit's moderate leftist Republican People's Party as a supporter of the "communists."

Although the National Action Party leadership denies any organic link wth the commandos and militant right-wing groups, these militants have contacts with the party and look on Mr. Turkes as their natural leader. A former Army colonel who took part in the 1967 coup, Mr. Turkes is known to have backing among junior officers in the armed forces. A recent indication of this was the involvement of some young officers in the escape from jail of two right-wing terrorists facing death sentences.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.