Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Turkey

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 29 April 2013
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Turkey, 29 April 2013, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Number of IDPs954,000 - 1,201,000
Percentage of total population1.3% - 1.6%
Start of displacement situation1984
Peak number of IDPs (year)836,000 (1992)
New displacement in 2012200 reported
Causes of displacementx International armed conflict
✓ Internal armed conflict
✓ Deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement
✓ Communal violence
x Criminal violence
✓ Political violence
Human development index90

There were at least 954,000 people living in internal displacement in Turkey as of the end of 2012. The country has experienced 29 years of armed conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in its south-eastern and eastern regions. Between 1991 and 1996, a state policy of destroying villages to prevent them being used as PKK bases, and indiscriminate attacks against civilians by both parties led to the displacement of as many as 1.2 million people. The armed conflict has still not been brought to a comprehensive end and the causes and consequences of displacement remain unresolved.

Security in the south-east of the country has generally improved since the 1990s, but sporadic clashes between the military and PKK, which aims to establish an independent Kurdish homeland, have continued since 2004. In 2012, the violence spilled over into Iraq. Counter-insurgency operations against PKK in the south-eastern province of Hakkari displaced several hundred people in Semdinli district in August. Violence along Turkey's border with Syria may also have led to further displacements in the autumn, but no figures or further information are available.

The government has taken significant steps to promote IDPs' return. During the last four years, it has drafted a national strategy on displacement, adopted legislation on compensation and prepared a comprehensive pilot action plan in Van province, which addresses both rural and urban displacement. Similar plans for 13 other south-eastern provinces affected by displacement are also being developed. These are intended to form a national action plan on which to base a comprehensive response, but as of late 2012 the projects were still to be finalised.

Despite the government's efforts aimed at encouraging returns, only 187,000 IDPs had gone back to their places of origin as of 2009. The vast majority are still hesitant about the prospect of return because of ongoing intermittent conflict, the continued deployment of government village defence militias whose members were often implicated in the original causes of displacement and the presence of nearly a million landmines in provinces bordering Syria and Iraq, which make it impossible to earn a living from agriculture. Return areas also lack other economic opportunities, social services and basic infrastructure, both for IDPs and those who never left.

Most IDPs who are unwilling or unable to return continue living in poverty and suffering social exclusion. They have set up home on the edges of urban centres, often in illegally constructed and substandard housing. Some stayed within the affected south-eastern provinces in cities such as Batman, Diyarbakir, Hakkari and Van, while others fled further afield to Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. In all cases, such settlements are in need of better service provision and improved living conditions.

The vast majority of IDPs are Kurdish and as such they face discrimination and limited access to housing, employment and services such as education and health. The issue of Kurdish identity continues to fuel insecurity and remains a barrier to the achievement of durable solutions. The government has taken limited but unprecedented steps in recent years to address discrimination against Kurds as part of its EU accession requirements. Such measures are still fraught with challenges, but could lead to reconciliation if they are continued.

Compensation for IDPs' material losses and physical injury as a result of the conflict continued to be paid in 2012. More than 361,000 applications were submitted, 305,000 were assessed and compensation was paid in more than 166,000 cases. Delays in making payments continued, however, and some NGOs reported excessive demands for documents to support claims, a lack of legal aid, disparities in the compensation awarded and the absence of an effective appeal procedure. Turkey still has no national strategy to address IDPs' needs.

The EU, the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe (CoE) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs have influenced progress in responding to the needs of Turkey's displaced population. UNDP is the key UN interlocutor with the Turkish government, and it has been assisting since 2010 in the development of a national action plan. The EU, CoE and UN have underlined the need for a comprehensive plan to address the situation of IDPs, particularly in urban areas, and to ensure the achievement of durable solutions. National civil society groups continued to be critical of the government on these issues in 2012.

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