Overview: Domestic and transnational terrorist groups have targeted Turkish nationals and foreigners in Turkey, including, on occasion, U.S. government personnel, for over 40 years. Most prominent among terrorist groups in Turkey is the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Composed primarily of ethnic Kurds with a nationalist agenda, the PKK operates from areas in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq and targets mainly Turkish security forces. Other prominent terrorist groups in Turkey include the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), a militant Marxist-Leninist group with anti-U.S. and anti-NATO views that seeks the violent overthrow of the Turkish state, and Turkish Hizballah (unrelated to the group similarly-named Hizballah operating in Lebanon). Public sources also highlight detentions of Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) members as well as supporters for al-Qa'ida (AQ) and other groups. The Turkish Workers' and Peasants' Liberation Army, though largely inactive, was still considered a potential threat by the Turkish government.

2011 Terrorist Incidents: The PKK continued to demonstrate its nation-wide reach. Typical tactics, techniques, and procedures included ambushes on military patrols in the countryside, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along known military or police routes, and bombings of both security and civilian targets in urban areas. Six attacks garnered particular attention and condemnation:

A May attack on the prime minister's convoy in Kastamonu, near the Black Sea, using small arms and a roadside IED (the prime minister was not in the convoy at the time; one police officer was killed).

  • A July attack on Gendarmerie Personnel in Silvan using small arms and grenades that killed 13 Turkish security forces.

  • An August attack in Hakkari province's Cukurca district left at least nine Turkish security personnel dead.

  • A September attack on a crowded Ankara street using a small vehicle-based IED killed three civilians and wounded 34. The PKK denied playing a role in the attack, though responsibility for the bombing was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), an organization suspected of having links to the PKK.

  • A September attack in Batman killed a woman and her four-year old daughter when PKK attackers opened fire from a vehicle.

  • In an October attack, the deadliest since 1993, the PKK killed 26 security forces in Hakkari province.

In July, Turkish national police arrested 15 alleged members of a Turkey-based, AQ-inspired terrorist cell. The group was reportedly preparing a large vehicle-borne IED-type attack against one of a small group of targets that included the U.S. embassy. Weapons, plans, photos of possible targets, and over 600 kilograms of explosives were seized during the arrests. As of December, one person had been released and 14 held for trial. Turkey continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: Counterterrorism law enforcement efforts in Turkey remained focused on the domestic threat posed by several terrorist groups, including the PKK. Turkey's methodology and legislation are geared towards confronting this internal threat. Efforts to combat international terrorism are hampered by legislation that defines terrorism narrowly as a crime targeting the Turkish state or Turkish citizens. This definition of terrorism posed concerns for operational and legal cooperation. A draft law before Parliament on the Prevention of Terrorist Financing was initially intended to address the definitional issue; however, according to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the current draft is insufficient to bring this and other areas of terrorist finance legislation up to international standards.

Separately, critics charged that Turkish authorities applied its counterterrorism laws overly broadly to stifle political discourse, arresting hundreds of political activists, journalists, military officials, and others over the year for crimes under Turkey's terrorism laws. Current regulations governing pre-trial detentions allow terrorism and other suspects to be held for up to five years while awaiting trial. Political leaders had begun speaking openly of reforming the current counterterrorism law, but no specific legislation had been drafted by the end of 2011.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Turkey is a member of the FATF, and in 2007, the FATF identified Turkey as a jurisdiction with significant anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing (AML/CTF) vulnerabilities, chief among them Turkey's incomplete criminalization of terrorist financing and weak national asset-freezing mechanisms. In response, in 2010 Turkey drafted but ultimately did not pass a law on the "Prevention of Terrorist Financing," intended to address all CTF deficiencies identified by the FATF. In its October 2011 review of Turkey's status, FATF found no improvement, reiterated its concerns that Turkey still has significant AML/CTF vulnerabilities, and included Turkey in its Public Statement. The same draft CTF law was resubmitted to parliament in October. The draft bill moved to the International Affairs Committee and two other parliamentary committees in November, where opposition parties have raised privacy and other legal concerns. The bill was under review in parliamentary committees at year's end.

The regulation of banks is carried out by the Banking Regulatory and Supervision Agency and regulation of financial exchange houses, insurance companies, and jewelers is carried out by the Under Secretariat of Treasury. Stock exchanges are regulated by the Capital Markets Board. There is little coordination or sharing of best practices among the agencies with specific regard to AML/CTF competencies. Money/value transfer systems are illegal and as such there is no regulatory agency that covers this area.

The nonprofit sector is not audited on a regular basis for counterterrorist finance vulnerabilities and does not receive adequate AML/CTF outreach or guidance from the Turkish government. The General Director of Foundations issues licenses for charitable foundations and oversees them, but there are a limited number of auditors to cover the more than 70,000 institutions.

Turkish officials circulated U.S.-designated names to the security services for their awareness, though only UN-listed names were subject to asset-freezes.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation: Turkey is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and together with the United States, co-chaired the Forum's inaugural session in September 2011 and worked assiduously to build international support for it. As co-chair, Turkey provided extensive secretariat support, including hosting a pre-GCTF launch conference in Istanbul in April.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Government of Turkey has two significant programs in place to counter radicalization and violent extremism. The first, administered by the national police, is a broad-based outreach program to affected communities, similar to anti-gang activities in the United States. Police worked to reach vulnerable populations before terrorists did, to alter the prevailing group dynamics, and prevent recruitment. Police utilized social science research to undertake social projects, activities with parents and in-service training for officers and teachers. Programs prepared trainers, psychologists, coaches, and religious leaders to intervene to undermine radical messages and prevent recruitment.

The second program, administered by the Religious Affairs Office (Diyanet) of the Government of Turkey, promoted a mainstream interpretation of Islam and worked to undercut the message of violent religious extremists. In Turkey, all Sunni imams are employees of the Diyanet. In support of its message of traditional religious values, more than 66,000 Diyanet imams throughout Turkey conducted individualized outreach to their congregations. Diyanet similarly worked with religious associations among the Turkish diaspora, assisting them to establish umbrella organizations and providing them access to mainstream Hanafi instruction. Diyanet supported in-service training for religious leaders and lay-workers through a network of 19 centers throughout Turkey.

In 2011, the Government of Turkey reiterated its intent to follow up on its 2009 "democratic initiative" (also known as the "national unity project" or the "Kurdish opening"). The initiative was designed to address the social and economic inequalities in Turkish society that fuel Kurdish dissent. Concrete steps within the scope of the initiative were clearly devised to reduce the PKK's support, by, for example, liberalizing laws governing the use of the Kurdish language in broadcasting, education, and state buildings; reducing the number of instances where counterterrorism laws are applied to non-violent crimes; and providing legal incentives to bring members of the PKK who have not engaged in violence back into civil society. To further these objectives, Turkish officials have announced plans to shift primary responsibility for counterterrorism efforts from the Turkish military to civilian security forces (National Police and Jandarma).


This 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.