Political violence in Turkey (1976–1980)
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Political violence in Turkey became a serious problem in the late 1970s[2] and was even described as a "low-level war".[3] The death squads of Turkish right-wing ultranationalist groups, sometimes allied with the state, against the resistance of the left-wing opposition inflicted some 5,000 casualties. Most of the victims were left-wingers. The level of violence lessened for a while after the 1980 Turkish coup d'état until the Kurdish-Turkish conflict erupted in 1984.
Political violence in Turkey (1976–1980)
Date1968–1980 (peak years 1976-1980)
Result1980 Turkish coup d'état
Low-level insurgency started
Right-wing groups:
Grey Wolves (MHP)
Turkish Revenge Brigade
Left-wing groups:
Devrimci Yol
People's Liberation Army of Turkey
Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist–Leninist
Marxist–Leninist Armed Propaganda Unit
People's Liberation Party-Front of Turkey
Revolutionary Youth Federation of Turkey
Commanders and leaders
Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu
Alparslan Türkeş
Semih Tufan Gülaltay
İbrahim Kaypakkaya 
Deniz Gezmiş 
Mahir Çayan 
Casualties and losses
Total 5,388 killed, affiliation of 1,983 victims unknown.[1]
In 1975 Süleyman Demirel, president of the conservative Justice Party (Turkish: Adalet Partisi, AP) succeeded Bülent Ecevit, president of the social-democratic Republican People's Party (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP) as Prime Minister. He formed a coalition, the "Nationalist Front (Turkish: Milliyetçi Cephe)", with Necmettin Erbakan's Islamist National Salvation Party (Turkish: Millî Selamet Partisi, MSP), and Alparslan Türkeş' far-right Nationalist Movement Party (Turkish: Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP). The MHP used the opportunity to infiltrate state security services, seriously worsening the low-intensity war that had been waging between rival factions.[3]
The elections of 1977 had no winner. Demirel at first continued the coalition with the Nationalist Front, but in 1978, Ecevit came to power again with the help of some deputies who had changed party. In 1979, Demirel once again became prime minister. At the end of the 1970s, Turkey was in an unstable situation with unsolved economic and social problems and facing large strike actions and partial paralysis of parliamentary politics (the Grand National Assembly of Turkey was unable to elect a president during the six months preceding the coup). Since 1969, proportional representation had made it difficult for one party to achieve a parliamentary majority. The interests of the industrial bourgeoisie, who were economically dominant, were opposed by other social classes, such as smaller industrialists, traders, rural notables and landlords, whose interests did not always coincide among themselves. Numerous agricultural and industrial reforms sought by parts of the upper-middle classes were blocked by others.[3] The politicians seemed unable to combat the growing violence in the country.
Sequence of events
Unprecedented political violence had erupted in Turkey in the late 1970s. The overall death toll of the 1970s is estimated at 5,000, with nearly ten assassinations per day.[3] Most were members of left-wing and right-wing political organizations, which were then engaged in bitter fighting. The ultranationalist Grey Wolves, the youth organisation of the MHP, claimed they were supporting the security forces.[4] According to the British Searchlight magazine, in 1978 there were 3,319 fascist attacks, in which 831 were killed and 3,121 wounded.[5] In the central trial against the left-wing organization Devrimci Yol (Revolutionary Path) at Ankara Military Court, the defendants listed 5,388 political killings before the military coup. Among the victims were 1,296 right-wingers and 2,109 left-wingers. The others could not clearly be related.[6] The 1978 Bahçelievler massacre, the 1977 Taksim Square massacre with 35 victims and the 1978 Maraş massacre with over 100 victims are some notable incidents. Martial law was announced following the Maraş massacre in 14 of (then) 67 provinces in December 1978. At the time of the coup, martial law had been extended to 20 provinces.
Ecevit was warned about the coming coup in June 1979 by Nuri Gündeş of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Ecevit then told his interior minister, İrfan Özaydınlı, who then told Sedat Celasun, one of the five generals who would lead the coup. The deputy undersecretary of the MİT, Nihat Yıldız, was demoted to the London consulate and replaced by a lieutenant general as a result.[7]
Kurdish separatism
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The right-wing groups were opposed to Kurdish separatism. Disproportionate numbers of Kurds were part of the left-wing groups. Most of the left was also Turkish nationalist and opposed towards separatism.[8] Before the 1980 coup, little of the violence had been committed by separatists, but that it increased.
See also
  1. ^ a b c Devrimci Yol Savunması (Defense of the Revolutionary Path).
  2. ^ Zürcher, Erik J. (2004). Turkey A Modern History, Revised Edition. I.B.Tauris. p. 263. ISBN 978-1-85043-399-6.
  3. ^ a b c d Gil, Ata. "La Turquie à marche forcée," Le Monde diplomatique, February 1981.
  4. ^ Turkey. Amnesty International. 1988. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-86210-156-5.
  5. ^ Searchlight (magazine), No.47 (May 1979), pg. 6. Quoted by (Herman & Brodhead 1986, p. 50)
  6. ^ Devrimci Yol Savunması (Defense of the Revolutionary Path). Ankara, January 1989, p. 118-119.
  7. ^ Ünlü, Ferhat (17 July 2007). "Çalınan silahlar falcıya soruldu". Sabah (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 30 August 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  8. ^ Romano, David (2006). The Kurdish Nationalist Movement Opportunity, Mobilization and Identity. Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-521-68426-2.
Last edited on 2 March 2021, at 01:10
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