Overview: Largely because of the ongoing conflict in Syria, Turkey has voiced increasing concern about terrorist groups near its border, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Nusrah Front, and other al-Qa’ida (AQ)-affiliated groups. Throughout 2014, Turkey served as a source and transit country for foreign terrorist fighters wishing to join these and other groups in Syria. The Government of Turkey intensified efforts to interdict the travel of suspected foreign terrorist fighters through Turkey to and from Syria and Iraq. These efforts include the development and implementation of a “banned from entry list,” as well as the deployment of “Risk Analysis Units” to detect suspected foreign terrorist fighters at airports, land border crossings, and border cities. Cooperation with other source countries increased during the year in response to the foreign terrorist fighter threat, with both Turkey and source countries seeking to improve information sharing in particular. Turkey is an active member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
Prominent among terrorist groups in Turkey is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Following three decades of conflict with the PKK, in late 2012 the Government of Turkey and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan began talks for a peace process. The talks continued in 2014. The PKK called for a ceasefire in March of 2013, which both sides largely observed, apart from ongoing small-scale PKK attacks.
In 2014, Turkey continued to face significant internal terrorist threats and took strong action in response. Activity by the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), a terrorist Marxist-Leninist group with anti-U.S. and anti-NATO views that seeks the violent overthrow of the Turkish state, threatened the security of both U.S. and Turkish interests.
Another terrorist group in Turkey is Turkish (Kurdish) Hizballah (unrelated to the similarly-named Hizballah that operates in Lebanon). The Government of Turkey also considers the Turkish Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army (TKP-ML-TIKKO), and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), although largely inactive, to be threats. Because of their association with the PKK, the Turkish government considers the Syria-based Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing (People’s Protection Units – YPG) to be terrorist organizations. The appearance of Hamas leader Meshaal at a congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in December drew attention to the Turkish government’s relations with this group, which is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States.
Turkey is a long-standing counterterrorism partner of the United States. It co-chairs the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) with the United States. It received U.S. assistance to address the terrorist threat posed by the PKK in 2014. Although ongoing peace talks mitigated violence between the PKK and Turkish government forces, isolated incidents continued.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: Noteworthy attacks included:
- During the week of October 6, at least 40 civilians were killed during two days of protests and associated violence. According to Human Rights First, security forces killed 15 persons during clashes between various Kurdish groups, including PKK supporters and Huda-Par (a political party with links to Turkish Hizballah).
- On October 25, masked gunmen shot dead three Turkish soldiers in the Kurdish-majority southeast of the country. The attack was attributed to the PKK.
- On October 29, a Turkish military officer wearing civilian clothes died after being shot in the head by two PKK militants while walking in a bazaar.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: 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 counter international terrorism are hampered by legislation that defines terrorism narrowly as a crime targeting the Turkish state or Turkish citizens. This definition of terrorism can be an impediment to operational and legal cooperation against global terrorist networks. No significant counterterrorism-related legislation was enacted during the year.
Due to amendments made in 2013, Turkey’s counterterrorism legislation conforms more closely to EU freedom of expression standards, has a narrower definition of terrorist propaganda, and criminalizes propagation of the declarations of an illegal organization only if the content legitimizes or encourages acts of violence, threats or force. Nevertheless, the legislation remains broad-reaching and is still being broadly applied. In 2014, Turkish authorities continued to use it to detain and prosecute thousands of politicians, reporters, and activists.
While Turkey’s law enforcement capacity is generally advanced, criminal procedure secrecy rules continued to prevent Turkish National Police (TNP) authorities from sharing investigative information once a prosecutor is assigned to the case, which occurs almost immediately.
The Government of Turkey compiles a “banned from entry list” with a view to prevent travel into Turkey by individuals identified by foreign governments and internal security units as potential foreign terrorist fighters. Although the Turkish government does not have an automated Advanced Passenger Information/Passenger Name Record (API/PNR) system, it has approached the Department of Homeland Security for technical assistance in developing its own automated system. Risk Analysis Units were established at 11 major international and domestic airports, land border crossings, and border cities in an effort to identify and interdict potential foreign terrorist fighters. Border forces have increased their ability to patrol and interdict persons and contraband from crossing the border.
The TNP has highly developed counterterrorism capabilities in a number of areas and is planning to expand its law enforcement training for other countries in the region.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Turkey is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and an observer of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, a FATF-style regional group. In October, the FATF cited improvements in Turkey’s counterterrorist finance (CFT) regime and approved Turkey’s exit from the targeted follow-up process of the third round of mutual evaluations. No terrorist finance cases were prosecuted.
While the Government of Turkey has issued freezing orders without delay (three to five days), it remains unknown whether any assets have actually been frozen. Freezing orders are published in the official Gazette. The nonprofit sector is not audited on a regular basis for CFT vulnerabilities and does not receive adequate anti-money laundering/CFT 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.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 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 an active member of the UN, NATO, and the Committee of Experts on Terrorism. Turkey is a founding member of the GCTF and is co-chair with the United States; as co-chair, Turkey provides extensive secretariat support. Turkey also participated in OSCE expert meetings on the Prevention of Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism organized by the OSCE/Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the OSCE Secretariat.
The Government of Turkey is considering effective means to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 2170 and 2178. As GCTF co-chair, it is developing policies in line with the framework of The Hague – Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the “Foreign Terrorist Fighters” Phenomenon.
Turkey increased its cooperation with European countries regarding the activities of members of the DHKP/C. It also worked with countries from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East to interdict the travel of potential foreign terrorist fighters planning to travel through Turkey to Syria.
In 2014, the TNP offered counterterrorism-related training programs at its Antiterrorism Academy that are designed primarily for law enforcement officers from Central Asian countries.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The Turkish government has two significant programs to counter radicalization to violence and violent extremism. The first, administered by the TNP, is a broad-based outreach program to affected communities, similar to anti-gang activities in the United States. Police work to reach vulnerable populations (before terrorists do) to alter the prevailing group dynamics and to prevent recruitment. Police use social science research to undertake social projects, activities with parents, and in-service training for officers and teachers. Programs prepare trainers, psychologists, coaches, and religious leaders to intervene to undermine violent extremist messages and to prevent recruitment.
The second program, administered by the Turkish government’s Religious Affairs Office (Diyanet), works to undercut violent extremist messaging. In Turkey, all Sunni imams are employees of the Diyanet. In support of its message of traditional religious values, more than 140,000 Diyanet religious officials throughout Turkey conducted individualized outreach to their congregations. The Diyanet similarly worked with religious associations among the Turkish diaspora to provide them with access to instruction and to assist them in establishing umbrella organizations. The Diyanet supported in-service training for religious officials and lay-workers via a network of 20 centers throughout Turkey.