Counter-Terrorism: The Radicalization Of Turkey


December 18, 2014: At the end of 2014 Israel revealed that in September it had broken up a Hamas terrorism group in the West Bank. More than 30 arrests were made and interrogations revealed details of the attack plans. Targets in Jerusalem (a sports stadium and the light rail system) and elsewhere in Israel were to be hit. Firearms and bomb making materials were seized during the raids along with documents showing how a Hamas headquarters in Turkey was coordinating Hamas terror operations in the West Bank and Israel. This alarmed the Israelis.

When Israel asked NATO to look into this matter. NATO, which Turkey is a member of, is at war with Islamic terrorists and denied any such Hamas activity. Yet it’s no secret that Hamas is active in Turkey, under the guise of being an “Islamic charity.” Turkey has been known to look the other way if Islamic groups set up shop in Turkey and behave while they are there. Over a decade of pro-Islamic government has made all sorts of Islamic conservatives feel welcome in Turkey. That has made Turkey vulnerable, as it’s often difficult to tell if some Islamic conservatives are radicalized Moslem or just Turks who take their Islam seriously.

This situation might change if more Turkish Islamic terrorists show up inside Turkey. The current Turkish rulers are trying to make Islam more a part of a government that has been deliberately secular for nearly a century. Meanwhile Turkey’s economy has been booming for the last decade, ever since an Islamic party took control in 2002 by promising to finally do something about the corruption that had long crippled the government and the economy. Economic growth usually leads to fewer Islamic terrorists. But the moderate Islamic politicians running the country have also sought better relations with Islamic states, especially neighboring Iran and Arab countries. That meant an end to the close economic and diplomatic relations with Israel.

All this is a return to the past that many Turks are not comfortable with. Until 1924, the Sultan of the Turks was the Caliph (technically, the leader of all Moslems). But in the 1920s, Turkey turned itself into a secular state. Although Turkey became a major economic power in the Middle East, with one of the best educated populations in the region, it was still hobbled by corruption and mismanagement. The current Islamic politicians promised to attack the corruption (which they have) and return religion to a central place in Turkish culture (a work in progress). This has upset a lot of secular Turks. But it's fashionable to hate Israel these days, over Israeli efforts to cope with Palestinian terrorism. Yet despite the anti-corruption speeches, and actions, of the Islamic politicians Turks are noticing that the Islamic politicians are beginning to act like the corrupt and incompetent aristocrats that brought down the empire in the 1920s,

Turks also fear the possibility that young Turkish Islamic conservatives, radicalized in Syria and returning home with murderous intent might be one of several recent trends that are sending Turks back to secularism. For over three decades most of the terrorist violence in Turkey came from secular Kurdish nationalists, but that is declining as the government makes peace with the nationalist movements. There was always some terrorist activity from Turkish nationalists, Armenian nationalists and Islamic or Arab terrorists. But the fighting in neighboring Syria since 2011 has radicalized many Turkish Arabs and Shia Moslems and now there is fear that ethnic Turkish Sunnis are also becoming radicalized. The number of Turkish Sunni radicals are still small, but they have been growing since 2011 and it’s unclear what a lot of these newly radicalized Turks will do once the war in Syria is over. Because of all this Israeli accusations that Hamas Islamic terrorists are operating inside Turkey, and the Turkish government is denying it, is nearly as worrying to many Turks as it is to most Israelis.






Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close