Sunday, January 9, 2011

Turkish Hizbullah on the Scene Again? . . .

AA Photo from Hurriyet Daily News

Five members of Turkish Hizbullah, two high-level members, were released this week when an amendment to Article 102 of the Turkish Code for Criminal Procedure went into effect. The amendment mandated the release of convicted criminals whose appeals had not been processed in a 10-year period, and is raising concern in some circles that the terrorist group, now re-united with old leaders, might take the opportunity to renew the violent terror campaign it waged in the southeast in the 1990s. From Hurriyet Daily News:
Some claim Hizbullah will "redefine itself" and enter a new era following the releases, but others say the possibility that the group returns to violence is now stronger than ever before, given that it has grown into a "mass movement of militants" through traffic on its websites and charity activities of some foundations that are accused of being front organizations for Hizbullah.

“The Turkish Hizbullah may even push to obtain seats in the forthcoming elections from independent candidates and may run in provinces such as Batman, Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin,” Faraç said.

While pro-Kurdish circles claim Hizbullah was a weapon against the Kurdish political movement, the wider public knew of the organization after mass graves that held dozens of hogtied bodies were discovered in the year 2000.

The public relived those days of horror when five Hizbullah members, two of which were allegedly leaders of the organization, were freed last week, as their cases, waiting to be discussed at the high court, did not come to a conclusion in 10 years' time.

Hizbullah came to prominence in the late 1980s in southeastern Turkey. Some experts say its aim is to destroy the secular order and spread “true Islam” throughout the country, by force if necessary. However, strong claims have surfaced that it was the state itself that established the organization to fight the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, through illegal means, such as summary executions.

Other experts dismiss such claims, but acknowledge that the Turkish state has long failed to appropriately investigate the group.

Indeed, many of those killed in the Southeast during the 1990s, usually with meat cleavers or a bullet in the neck, were known to be active pro-Kurdish politicians or journalists.

Many members of groups that preceded today's Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, are believed to have been killed by Hizbullah, though hundreds of such murders still remain unsolved.

. . . .

The organization’s collapse began when Turkish security forces killed one of the group’s leaders, Hüseyin Velioğlu, during an operation in Istanbul in January 2000. Subsequent operations led to the discovery of dozens of mass graves containing the bodies of victims who had been kidnapped, tortured and buried alive.

Velioğlu’s death led the group to target Turkish security forces in 2001, a principal motivation behind government crackdowns on the organization in the following years.

The organization is also charged with the murders of 188 people, including Islamist feminist writer Konca Kuriş and Diyarbakır Police Chief Gaffar Okkan, who commanded huge respect in the city.
Turkish Hezbollah has incredibly murky past, and there is significant evidence that the group was used by deep state elements in the 1990s to counter the influence of the PKK. The PKK and Turkish Hezbollah were in a turf war for much of this period, and the result added to the mass human rights violations and internal displacement with which Turkey is still grappling. Another crime of the group that is not mentioned here is its role in driving many Syriac Orthodox Christians into Syria. Syriac Christians were popular targets of the groups' intense religiosity, many of whom sought refuge in Syria during the unrest and have not returned. For more background on Turkish Hezbollah, which is in no way related to Lebanese Hezbollah, see Gareth Jenkins's analysis from January 2008.

UPDATE I (1/10) -- During a press conference on the KCK trial, the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) announced it would welcome Turkish Hezbollah's participation, echoing a similar statement from Ocalan. At the same time, Ocalan warned that Hezbollah members will not be welcome in cities like Diyarbakir if they resort to their old ways. Meanwhile, PKK commander Murat Karayilan accused the Turkish state of attempting to revitalize the group in its fight against the PKK.

No comments: