2013-02-05

DHKP-C: A marginal organisation with a history of violence

The group's latest attack will alienate its dwindling base, analysts say.

By Ozgur Ogret for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 05/02/13

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The terrorist bombing at the US embassy in Ankara by the outlawed Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) is likely to further erode the leftist group's negligible base of support, analysts told SES Türkiye.

  • Two people were killed in the DHKP-C's bombing of the US Embassy in Ankara. [AFP]

    Two people were killed in the DHKP-C's bombing of the US Embassy in Ankara. [AFP]

  • Police stand guard outside the US Embassy in Ankara. Turkey, the EU, and US consider the DHKP-C a terrorist organisation. [AFP]

    Police stand guard outside the US Embassy in Ankara. Turkey, the EU, and US consider the DHKP-C a terrorist organisation. [AFP]

  • The DHKP-C has been implicated in scores of deadly attacks on Turkish and American targets. [AFP]

    The DHKP-C has been implicated in scores of deadly attacks on Turkish and American targets. [AFP]

The DHKP-C has violently attacked the Turkish and the US armies as well as Turkish police officers, politicians and businesspeople since it was founded in 1994 following a split from the Revolutionary Left militant group. In 1996, they assassinated businesspeople Ozdemir Sabancı, Haluk Gurgon and Nilgun Hasefe.

Authorities suspected the organisation in the December killing of Istanbul police officer Mucahit Dastan. The organisation attacked two police stations in the city last year, killing a trooper and the organisation's suicide bomber while wounding seven civilians. A subsequent crackdown on the group drew criticism for targeting journalists, musicians and lawyers.

Burak Cop, a political scientist at Istanbul Kultur University, described the DHKP-C as a Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist organisation bent on overthrowing Turkey's current order through armed struggle. Most of its activities are outside the law although it's involved in some legal branches, he said.

Sociological changes have contributed to the group's marginalisation, according to Cop. "I think the DHKP-C's base has been gradually eroding for the last decade," he told SES Türkiye.

Cop said "assimilation through urbanisation" -- the incorporation of squatter settlements where the group was strong into mainstream city life -- eliminated the social setting where the DHKP-C was rooted.

"This is an organisation that had a certain influence in squatter settlements in cities, especially in Istanbul. Some leftist organisations succeeded in turning some squatter settlements into 'liberated areas' at the end of the '70s," he said.

"However, my observation is -- although I do not have data to support it -- that in Turkey, in Istanbul, a change of scenery, an urbanisation happened in neighborhoods that used to be outskirts. Some political senses of belonging that were transferred from generation to generation could not be transferred anymore," he said.

Cop added that the organisation was further weakened by the "Return to Life" operation of 2000, when soldiers raided prisons to suppress a mass hunger strike by leftist inmates. Two soldiers and 30 prisoners died, including key leftists.

"Such organisations have lost the structure for re-creating themselves in prisons," he said, adding that the Ankara attack may have been a bid to keep the group relevant in the face of declining influence.

In a statement, the DHKP-C said the Ankara attack was directed at what they called American "imperialism" and Ankara's perceived support for it. Turkish security guard Mustafa Akarsu and the suicide bomber, Ecevit Sanli, were killed in the attack, while veteran TV journalist Didem Tuncay suffered heavy wounds.

Journalist Mustafa Akyol characterised the DHKP-C as a marginal organisation deeply hostile to the US and Turkish police.

"The war in Syria, the position Turkey has taken there more or less acting with the US, [and] the arrival of the Patriot missiles to Turkey has created a discourse in leftist circles, including the legal left, that Turkey is acting with imperialism," he said.

Akyol was quick to add that most left groups would not condone the violent attack on the US Embassy.

"[The DHKP-C's] opinions have reflections in the left ideologically but I don't think the action itself would be supported," he said. "A very narrow circle would support it. Radical Islamists may perceive this sympathetically since they are anti-American."

In a news conference on Monday, President Abdullah Gul said Turkey had advance information the organisation was preparing an attack prior to the Ankara bombing.

"Unfortunately, our security and intelligence apparatuses were on red alert that the terrorist organisation was planning an attack, and everyone worked around the clock to address this. But unfortunately efforts to prevent it did not succeed," Gul said. "Once again, I offer my condolences to the American embassy."

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