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Turkey

10. Political and Security Environment

The period between 2015 and 2016 was one of the more violent in Turkey since the 1970s.   However, since January 2017, Turkey has experienced historically low levels of violence even when compared to past periods of calm, and the country has greatly ramped up internal security measures.  Turkey can experience politically-motivated violence, generally at the level of aggression against opposition politicians and political parties.  In a more dramatic example, a July 2016 attempted coup resulted in the death of more than 240 people, and injured over 2,100 others.  Since the July 2015 collapse of the cessation of hostilities between the government and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), along with sister organizations like the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), have regularly targeted security forces, with civilians often getting injured or killed, by PKK and TAK attacks.  (Both the PKK and TAK have been designated as terrorist organizations by the United States.)

Other U.S.-designated terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and the leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) are present in Turkey and have conducted attacks in 2013, 2015, 2016, and early 2017.  The indigenous DHKP/C, for example, which was established in the 1970s and designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1997, is responsible for several attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the U.S. Consulate General Istanbul in recent years, including a suicide bombing at the embassy in 2013 that killed one local employee.  The DHKP/C has stated its intention to commit further attacks against the United States, NATO, and Turkey.  Still, widespread internal security measures, especially following the failed July 2016 coup attempt, seem to have hobbled its success.  In addition, violent extremists associated with ISIS and other groups transited Turkey en route to Syria in the past, though increased scrutiny by government officials and a general emphasis on increased security has significantly curtailed this access route to Syria, especially when compared to the earlier years of the conflict.

There have been past instances of violence against religious missionaries and others perceived as proselytizing for a non-Islamic religion in Turkey, though none in recent years.  On past occasions, perpetrators have threatened and assaulted Christian and Jewish individuals, groups, and places of worship, many of which receive specially-assigned police protection, both for institutions and leadership.  Anti-Semitic discourse periodically features in both popular rhetoric and public media, and evangelizing activities by foreigners tend to be viewed suspiciously by the country’s security apparatus.  Still, government officials also often point to religious minorities in Turkey positively, as a sign of the country’s diversity, and religious minority figures periodically meet with the country’s president and other senior members of national political leadership.

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