Kurdish Hizbollah (Turkey)
|Kurdish Hezbollah, (KH)
|Major actions||1983 – present|
|Leader(s)||Hüseyin Velioğlu †
|Active region(s)||Cross section of (southeastern Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria)|
|Status||Designated as Terrorist Organization by the Republic of Turkey|
Hizbullah (English: Party of Allah), often referred to as the Turkish Hezbollah (Türk Hizbullahı) or Kurdish Hezbollah (KH) (Kurdish: Hizbullahî Kurdî), to avoid confusion with the unrelated Lebanese Shi'a group called Hezbollah, is a Kurdish-based Sunni Islamist militant organization, active against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Government of Turkey. Although its members theoretically remain committed to violence, the organization has focused on non-violent activities during the last 10 years.
In the 1970s various Turkish/Kurdish Islamists sought to work through democratic means to develop Islamism in Turkey. Many joined the National Turkish Student Association (Milli Türk Talebe Birliği, MTTB), the youth organization of the National Salvation Party. With the closure of these after the 1980 Turkish coup d'état, it appeared clear that the military was too strongly dedicated to secularism for the democratic route to be an option, and a group of Islamists launched the Union Movement (Vahdet Hareketi). The movement organised around two bookshops in Diyarbakır - Fidan Gündör's Menzil and Hüseyin Velioğlu's İlim. Until 1987 the groups gathered around these bookshops worked together.
In 1987, when Hüseyin Velioğlu moved his bookshop to Batman, different opinions on leadership and armed actions resulted in the split of the two wings. The so-called İlim-wing, under the leadership of Hüseyin Velioğlu insisted to start the armed struggle immediately. The dispute resulted in bloody fighting between the two factions. Between 1990 and 1993, the Ilim group killed many members of the Menzil group, and ultimately emerged victorious. In 1993 the Ilim group took the name Hizbullah.
The group which became known as Kurdish Hizbollah took this name in 1993, after emerging victorious from a bloody factional war between two wings of the Union Movement (Vahdet Hareketi) which had been established following the 1980 Turkish coup d'état's crushing of Islamist hopes for democratic success. Hüseyin Velioğlu's group had previously been known as Ilisim, named for his bookshop. According to Turkish security officials, the Turkish Hezbollah was financed by and trained in post-revolutionary Iran, with Iran allegedly using terror groups to establish Islamic governments throughout the Middle East. However, there is substantial evidence that Turkish Hezbollah was in fact supported, if not actually established, by elements of the Turkish state and military.
Further groups within Kurdish Hezbollah were named as Tevhid, led by Nurettin Şirin and Mehmet Şahin and Yeryüzü, led by Burhan Kavuncu. Besides the town of Batman, Hezbollah was strongest in Silvan district of Diyarbakır province. For a long time the village Yolaç was used as their base.
In the early 1990s the organization became a direct threat to the already rising Kurdish separatist movement. The Kurdish Islamist group (of Sunni thought) began as an oppositional force against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), though later they have targeted both the PKK and people who they considered to be with low morals (people who drank alcohol, wore mini-skirts etc.). Between 1992 and 1995 KH killed around 500 PKK members, for the loss of around 200 of its own.
The KH also targeted journalists which wrote about its activities, particularly those who wrote about connections between KH and the Turkish state and military. Journalists associated with 2000'e Doğru and Özgür Gündem were particularly targeted (see List of journalists killed in Turkey).
Turkish military support
The weekly 2000'e Doğru of 16 February 1992 reported that eye witnesses and sympathizers of Hezbollah had informed them that members of the organization were educated in the headquarters of Turkey's rapid deployment force (Çevik Kuvvet) in Diyarbakır. Two days after the article was published its author, Halit Güngen was killed by unidentified murderers. Namik Taranci, the Diyarbakir representative of the weekly journal Gerçek (Reality), was shot dead on November 20, 1992 on his way to work in Diyarbakır. Again, the previous edition of the magazine had examined relations between the state and Hizbullah. Hafiz Akdemir, reporter for Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda), was shot dead in a Diyarbakır street on June 8, 1992, after reporting that a man who had given refuge to assassins fleeing a Hezbollah-style double killing in Silvan was released after only six weeks in custody, without even appearing in court.
The 1993 report of Turkey's Parliamentary Investigation Commission referred to information that Hezbollah had a camp in the Batman region where they received political and military training and assistance from the security forces.
Former Minister Fikri Sağlar said in an interview with the paper Siyah-Beyaz (Black-White) that the army not only used Hezbollah, but actually founded and sponsored the organization. He maintained that such a decision had been taken in 1985 at the highest levels - the National Security Council. On 17 January 2011 Arif Doğan, a retired colonel in the Turkish army who also claims to be a founder of JİTEM, while testifying in court in the Ergenekon case, declared that he set up Hezbollah as a contra group to force to fight and kill militants of the PKK. The organization was originally to be called Hizbul-Kontr ("Party of the Contras").
In December 2003 Corry Görgü put the number of militants as high as 20,000 a figure presented by the Center for Defense Information as well. Information provided by the Intelligence Resource Program of the Federation of American Scientists based on the 2002 Patterns of Global Terrorism report suggests that the organisation possibly has a few hundred members and several thousand supporters. Ufuk Hiçyılmaz stated that the group had about 1,000 armed members.
Trials (2000 - 2011)
After the kidnapping of several businessmen in Istanbul and the subsequent raid of a house in Beykoz quarter a nationwide hunt on Hezbollah supporters followed. During the operation in Beykoz on 17 January 2000 Hüseyin Velioğlu was killed and Edip Gümüş and Cemal Tutar were detained. Edip Gümüş, born 1958 in Batman was alleged to lead the military wing of Hezbollah and Cemal Tutar was said to be a member of the armed wing. In this period nearly 6000 KH members were arrested.
In the time to follow many trials were conducted in Diyarbakır and other places against alleged members of Hezbollah. In several instances defendants raised torture allegations. Such allegations are documented in Urgent Actions (UA) of Amnesty International. In the trial in which Edip Gümüş and Cemal Tutar were indicted the defendant Fahrettin Özdemir said on 10 July 2000 that he had been held in custody for 59 days and had been tortured. In the hearing of 11 September 2000 Cemal Tutar said that he had been held in police custody for 180 days.
The Hezbollah trial was concluded in December 2009. The defendants received varying terms of imprisonment.
Eighteen members of Turkish Hezbollah, suspected of militant activities, were released from jail on 4 January 2011, in accordance with a recent amendment to the Turkish criminal code that set a limit of 10 years on the time detainees can be held without being sentenced in a final verdict.
Movement of the Oppressed and Hüda-Par (2002 - )
Following the decision to end armed struggle in 2002, sympathizers of Hizbollah's Menzil group founded an association called "Solidarity with the Oppressed" (tr: Mustazaflar ile Dayanışma Derneği or short Mustazaf Der) in 2003. It also became known as the Movement of the Oppressed (Turkish: Mustazaflar Hareketi, Kurdish: Hereketa Mistezefan). On 18 April 2010 Mustazaf Der organized a mass meeting in Diyarbakir to celebrate the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday (known as Mawlid). The Turkish police estimated that the event was attended by 120,000 people. The organizers put the figure at over 300,000.
On 20 April 2010 a court in Diyarbakir ordered the closure of the Association for the Oppressed (Mustazaf-Der) on the grounds that it was “conducting activities on behalf of the terrorist organization Hizbollah.” The decision was confirmed by the Court of Cassation on 11 May 2012.
In late 2012, the Movement of the Oppressed announced its will to found a political party, basically to challenge the hegemony of the Peace and Democracy Party. In December 2012, a political party with the name Free Cause Party (Hür Dava Partisi) was founded. Hüda-Par, the abbreviated form of the party's name is synonymous with Hizbollah, both interpreted as the "God's Party", emphasising that the party is a front for the otherwise illegal Hizbollah. Societies affiliated with Hüda-Par operate under the umbrella organisation Lovers of Prophet (Turkish: Peygamber Sevdalıları, Kurdish: Evindarên Pêyxamber) particularly active in Kurdish Mawlid meetings.
- Konca Kuris, Turkish feminist, one of Hizbollah's victims
- Islamic terrorism
- Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front
- List of designated terrorist organizations
- List of illegal political parties in Turkey
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- See: EXTRA 64/01 of 14 September 2001 (Hacı Bayancık), UA 218/01 of 4 September 2001 (Hacı Elhunisuni), UA 209/01 of 22 August 2001 (Yasın Karadağ), UA 194/10 of 31 July 2001 (Edip Balık), UA 317/00 of 17 October 2000 (Fesih und Hatice Güler)
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- Sebnem Arsu (4 January 2011). "After a Court Ruling, Turkey Frees 23 Suspected Militants". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
- Compare an article in the daily Radikal of 13 April 2013: Hizbullah: Tebliğ, Cemaat, Cihat; accessed on 15 April 2013
- See an article of the International Relation and Security Network in Zurich of 15 June 2010 written by Gareth Jenkins A New Front in the PKK Insurgency, accessed on 15 April 2013
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- Hüda-Par'ın rakibi BDP mi, AK Parti'mi?. Timeturk.com (2012-12-06). Retrieved on 2013-02-09.
- Hür Dava Partisi (Hüda-Par) Resmen Kuruldu. Haberdiyarbakir.com (2012-12-17). Retrieved on 2013-02-09.
- Peygamber Sevdalıları. Retrieved on 2013-02-09.
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- Turkish Hezbollah: Release of Turkish Hezbollah Members Rocks Turkey