Turkish Hezbollah or Kurdish Hezbollah (Hizbullahî Kurdî) is a Kurdish religionist militant terrorist organization, that arose in the late 1980s in response to the Marxist PKK, another Kurdish (and Kurdist) terrorist organization. Its ultimate aim was to establish a state based on Islamist rules.
The group is based primarily in Turkey and has no relation to the Hezbollah group based in Lebanon or any other country. Its members are primarily from the Sunni branch of Islam and almost all of the members are Kurd.
Some of the reports claimed that the Turkish security forces ignored the group in order to undermine the PKK terrorism. The Hezbollah killed many PKK members or supporters during the 1990s. The terrorist group also murdered many religious people to control the mosques in Turkey.
Turkish Hezbollah first appeared in southeastern Turkey in the early 1990s and became a direct threat to the already rising Kurdist separatist movement.
Huseyin Velioglu, the former leader of Turkey's Hezbollah was killed in a clash with Turkish Police Forces in Istanbul on January 17, 2000.
The group expanded its target base beginning in the mid-1990s and modus operandi from killing PKK militants to conducting low-level bombings against liquor stores, bordellos, and other establishments that the organization considered "anti-Islamic" or not true Islamic.
Hezbollah had bookstores in many cities. The bookstores which sell Koran and other religious books were the heart of the movement. Then they started to control the mosques and the other religious institutions. Hezbollah even killed some imams who resisted to the Hezbollah demands. The districts mostly populated by the new Kurdish immigrants from the South East Anatolia provided a perfect environment for Hezbollah to gain militant and supporters. A 2000 indictment of high-ranking Ilimciler members actually specified that the activities of Hezbollah in Turkey ‘included shootings, arson, assault with meat cleavers, kidnapping, beatings and attacks with acid on women not dressed in an Islamic manner.’
Due to ideological divergences and leadership disputes, Turkish Hizballah separated into two major groups: Ilimciler (Scientists) and Menzilciler (Rangers). The Ilimciler, led by Huseyin Velioglu, met at the Ilim Bookstore, whereas the Menzilciler, led by Fidan Gungor, congregated at the Menzil bookstore. Beside leadership struggle, the two factions were opposed in the tactics they used to accomplish the goal of the terrorist organization. While the Ilimciler defended armed struggle and comprised Hezbollah’s most brutal factions, the Menzilciler believed it was too early for such radical action and opposed, for instance, attacks on suspected PKK-KONGRA GEL members. The internal struggle caused death of more than 100 people from two fractions.
In the late 1990s the Hezbollah’s Ilimciler wing widened its operation area to the big cities, namely Istanbul and Bursa. Ilimciler’s attacks to Menzilciler and other Islamist groups continued. The group also kidnapped more than 60 people and killed many more. However the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader, and the decrease in the PKK terrorism allowed the police to focus on Hezbollah. Thanks to the police measures and operations against the Hezbollah, one of the bloodiest religionist terrorist organization in Turkish history was ended.
In January 2000 Turkish security forces killed Huseyin Velioglu, the organization's leader, in a shootout at a safe house in Beykoz district, Istanbul. The Police made a great operation against the organization members and the Turkish Hezbollah was collapsed.
The incident sparked a yearlong series of counter-terrorist operations and the detention of 2,000 individuals, arresting several hundred on criminal charges. At the same time, the Police recovered nearly 70 bodies of businessmen and journalists that the group had tortured and brutally murdered during the mid-to-late 1990s.
The group began targeting official Turkish security forces in January 2001 when its operatives assassinated th Diyarbakir police chief in the group’s most sophisticated operation to date. However some of the experts say that the group was not capable to conduct such an operation.
The group did not conduct a major operation in 2002.
* Laciner, Sedat, Combat against Religionist Terrorism in Turkey: Al Qaeda and Turkish Hezbollah Cases, Turkish Weekly, 02 April 2007.
December 10, 2003.
* Ozoren, Suleyman, Turkish Hizballah: A Case Study of Radical Terrorism, Turkish Weekly, 01 December 2004.
18 April 2007
Compiled by Journal of Turkish Weekly staff