|Political violence in Turkey (1976–1980)|
Grey Wolves (MHP)
Turkish Revenge Brigade
|Commanders and leaders|
Semih Tufan Gülaltay
İbrahim Kaypakkaya †|
Mahir Çayan †
|Casualties and losses|
|Total 5,388 killed, affiliation of 1,983 victims unknown.|
Political violence in Turkey became a challenging problem in late 1970s. The violence was even described as a "low-level war". The death squads of Turkish right-wing ultra-nationalist groups against left-wing opposition inflicted some 5,000 casualties. The wave of violence dimmed after the 1980 Turkish coup d'état.
In 1975 Süleyman Demirel, president of the conservative Justice Party (Turkish: Adalet Partisi, AP) succeeded Bülent Ecevit, president of the social-democratic Republican People's Party (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP) as Prime Minister. He formed a coalition called "the Nationalist Front (Turkish: Milliyetçi Cephe)" with Necmettin Erbakan's Islamist National Salvation Party (Turkish: Millî Selamet Partisi, MSP), and Alparslan Türkeş' far-right Nationalist Movement Party (Turkish: Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP). The MHP used the opportunity to infiltrate state security services, seriously aggravating the low-intensity war that was waging between rival factions.
The elections of 1977 had no winner. First, Demirel continued the coalition with the Nationalist Front, but in 1978, Ecevit was able to get to power again with the help of some deputies who had shifted from one party to another. In 1979, Demirel once again became Prime Minister. At the end of the 1970s, Turkey was in an unstable situation with unsolved economic and social problems facing strike actions and partial paralysis of politics (the Grand National Assembly of Turkey was unable to elect a President during the six months preceding the coup). Since 1968–69, a proportional representation system had made it difficult to find any parliamentary majority. The interests of the industrial bourgeoisie, which held the largest holdings of the country, were opposed by other social classes such as smaller industrialists, traders, rural notables, and landlords, whose interests did not always coincide among themselves. Numerous agricultural and industrial reforms requested by parts of the middle upper classes were blocked by others. Henceforth, the politicians seemed unable to combat the growing violence in the country.
Unprecedented political violence had erupted in Turkey in the late 1970s. The overall death toll of the 1970s is estimated at 5,000, with nearly ten assassinations per day. Most were members of left-wing and right-wing political organizations, then engaged in bitter fighting. The ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves, youth organisation of the MHP, claimed they were supporting the security forces. According to the British Searchlight magazine, in 1978 there were 3,319 fascist attacks, in which 831 were killed and 3,121 wounded. In the central trial against the left-wing organization Devrimci Yol (Revolutionary Path) at Ankara Military Court the defendants listed 5,388 political killings before the military coup. Among the victims were 1,296 right-wingers and 2,109 left-wingers. The others could not clearly be related. The 1978 Bahçelievler massacre, the 1977 Taksim Square massacre with 35 victims and the 1978 Maraş massacre with over 100 victims are some notable incidents. Martial law was announced following the Maraş massacre in 14 of (then) 67 provinces in December 1978. At the time of the coup, martial law had been extended to 20 provinces.
Ecevit was warned about the coming coup in June 1979 by Nuri Gündeş of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Ecevit then told his interior minister, İrfan Özaydınlı, who then told Sedat Celasun—one of the five generals who would lead the coup. The deputy undersecretary of the MİT, Nihat Yıldız, was demoted to the London consulate and replaced by a lieutenant general as a result.
The right-wing groups were opposed to Kurdish separatism. Disproportionate numbers of Kurds were part of the left-wing groups. Most of the left was also Turkish nationalist and opposed towards separatism. Before the coup of 1980 only a minority of the violence was committed by separatists; after that it increased.