Urbanization and Insurgency

The Turkish Case, 1976-1980

by Sabri Sayari, Bruce Hoffman


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One of the likely changes that will affect future low-intensity conflict is the vast urbanization process that is occurring in many Third World countries. This Note analyzes the relationship between explosive population growth in and around cities and armed extremism through a case study of the urban terrorism campaign that erupted in Turkey between 1976 and 1980. It focuses on two key issues: why cities were the main arenas of organized political violence in Turkey during this period, and the role rapid urbanization played in the creation of a favorable environment for terrorists. Terrorism, as the Turkish case and many others suggest, is usually the product of multiple social, political, and economic factors. However, the uncontrolled and unplanned expansion of large metropolises, coupled with frequent political and economic crises, can create conditions susceptible to extremist exploitation, providing fertile ground for wide-scale violence and rebellion.

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