Generational Changes in Terrorist Movements: The Turkish Case

by Sabri Sayari

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This paper reviews trends in Turkish terrorism by examining the characteristics of three generations of terrorists from 1970 to the present. The first generation of Turkish terrorists came almost exclusively from the ranks of university students. They were the products of left-wing student radicalism. Their ranks included very few females, several of their members were Kurdish, and they came from both middle- and upper-middle-class as well as rural and small-town backgrounds. The second and third generations of Turkish terrorists included students, but most were less educated than their predecessors. New groups were represented in their ranks as well: teachers, government employees, professionals, the unemployed, and women. These later generations of terrorists tend to be more action-oriented and less scrupulous about the use of violence than their more ideological first-generation counterparts. The author finds that the trends concerning generational changes among the Turkish terrorists have much in common with those in Italy and West Germany, except for the large numbers of uneducated young people recruited into the Turkish terrorist movement in the late 1970s.

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