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Turkish Organized Crime: Where State, Crime, and Rebellion Conspire

NCJ Number
Transnational Organized Crime Volume: 4 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 1998 Pages: 25-41
Mark Galeotti
Date Published
17 pages
This article examines the characteristics of Turkish organized crime.
On the surface, Turkish organized crime is a mass of contradictions. It embraces members of the Turkish state and the Kurds rebelling against them. It is distinctive in its traditions yet currently in a process of evolution. Defined by close-knit clans or families, it is still able to work closely with other gangs and communities. Rarely discussed or studied, it is nonetheless the major bulk trafficker in opiates to Europe, accounting for more than three-quarters of that in circulation. The activities and structures of Turkish organized crime are largely defined by its background and the social and political context within which it operates. The key attributes are: (1) a traditional concentration on the trade in opiates; (2) a social structure that emphasizes loyalty to the clan and family; (3) the long-running war between the Turkish government and ethnic Kurdish guerrillas; and (4) connections that have developed between criminal groupings and particular political figures and factions. A key strength of Turkish organized crime is the considerable protection it enjoys within Turkey, especially with its vital money-laundering haven in northern Cyprus. As long as it retains this stronghold, law enforcement agencies within Europe are unlikely to do more than temporarily disrupt particular Turkish organized crime operations and groupings. Table, notes