Turkey, Greece rank high on Global Terrorism Index

11/01/2013

The recent international review, which includes 158 countries, also found that Europe has seen the number of incidents decline during the last decade.

By Alakbar Raufoglu for Southeast European Times -- 11/01/13

photo

Emergency crews work at the scene of a car bomb explosion in Ankara, on September 20th 2011 that injured 15 people. [AFP]

Shedding light on the impact of terrorism worldwide over the past decade, the first Global Terrorism Index drawn up by the Institute for Economics and Peace found that incidents of extreme violence are on the decline in Europe.

Turkey, struggling to contain a shadowy insurgency in its southern border provinces, ranked 19th in the survey of 158 nations. Among the Southeast European nations, Turkey was first on the list, while Greece follows at 26th.

The recently published index ranks countries based on the number of terrorist attacks, the number of fatalities and injuries from terrorism, as well as the estimated property damage.

Fatal attacks in Western Europe have decreased since 2002 to 910 incidents, 25 percent of which took place in the UK, while 1,431 incidents occurred in Central and Eastern Europe, according to the index. As with other parts of the world, bombings and explosions were the most common type of terrorist attacks in Europe.

"There is already a heightened awareness among domestic policymakers in regards to terrorism because terrorism is not a new phenomenon in Turkey," said Alper Dede, an assistant professor of International Relations at Zirve University, in Gaziantep.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting for independence from Turkey, is among the most active groups in Central and Eastern Europe, according to the report.

"The terrorists and their supporters have managed to keep Turkey among top 20 countries -- as it can be seen in the GTI list -- by bringing up the problematic areas from the past, in a purpose of preventing country's development and stability," Mesut Ulker, a retired Turkish colonel and national security analyst who heads the Istanbul-based Caspian Strategies Institute, told SETimes.

Dede said Turkey has been suffering from terrorism for a long time. Before the 1980s, clashes between the extremist right and left wing armed militia in urban centers have raised terrorism, while after the 1980s, the shape and nature of terrorism changed in the country, he said.

"Kurdish separatist terrorism started to affect the country, leaving thousands of fatalities and injuries and a bad economy due to increased amounts of spending due to increased terrorism in the Southeastern region," he told SETimes.

Even though the index "is a good tool mostly for academicians to put certain things into perspective regarding terrorism and how terrorism affects countries," Dede said it will not have an impact on Turkish decision makers regarding the way they conduct domestic affairs.

For Ahmet Tolga Turker, assistant professor of international relations at Istanbul Arel University, it is no surprise that Turkey ranks high on the list in consecutive years because "the majority of its neighbours also rank high on the list."

"As long as the countries surrounding Turkey continue to be a staging ground for terrorist activities it is unlikely that Turkey's ranking will fall significantly," he told SETimes.

Policymakers, he added, "must realise that fighting terrorism is a regional, if not global, task."

In the meantime, the report notes, majority of terrorist incidents in Europe were domestic.

That is to say, the raison d'etre seems "to be focused on national issues as in Greece with its austerity measures or Spain with its nationalist-separatist discontent."

For Dr. Athanasios Drougos, an Athens-based defence and counter-terrorism analyst, who lectures Greek officer cadets on intelligence and terrorism, Greece's 26th position in the GTI is "rather normal under the current unstable domestic situation."

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Speaking to SETimes, he said that since September 11th 2001 and the summer Olympics of 2004, Greece has made significant progress in the field of handling and fighting domestic terrorism. However, due to the deteriorating economic situation, "everything is on the table," he said.

"We have to keep a vigilant eye on various developments, especially the new generation of terrorists, the available weaponry to them, their relations with the organised crime groups and some links/ramifications with illegal refugee movements, originated in the Middle Eastern region," Drougos said. "There are sleepy groups and such movements in Greece."

Looking ahead, the case of political violence in the region will depend on several factors, including the contemporary developments in the Middle East and North Africa, the delicate stability in the western Balkans and criminal groups in the broader region, he said.

The report said terrorism correlates with low political stability, low cohesion between various groups in society, human rights violations and high levels of group grievances.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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