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Islamic Great Eastern Raiders/Front (IBDA/C)
Islamic Movement Organization
Islamic Jihad
Turkish Hizballah
Vasat

The Constitution establishes Turkey as a secular state and provides for freedom of belief, freedom of worship, and private dissemination of religious ideas, and the Government generally observed these provisions in practice. About 99 percent of the population is Muslim.

Although Turkey is a secular state, religious instruction in state schools is compulsory for Muslims. In accordance with a 1997 law, which made 8 years of secular education compulsory, new enrollments in the first 8 years of the Islamic imam-Hatip schools (in existence since 1950) were stopped, although children already in those classes were allowed to finish their grades. The imam-Hatip schools were very popular among conservative and Islamist Turks as an alternative to secular public education.

Turkey's Alawi Muslim minority (an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam) is estimated to number at least 12 million persons. However, there are no government- salaried Alawi religious leaders, in contrast to Sunni religious leaders. Several human rights monitors complained that the Government increasingly enforced a 50-year-old ban on the wearing of religious head garments in government offices and other state-run facilities. Tarikats and other mystical Sunni Islamic orders were banned in the 1920s but largely were tolerated until recently. However, in 1997 the National Security Council , a half-military, half-civilian body entrusted in part with responsibility "for protecting the state against any foreign or domestic threat to its interests," called for strict enforcement of the ban against Tarikats as part of its campaign against Islamic fundamentalism. Some Tarikats, like members of the Aczimendi Brotherhood, faced legal action in previous years for their vocal public demonstrations.

Fundamentalist Islamic organizations operating in Turkey include the so-called "Turkish Hizballah," the Islamic Movement Organization, and the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front. Effective Turkish security measures appear to have reduced the threat from these fringe groups over the years. For example, on 31 December 1998, Turkish police arrested the head of the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front, Salih Mirzabeyoglou, in Istanbul. The Government continued to use the 1991 Anti-Terror Law, with its broad and ambiguous definition of terrorism, to detain both alleged terrorists and others.

Several groups of loosely organized Turkish Islamic extremists, who advocate an Islamic government for Turkey, attacked targets associated with the Turkish secular state in 1994. They claimed attacks under a variety of names, such as Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Movement Organization, and the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front. The Islamic extremists also pursue a strong anti-Western agenda. In May 1994, Islamic terrorists claimed responsibility for bombing the Ankara branch of the Freemason organization. In September 1994, a Turkish political scientist known for his secular writings escaped death when a car bomb planted by Islamic extremists failed to explode.

The Turkish Islamic fundamentalist group, Vasat, claimed responsibility for throwing a grenade at a book fair in Gaziantep on 14 September 1997, killing one person and injuring 24. The attack was the most egregious by Turkey's increasingly violent Islamic terrorist groups. The Islamic Great Eastern Raiders/Front (IBDA/C) is suspected of masterminding the 2 December 1997 bombing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Cathedral in Istanbul. According to press reports, the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders' Front was suspected in a June 1998 bomb attack in Istanbul that injured 12 people.

The Islamic Great Eastern Raiders/Front claimed responsibility, along with a branch of al-Qaeda, for the 20 November, 2003 bombings of the British Consulate and HSBC Bank branch in Istanbul, Turkey.



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