Background information on "special teams"; their relation to the Turkish authorities, including who they work for; method of identification [TUR39141.E]

According to February 2001 report based on a 4-17 October 2000 mission to Turkey prepared for Asylum Aid, "special teams" were deployed as contra-guerrillas in Turkey's southeast region (9). The April 2002 country assessment published by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), referencing a May 2001 report prepared by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs entitled "Official General Report on Turkey," stated that special teams - in Turkish Özel Tim or Özel Timler in plural - fall under the jurisdiction of the army, police or jandarma, and are involved in fighting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan, PKK) (4.46). Originally employed against the PKK, they are responsible for internal security and have "more recently" been deployed in urban areas such as Istanbul (Asylum Aid Feb. 2001, 41). Purportedly, the teams number some 15,000 - 20,000 members, "all of whom have volunteered upon completion of their national service, are heavily armed and specially trained in anti-guerrilla warfare" (IND Apr. 2002, 4.46).

A November 1995 report published by the Human Rights Watch Arms Project refers to two special teams deployed in the southeast: the Special Jandarma Forces, or Özel Tim, and the Police Special Forces, also called Special Operations Teams, or Özel Hareket Tim.

The report describes the Jandarma's special teams as "one of the most crucial counterinsurgency forces in the region, in that they bear significant responsibility for waging war on the PKK and its perceived civilian supporters" (ibid., 52). Reportedly part of a 1992 "counterinsurgency package" that envisaged the creation of highly-trained and mobile forces, the groups are trained in "guerrilla tactics" and employ "unconventional methods" (ibid.). Özel Tim is further described as an "ideological force dedicated to destroying the PKK as well as all manifestations of Kurdish nationalism" (ibid.). Reportedly, Özel Tim falls under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry (HRW/H Oct. 1994).

The Özel Hareket Tim, which are responsible for counterinsurgency tasks in both urban and rural areas, is composed of intelligence operatives, snipers, and regular infantry-style commandos and is reportedly divided into "A" and "B" teams (HRW Nov. 1995). "A" teams' members are drawn solely from former Army and Jandarma officers and non-commissioned officers and are considered one of the most elite of counterinsurgency forces in Turkey (ibid.). As are many of the Özel Tim, "A" teams members are often selected from the extreme, right-wing, nationalist movement (ibid.). In addition to ex-Army and Jandarma soldiers, "B" teams' members are composed mainly of former police officers (ibid., 54). According to the report, the only discernible difference between "A" and "B" teams is their selected targets, with the "A" teams pursuing the more important PKK members (ibid.). Reportedly, both teams operate autonomously, answerable only to the super-governor in Diyarbakir (ibid.).

An October 1994 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki report stated that "of all the varied security forces deployed in southeastern Turkey, Special Teams (Özel Tim or Özel Harakati Tim, Special Operations Teams) are in particular known to be extremely abusive of human rights" (26).

Although the Human Rights Association of Turkey contests the claim, Turkish military authorities and international observers have, reportedly, claimed that the special teams have been completely withdrawn from the southeast since 2000 (IND Apr. 2002, 4.46). An 11 July 2000 Kurdish Observer article reported that, in compliance with the decision of the National Security Council (MGK), the Special Operation Teams were being disbanded. According to the article, 70 per cent of the teams' members were to be transferred to other units, while the remaining 30 per cent were to continue in "special team duties" (ibid.). The article reported that 5,640 special teams were "on duty under the direction of the Special Operations Department, which has branch administrations in 48 provinces, most of which are in Kurdistan" (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Asylum Aid, London. February 2001. "Asylum Seekers From Turkey: The Dangers They Flee." [Accessed 3 June 2002]

Human Rights Watch Arms Project. November 1995. "Weapons Transfers and Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey."

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. October 1994. Vol. 6. No. 12. "Turkey: Forced Displacement of Ethnic Kurds From Southeastern Turkey."

Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), Home Office, UK. April 2002. "Turkey Assessment." [Accessed 3 June 2002]

Kurdish Observer [Neu Isenberg, Germany]. 11 July 2000. "End of the Road for the Special Teams." [Accessed 2 June 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

Jane's Geopolitical Library (CD-ROM)


Oral Sources:

Unsuccessful attempts to contact two academic sources

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International

European Country of Origin Information Network

Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth

International Relations and Security Network

Turkish Daily News

Washington Reports

World News Connection

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