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Security Forces Command (SFC)

Note: This is not the official flag of the JAM;, but rather a reproduction containing the flag of Northern Cyprus (as this is the country they are active in). The badge on the right is the official one of the SFC, but it is too small to include on its own.

Insurgency Overview

The Security Forces Command (SFC), established on August 1st, 1976, are the security forces of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) – a de facto state that comprises the northeastern section of the island of Cyprus (1). The SFC’s primary function is to maintain the territorial integrity of the TRNC.

History & Foundations

For decades, the partition of Cyprus has been a heavily contentious issue between Turkey and Greece, with both countries attempting to draw the island into their respective spheres of influence (2). Although the island is mainly composed of an ethnic Greek majority, there has been a sizable Turkish Cypriot minority since the Ottoman conquest in 1571 (3).

On July 15th, 1974, the Greek military junta, which had ruled Greece since 1967, orchestrated a coup d’etat against the Greek Cypriot government with the intention of installing a pro-enosis, “union”, regime (4). A byproduct of Greek nationalism, enosis claims that Cyprus is Greek land and calls for its direct integration due to its Hellenic culture and history.

Nationalism was the central ideology of the junta, and a successful Cypriot unification would not only provide the government benefits derived from the island’s strategic location, but would also legitimize and strengthen their rule. Concerned with Greece’s desire to annex the island, Turkey quickly launched an invasion on July 20th of the same year, claiming that the Greeks had violated the Treaty of Guarantee, a 1960 UN treaty involving Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom in which signatories promised to “guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus, and not to promote the union of Cyprus with other states or partition of the Island.” (5)

Although Turkish Cypriots only constituted a minority within Cyprus’ demographics, Turkey was included in these negotiations due to its status as a regional power. Both Turkey and Greece joined NATO in 1952, and their involvement throughout the Cypriot independence negotiations was likely envisioned to prevent infighting between the two alliance members. Additionally, Turkey’s geopolitical influence may have prompted the United Kingdom to further respect Turkish interests in the island. With control over the Bosphorus Strait, in addition to housing American ICBMs, retaining Turkey’s allegiance to the West was of great importance during the heightened tensions of the Cold War in the 1960s.

When the final ceasefire was agreed upon in August 1974, after just over a month of fighting, the Turkish military had secured roughly 36% of the island’s territory. Concerned for the future safety of the Turkish Cypriots, virtually all of whom had migrated north towards the invasion force, the Turkish military established an occupation zone, which formally became the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus on the 13th of February 1975. A predecessor to the TRNC, this federated state, although internationally unrecognized, provided the framework for the foundation of a distinct Turkish Cypriot government and enabled the formation of the SFC on August 1, 1976 (6).

Ideology & Objectives

The SFC claims heritage to earlier forms of Turkish Cypriot militants, specifically the Turkish-backed Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı (TMT), which was created in August 1958. The TMT’s primary objective was to challenge the Greek Cypriot nationalist paramilitary group – the Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston (EOKA) (7). However, while the EOKA campaigned for the end of British rule in Cyprus, and the eventual enosis with Greece, the TMT was rooted in taksim, an alternative ideology that advocated for the partition of Cyprus and self-determination for Turkish Cypriots (8). In 1967, the TMT was renamed Mücahit, “mujahid”, until it was finally transformed into the SFC after the invasion (9). Although the SFC is not a jihadist organization in the traditional Islamist sense, the SFC still refers to their soldiers as mücahitlerin “mujahideen”, and claims that their central goal is to maintain the existence of the TRNC (10).

Military Capabilities

The SFC operates as a gendarmerie, overseeing military duties in addition to law enforcement among the Turkish Cypriot civilian population (11). The SFC relies heavily on conscription in order to source its manpower, and all male TRNC citizens aged 19 to 49 are eligible for 24-month periods of service (12). Although there is little information regarding the current size of the SFC, it was estimated to be about 4,000 soldiers strong in 1989, with 15,000 troops in reserve (13). It is unlikely that the current size of the SFC has deviated significantly from this initial figure due to the presence of the Cyprus Turkish Peace Force Command, a permanent Turkish garrison about 30,000 soldiers strong (14).

Since their inception, they have attempted to transform themselves into a modern, regular military. It is a combined arms force, featuring a coast guard, aviation units, special forces, and a police organization (15). The SFC cooperates heavily with Turkey; most equipment, training, and high-grade officers are sourced from there, and the SFC effectively falls under the Turkish Military’s chain of command (16).

Approach to Resistance

Since the TRNC’s official declaration of independence in 1983, the island has not witnessed major violence between the TRNC and the Republic of Cyprus. The most recent incident occurred on August 14th, 1996, when two British troops patrolling the UN “Green Line” (the demilitarized zone that divides the island) were wounded by fire originating from the Turkish side. The perpetrator of the shooting remains unclear. The Associated Press reported that Turkish troops fired into a crowd of Greek Cypriot protestors but did not specify whether the troops were SFC or members of the Turkish garrison (17). In response to this incident, the Cypriot government issued five arrest warrants, two of which were for SFC members: Attila Sab, the police chief at the time, and Erdal Emanet, a commander within the SFC military.

Since 1996, the island has seen relative calmness between the two Cypriot communities. Nowadays, the SFC’s role is mainly limited to peacekeeping operations and enforcing TRNC jurisdiction over its land and territorial waters.

International Recognition

The SFC’s international legitimacy remains ambiguous due to the TRNC’s status as a 'geopolitical pariah'. The United States Department of State refers to the TRNC as “Cyprus - the Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots” (18). Turkey is the only UN member that recognizes the TRNC, and therefore the SFC is not considered a de jure military force by virtually all official foreign governments.

Works Cited (Chicago-style) -- INCOMPLETE

Ker-Lindsay, James. “The Cyprus Problem.” In “Frozen Conflicts" in Europe, edited by Anton Bebler, 1st ed., (Verlag Barbara Budrich, 2015.)

Kayim, Gülgün. “Crossing Boundaries in Cyprus: Landscapes of Memory in the Demilitarized Zone.” In Walls, Borders, Boundaries: Spatial and Cultural Practices in Europe, edited by Marc Silberman, Karen E. Till, and Janet Ward, 1st ed., (Berghahn Books, 2012.),

Solsten, Eric, Cyprus: A Country Study, edited by Frederica M. Bunge, 4th ed., (Library of Congress, 1993),0.41,1.9,0.857,0


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