To assess the genetic diversity and the genetic structure of Turkish wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum Tell.) populations, 76 genotypes from ten ecologically and geographically different locations were analyzed by means of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. Five primer combinations produced 187 scorable bands, of which 117 (62.6%) were polymorphic. Several population-specific and genotype-specific bands were identified, which differentiate populations or genotypes. Genetic distance, determined by Nei's distance coefficient, varied from 0.07 to 0.21 with an average of 0.13. In the UPGMA dendrogram based on Nei genetic distances, the Hordeum spontaneum populations were separated into two major clusters. Genetic diversity was larger among (68%) than within (32%) populations. Eight AFLP bands were strongly correlated to the altitude of the collecting site, while no clear trend was detected between geographical origin and genetic diversity. Our results strongly suggest the need for a change in Hordeum spontaneum sampling strategy: more populations, rather then more individuals within population, should be sampled to appraise and safeguard genetic diversity in the wild barley gene pool.