Village guard system

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Village guards (Turkish: Korucular, officially Geçici ve Gönüllü Köy Korucuları ("temporary and voluntary village guards")) are paramilitaries. Originally they were set up and funded by the Turkish state in the mid-1980s under the direction of Turgut Özal. Their stated purpose was to act as a local militia in towns and villages, protecting against attacks and reprisals from the insurgents of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The rationale behind set up of the system was that it would be helpful to the Turkish Army to have an additional force of people who knew the region, and the language in order to assist in military operations against the PKK.[1]

They have been implicated in attacks on Kurdish internally displaced persons returning to their villages after forced evacuation.[2] Around 50,000 to 90,000 village guards are still present in southeastern Turkey,.[3][4]

The village guards are frequently targeted by PKK guerrilla members as they are seen as traitors. During the ongoing Kurdish–Turkish conflict, 30 village guards have been killed. Accepting to become a village guard is a largely voluntary process, although there are exceptions (see below).[5] A village guard can expect to be paid up to $200 (~130) per month.[6]

Human rights[edit]

Whilst by no means officially endorsed by the Turkish Government, some village guards are reported to have been involved in "disappearances", extrajudicial executions[4] and torture,[5] sometimes dressing themselves up as PKK guerrillas in false flag attacks.[7][page needed]

During the conflict Turkish government used village guard system to distinguish “loyal” and “disloyal” citizens and backed the system with material benefits and coercion.[8]

A report by the Turkish Parliament in 1995 confirmed that village guards have been involved in not just these but a wide range of illegal activities, including killing, extortion, drug smuggling.[4] Human Rights Watch has stated that for years they have received reports of "violations by village guards—murders, rapes, robberies, house destruction, and illegal property occupation, among others". They add however that not all of these reports have been confirmed first hand.[9]

People who refused to join the village guards have had their homes burned,[3] or have been forced to leave and their homes and property seized. They have endured sexual assault and humiliation by the Turkish security forces.[10] There have been some attempts by the Turkish authorities to compensate people who have lost property in this way. A member of the Turkish Parliament, Ünal Erkan and former governor of some areas of south-eastern Turkey states that, "village guards often operated outside the control of the gendarmerie, and that many villagers faced pressure to enter the system".[10]

The Turkish Interior Ministry estimated that 296 murders were committed by village guards between 1985 and 1996.[11] In a subsequent report in 2006, the Ministry indicated that some 5,000 village guards were involved in criminal activities. [12]

The journalist Gottfried Stein relates former lieutenant in the Turkish Army Yener Soylu as describing the process of persuading some villagers to join the village guards:[13][page needed]

"We posed the people with a choice, either they acted as village guards, or they would be resettled in other provinces. In the evening, we staged what appeared to be a skirmish with the guerrillas, we shot at windows and also directed heavy weapons against the village. As the people depended on their harvest and animals, we destroyed their fields and slaughtered the animals. If this did not help, we surrounded the village and sent in the counter-guerrillas."

A 2004 indicated that the village guard militia had become a long-term feature of the region [14]

In 2009 the Turkish Government indicated that it was planning to phase out the village guard system. [12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ UNHCR/ACCORD: 6th European Country of Origin Information Seminar Vienna, 13 - 14 November 2000 - Final report
  2. ^ Human Rights Watch Report - 2005 - Turkey
  3. ^ a b Amnesty International - 1996 - Turkey Campaign
  4. ^ a b c Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, March 2003 - Turkey and War in Iraq: Avoiding Past Patterns of Violation
  5. ^ a b US State Dept. - 2000 Country Reports - Turkey
  6. ^ AAAS - Scientists Clash with the State in Turkey
  7. ^ Ganser, D. (2005) NATO's Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe ISBN 0-7146-8500-3
  8. ^ Evren Balta. 2004. The Causes and Consequences of the Village Guard System in Turkey
  9. ^ Human Rights Watch - Turkey: Letter to Minister Aksu calling for the abolition of the village guards
  10. ^ a b Council of Europe - Report - Humanitarian situation of the Kurdish refugees and displaced persons in South-East Turkey and North Iraq
  11. ^ Human Rights Watch World Report 1998 - Turkey - Human Rights Developments
  12. ^ a b "Opposition ambivalent as gov’t rallies to solve Kurdish issue". Today's Zaman. 2009-08-02. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  13. ^ Stein, Gottfried. (1994) Endkampf um Kurdistan? Die PKK, die Türkei und Deutschland (The final battle for Kurdistan? The PKK, Turkey and Germany). (Bonn) ISBN 3-87959-510-0
  14. ^ Evren Balta. 2004. POST-CONFLICT RECONSTRUCTION AND HUMANITARIAN CONSEQUENCES OF THE VILLAGE GUARD SYSTEM

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