AKP expands its police force and intelligence services

Over the past decade, the AKP has expanded its police force and intelligence services and increased the authorities' powers.

The AKP has transformed Turkey from a military regime into an absolute police state. In 2010, a conflictual process began with the constitutional debate. With the paragraphs that were supposed to guarantee that soldiers could be tried in civilian courts, the AKP took it upon itself to deal with the crimes of the 1980 military coup. But nothing of the sort happened.

Police state instead of democratization

Instead of implementing the promised democratization of Turkey, the police state was expanded further and further. Especially after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the armament of the security forces took on ever more gigantic proportions. The number of police officers was significantly increased and new units, so-called neighborhood guards, reserve units and other special forces and paramilitary units mushroomed. At the same time, competencies were expanded. Not only police units, but also civilian units such as neighborhood guards were armed.

Hundreds of thousands of police and paramilitaries

The number of police officers in Turkey and Northern Kurdistan increased by 26 percent over the past decade. According to official figures, the number of police officers was 187,510 in 2007; 255,974 in 2018 and 262,185 in 2020. If reserve units and paramilitaries are added, the number is as high as 305,734. In 2020, for example, there were 21,295 neighborhood guards.

Neighborhood guards in Kurdistan

In April 2016, the Ministry of Interior announced plans to recruit 2,394 neighborhood guards in five provinces. These provinces were all in northern Kurdistan, and were Şırnak, Hakkari, Urfa, Mardin and Diyarbakır. Neighborhood guards were sent to Sur, Cizre, Nusaybin and Yüksekova during the curfews and attacks on the cities.

In June 2020, the powers of these neighborhood watchmen were massively expanded. These "auxiliary police officers" are now allowed to use force and firearms. Under the new law, neighborhood watchmen are given the authority to detain persons wanted for arrest or detention and hand them over to the security forces. Neighborhood guards are allowed to use force and firearms. They are also allowed to crack down on protests, check personal details and search people. The bill states that neighborhood watchmen "may take measures to prevent chaotic situations caused by rallies and demonstrations until the arrival of security forces."

Army deployment against population legalized before coup attempt

The day before the July 15 coup attempt, police powers were also significantly expanded. The amendment to Section 11 of Provincial Administrative Law No. 5442 states, "In situations where the fight against terrorism exceeds the capabilities of the security forces, or when terrorist attacks seriously disrupt public order, the Council of Ministers may deploy the army at the request of the Ministry of Interior."

Regime supporters are armed

After the July 15 coup attempt, regime supporters became increasingly armed. In general, the right to privately possess ammunition was raised from 200 rounds to 1,000 rounds by a decision issued by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on March 15, 2018. These regulations were intended to expand the ability of civilians and paramilitaries to be used in counterinsurgency operations.

New Police Reserve - Palace Private Army

In August 2020, another police agency was added to the multitude of repressive bodies. It was decided to establish a directorate for a standby reserve of the Istanbul police. This new police unit reports directly to the palace.

Weapons of war for the police

A decision published in the January 6, 2021 issue of the Official Gazette now also paves the way for the police to use military equipment. Under the amendment to Article 21 of the Turkish Armed Forces, MIT, General Directorate of Security, Gendarmerie (Military Police) General Command and Coast Guard Command Movable Goods Ordinance, the use of heavy weapons by the Turkish Armed Forces against demonstrations and street battles has been made possible with the approval of the defense minister. According to the amendment, any mobile property of the army, MIT and police can be used without precondition in case of "social clashes, acts of violence or terror that seriously threaten national security and public order." Specifically, this means that the police can use military weapons and vehicles against protest actions if necessary.

Preparations for civil war

Analysts see the legislative packages as a worrying development. As the AKP/MHP regime flounders politically and economically, it appears to be preparing for an imminent civil war by arming its supporters, militarizing the police, and building more and more paramilitary units. Opposition members have long feared that the regime would never voluntarily step down through elections.