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In February 2020, a law giving “bekçi” (the Turkish word for guard) rights similar to those of the police was passed in Turkey. Thus, with decree n° 5757 having force of law, modifying the Law on security services and the Law on the scope and procedures applying to civil servants, the bekçi entered into everyone’s daily life.
The topic generated strong reactions and caused a lot of ink to flow…There was indeed a lot to say about this function brought “up to date” in a coercive State where arbitrariness rules, where the most fundamental rights are violated on a regular basis and where the regime calls upon its repressive security forces on all occasions. Several political personalities and organizations of civil society sounded the alarm, saying that, in the present context in Turkey, the bekçi considered the political power as their employer and would act as ” morality police” for the State; they also pointed out the risk of giving rise to an armed structure attached to the executive branch, one that would not consider itself directly under the law’s control.
“Frère Jacques”, the familiar French lullaby adapted in Turkish is often warmly addressed to the guard since one of his duties is to wake inhabitants of a neighborhood during the month of Ramadan for the sahur, the meal prior to sunrise before the fast begins, but also to announce the feast…
Excerpt from “Bekçi Baba” by Aysun, Ali and Ilkyaz Kocatepe, Pop Çocuk, Vol. 4
“Father bekçi, father bekçi where are you, where are you? Now the feast is coming, play your drum !” said the song in our childhood.
But that bekçi was from the old days… Those times are gone.
Of course, given the current conditions in Turkey, there is little chance that the bekçi will fill any hypothetical role as “neighborhood police”. Candidacy for these jobs is open to persons blindly faithful to the regime, with no prior education, training or qualifications. The introduction of this armed horde, leaning toward nationalism and bigotry, standing at attention in front of the regime, could not be seen as anything other than a further step toward the legalization and generalization of militias like those already in existence. And this, in a country where, during the attempted coup in July 15 2016, hundreds of weapons from the police arsenal are said to have been distributed to the population. Their whereabouts remain unknown. But seeing self-portraits blossoming on social media of fellows proudly and fearlessly displaying their weapons, one can easily guess where they are. Not to mention the “self-defence training periods” often organized by the “youth” bureaus of nationalist parties.
In this regard, one should note the comments expressed, such as “if necessary we will take out the weapons we have buried in a corner” or yet again “as seen on TV” comments such as “our family is spiritually and materially equiped, we can easily eliminate 50 people…In fact, we have made a list of our neighbors who are not on our side”… But there are also those declarations emanating from on high, like a populist encouragement, opening the way to impunity for a part of the population and thus transforming opponents into targets. “In our civilization, our national spirit, the shop keeper and the artisan, when necessary, become soldiers, heros, martyrs defending their Fatherland. When needed they are policemen insuring security, arbiters and judges delivering justice.” (Sic Erdoğan on December 11 2018).
Since their introduction, the new bekçi regularly make headlines with rights violations, arbitrary and zealous practices.
Here are facts illustrating this, with the latest event which occurred in the Etimesgut neighborhood in Ankara…
A young man by the name of Serkan K. steps out of his home to take out the garbage. A municipal employee charged with reading the meters, Serkan is hearing impaired, a handicap that followed the explosion of a mine during his military service in Hakkari. Two bekçi posted to the neighborhood stop him at the foot of the building as he is going back inside. They ask him why he is outside. The young man explains he took out the garbage. The bekçi set themselves against the man, beating him violently. Members of his family, hearing noises, try to intervene. They are sprayed with tear gas. The bekçi grab the father – a man in ill health and suffering from asthma, – arrest him by stepping on his chest. Policemen come to assist the bekçi, all the members of the family are handcuffed with their hands in their backs and taken to the police station.
Following the usual procedure, Serkan and his family are first taken to the hospital for auscultation, still handcuffed. Then they are transferred to the police station, called “terrorists” on a number of occasions. A religiously observant woman, Serkan’s mother is not authorized to pray, and for their Ramadan fast, when they request water at the hour for sahur, they are shown the sinks in the toilets. The twelve year old, who is one of the persons in custody, is interrogated alone, which is illegal. Two hours later, the surveillance cameras on their building are dismantled.
The incident was revealed on Twitter by Yetkin Öztürk, Ankara representative for the İYİ Parti,1someone who can not be suspected of leftist leanings. As for Ankara’s Security Directorate, it refuted the violence of the bekçi against the family, in a press release labelling these informations as “unreal”. The Directorate claims that Serkan K. left his home at 10 PM on Sunday May 17, when the curfew had been declared for the weekend. The bekçi “warned” him but he “stubbornly refused to re-enter his home.” Then, the communique lists “facts” held against the family, going so far as to include the father’s political pedigree.
“Ü. K. the father of the individual, a member of the neighborhood assembly of this same Party [meaning the İYİ Parti] and the other members of the family intervening in the incident later, refused to obey the civil servants and insulted them. As for his brother H.K. he physically attacked our neighborhood bekçi, grabbing him by the throat. Following the intensification of the violence in this attack, police reinforcement was requested and the individuals were neutralized using a progressive and proportionate amount of force. Following the order from the Prosecutor for the Republic, a medical report was established. They were then transferred to the police station. They were interrogated in the presence of a lawyer designated by the Bar for the offence of “Keeping agents from fulfilling their duty, insults and resistance against civil servants.” After obtaining a medical report stating they “could be treated with a simple medical intervention”, individuals Ü.K., Z.K. and S.K. were liberated. H.K. having committed a physical attack against a civil servant on duty, was liberated under caution by the judiciary before which he was presented on May 18 2020. This type of sharing on networks that do not reflect reality is not worthy of respect.”
And here, we have intentionally chosen an example incriminating a tolerated “opposition”.
Rampant fascism disguises itself in popular clothing close to the people, for its “security”. Now, we are in the thick of it. And delegating to obedient and zealous actors tasks of maintaining order far from the direct givers of orders, leads to a multiplication of acts of violent repression while diluting responsibilities. Self-interested obedience to the function becomes impunity for the violence thus exercised.
The “frère Jacques” becomes a S.A. dozing under the brown costume…
Headline illustration: During one of the many ceremonies…