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Village Guard System

Éditeur : DİSA Date & Lieu : 2013, Diyarbakır
Préface : Pages : 226
Traduction : Sedef Çakmak ISBN : 978-605-5458-19-5
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 160x235 mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Ang. Oza. Vil. 1380Thème : Général

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
Village Guard System

Village Guard System

Șemsa Özar,
Nesrin Uçarlar,
Osman Aytar


The report you are holding contains an analysis, in a historical and social context, of the village guard system, which is one of the tools of the state in Turkey for polarizing the society as "pro-statist" and "enemy of the state" as a result of arming civilian citizens. This research sheds light on the background of the continuity between the Hamidiye Cavalry Regiments, the Late Ottoman paramilitary organization, and the "modern" village guard system that has been in practice since 1985.

For approximately 30 years, the common denominator of various political powers was to consider the village guard system as an infection that needs to be eradicated, and also viewed it as an armed force that should persist after these political groups came to power. We follow the traces of the motive behind this dual attitude in the part of our research where meeting minutes of the Assembly and the news of the press organs were examined.

In this research you will see that the village guard system is not only a tool of power, an instrument to polarize the Kurdish society or a world of armed crime, but also a social problem and an experience of human devastation. This field research was conducted on such a large scale for the first time and was based on the interviews done with the village guards, their spouses and children in their own villages. The research demonstrates the vast existence of different point of views regarding the village guard system, the state, PKK, Kurdish identity and their roles in this system among villagers who became the village guards willingly, by force or due to reasons beyond their control.

The research does not consider the village guard system as an institution that can be reformed or dissolved, but rather as an instrument that needs to be finalized by the mechanisms of seeking justice and social security while passing through a process without weapons and clashes. For this reason, a chapter regarding by which legal, political and social precautions the paramilitary organizations in other countries were abolished was also included in the report.

Osman Aytar defended his doctoral thesis on organizing diversity at the Department of Sociology at Stockholm University in Sweden in 2007. Now he is an associate professor in social work at Malardalen University in Sweden. In addition to his published books and articles in Kurdish and Turkish, migration, ethnicity, integration, diversity, diaspora, stateless nations and groups, globalism, organization and leadership are his main research interests.

Șemsa Özar graduated from Wirtshaftsuniversitaet, Vienna with a PhD in 1990. Since 1990 she teaches at Boğaziçi University primarily economic development and gender courses. Her research and writing concentrates on gender aspects of labour, social policy, forced migration, informal labour and micro and small enterprises. Her recent publication, Ne Değiști? Kürt Kadınların Zorunlu Göç Deneyimi (What Has Changed? Kurdish Women's Experiences of Forced Migration) coauthored by Handan Çağlayan and Ayșe Tepe Dogan offers a gendered perspective on the immigration of Kurds in Turkey.

Nesrin Uçarlar received her PhD from the Department of Political Science, Lund University in 2009. She works as lecturer at Department of International Relations, Istanbul Bilgi University. She currently conducts a research project on the community-based restorative justice in Turkey at Diyarbakir Social and Political Research Institute. Her recent studies focus on the elaboration of the Kurdish issue from the viewpoint of contemporary political philosophy in the framework of the concepts such as power, resistance, justice and the political. Besides her individual and joint publications, she recently contributed as co-editor - with Büșra Ersanli and Günay Göksu Özdoğan - of ''Türkiye Siyasetinde Kürtler - Direniș, Hak Arayıșı, Katılım" ["Kurds in Turkey’s Politics - Resistance, Claiming Rights and Participation”].



The paramilitary organizations that the state has established by arming the civilian population for the sake of public security has a long history in Turkey. During the Ottoman Empire era, groups known as Hamidiye Cavalry Regiments, which predominantly consisted of Kurdish tribes, were armed against the enemies of the Ottomans, primarily against Armenians. In the Republic era, this time a paramilitary organization consisting of Kurdish villagers was formed under the name of Temporary Village Guard System against the PKK uprising.

First official comprehensive alliance between the state and certain Kurdish tribes were realized with the Hamidiye Cavalry Regiments in 1891. This alliance also constituted one of the most critical turning points that made the disintegration of the Kurdish tribes permanent. From the dissolution of the regiments to the establishment of the Temporary Village Guard System in 1985, although not as comprehensive and regular as Hamidiye Cavalry Regiments and Temporary Village Guard System, the tribes living in Kurdistan were used as paramilitary groups in different ways, especially between the years 1920 and 1938 .

The legal basis of the Temporary Village Guard System was the Village Law numbered 442 that was legislated in 1924. On March 26, 1985 with the amendment made to the Article 74, an institution functioning on a voluntary basis was established. During the 1990s when the clashes were at their peak, the number of this armed forces was over 90 thousand. The village guards were under the command of the village headman administratively and the Commander of the Gendarmerie Squad in professional matters.

For 15 years, this paramilitary system was directed without being subject to any law until the Regulations on Village Guard System, which was published on the Official Gazette on July 1, 2000. Procedures and principles regarding the employment, duties, authorization to use guns, responsibilities, training, dismissal and other personnel rights and benefits of the village guards were specified by this regulation. The fact that it took such a long time to pass this regulation resulted in ambiguous duties of the village guards and gave the opportunity for the armed forces to use this unit as they please. The village guards, as their name suggests, were technically charged with the protection of their own villages. However, they were sent on operations that lasted for days, from time to time used as a human barrier between the soldiers and the PKK and were even included in cross-border operations. Additionally, many village guards
were employed in state-established institutions such as JITEM and involved in crimes such as unsolved murders, setting villages on fire, evacuation of villages, invasion of fields, murder, rape and drug trafficking.

The village guard system consists of temporary village guards and voluntary village guards. Temporary village guards acquire licensed guns, a monthly salary in which they are obliged to join the guard duties and operations in return. On the other hand, voluntary village guards do not receive any payment. They own a licensed gun provided by the gendarmerie and are charged with the protection of their own villages.

According to the official statistics, there are currently 46,195 temporary village guards within the borders of 22 cities as of February 1, 2013. Even though it does not appear in the official statistics, the number of voluntary village guards is estimated to be between 20 and 25 thousand. It is also known that the state employed new village guards in recent months at a time when the "solution process" was initiated. During a period when both sides put down their arms, increasing the number of the village guards instead of discussing and planning by which means the village guard system will be dissolved demonstrates that this paramilitary organization is not only a military security force, but also has other functions for the state. For this reason, it is evident that the dissolution process of the village guard system will not be an easy task. We believe that the first step that needs to be taken for this dissolution process in the fastest way possible without giving any more casualties is to decipher what does this system mean to the actors, what purpose does it serve, why does it persist and why it is indispensable. In this respect, the aim of this research is to contribute to the accumulation of knowledge which we hope to fasten the dissolution of this system that caused irreparable pain in Kurdistan.

This research is planned to consist of three stages. First chapter prepared by Osman Aytar aims to analyze the village guard system within a historical context. The historical context carries great importance for two reasons: The first one is the fact that the village guard system implemented in 1985 bears great resemblances to the Hamidiye Cavalry Regiments that were established during the Ottoman period. Therefore, understanding the significance of this entity for the central government will provide us important clues in deciphering the village guard system that stands before us as a paramilitary force. The second historical context covers the last 30 years. Even though the village guard system has been defined as “temporary" on legal grounds throughout these 30 years, what stands before us is an institutionalized paramilitary organization in which two, even three generations have been subjected to its effects. The reports and the discussions that took place in the National Assembly and the public regarding this system help us to evaluate this historical process from different point of views. In the second chapter prepared by Nesrin Uçarlar, discussions on the village guard system noted in the minutes of meeting of the National Assembly were examined and the members of the governing and opposition parties approach to the subject were analyzed in order to shed light on this period. In addition, the news archives were scanned in order to delineate the events related to the village guard system that were reported in press. Crimes committed by the village guards, testimonies of the victims and statements of the state authorities were reported through this analysis of archives while showing how the system was used to justify every kind of human rights violation.

In addition to the analysis of these archives a field research was conducted. Face-to-face interviews were made with the village guards and, when possible, their wives and children living in the different regions of Kurdistan. The interviewees were asked how they started working as a village guard, what they have been through, what they think about the system, their opinions on the crimes that were committed, rights and demands of the village guards and the abolition of the system among other related issues. Restoration of justice between the parties.

For a better understanding of how the system functions and the restoration of justice between the parties, uncovering the stories of the victims is crucial step. However, this research does not primarily aim to make a report of human rights violations caused by the village guards. Testimonies of the victims were only included in the part of this report where the news appearing in the press were analyzed. Various reports prepared by the human rights organizations on the human rights violations caused by the village guards since the implementation of the system until today provide a significant literature on the subject. Several NCO’s such as IHD (Human Rights Association), GOÇ-DER (Migrants Social Assistance and Cultural Association) and MAZLUM-DER (Organization for Human Rights and Solidarity with the Oppressed People) prepared important reports based on the applications of the victims and shared them with the public. These reports serve as a vital source for understanding the extent of the human rights violations, oppression, torture, sexual harassment, rape and the massacres caused by the village guard system. The regional Bars and certain official commissions also collected important information based on the testimonies and the court records. Certainly, more research is needed to be done on this issue. The necessity to uncover the crimes and compensate the losses of the victims by means of establishing truth and reconciliation commissions is still valid.

As stated above, this research does not primarily aim to make a contribution to the literature on the human rights violations. Therefore, the research rather focuses on the village guards (and their families), a group on whom there less information available except for the crimes they have committed. It was believed that the outcomes of the field research and the interviews done with the village guards and their wives will provide valuable contributions to the lack of information on this group. There are no sources that analyze the village guard system through different perspectives based on the village guards own experiences except than a few books, academic thesis and articles and a small number of books written by the village guards themselves. It is evident that in order to dissolve the village guard system permanently, the human rights, legitimacy and the social consensus perspectives that were overlooked during the establishment period should be taken into consideration. We believe that this paramilitary entity can only be truly abolished by abiding to these criteria. The success of such a process can be achieved by being well-informed on the village guards, who are both the actors and the victims of this system.

This research also includes four country case studies which we believe will be a guide for the abolition process of the village guard system. The chapter prepared by Osman Aytar aims to demonstrate the emergence of various paramilitary organizations in other countries that are similar to the village guard system in Turkey; their process of becoming a widespread practice, the social consequences of the system and the current situation of the relevant countries. For instance, even though the Guatemalan state and the armed dissidents signed the Peace Accords in 1996 and the paramilitary organizations were dissolved, certain groups belonging to these organizations started oppressing and persecuting the villagers again after a while and it is observed that the state overlooks these actions. This unfortunate situation will certainly guide us on what needs to be avoided during the dissolution process of the village guard system in Turkey.

Șemsa Özar


The interim field report of Asst. Prof. Dr. Abdurrahim Özmen, the field coordinator, is used in Chapter IV. We would like to sincerely thank him and Ahmet Dolu and Zubeyde Oysal, the field researchers, for their dedicated work.
We would also like to thank Dilan Bozgan for her help during the research, Atalay Göçer to the compilation of the report for the print, Katja Richter for proofreading, Meral Daniș Beștaș, Nurcan Baysal, Semahat Sevim and Ulrike Dufner for their contributions to the discussions of the first draft of this report, Elisabeth Oglesby for the information and documents she shared regarding the Guatemala case study, Lou Anne Jensen-Chrest, the President of the Chrest Foundation for her support and Emre Senan for his valuable contributions in design.


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