Duvar English

A deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has submitted a draft bill to the parliament seeking to grant watchmen the authority to ask for identification from people and detain them.

The draft bill, which consists of 18 articles, says that when “an incident arises,” the watchmen will detain the people involved in the relevant “incident” and then will notify the policy.

Also, “to intervene in the incident, to guard the evidence in the crime scene, to make sure that it does not get lost and to prevent it from being removed” will be among the watchmen’s duties, according to the draft law submitted by AKP group deputy chair Mehmet Muş.

Muş also said that the watchmen cooperate with police forces under the current law, but the new legislation will also allow them to call the gendarmerie and work with them if necessary.

“Recently, we have created a serious level of employment regarding the watchmen who patrol markets and neighborhoods. Since 2016, approximately 21,300 watchmen have been employed,” Muş said, referring to the government’s decision in 2016 to revive the role of local watchmen.

The draft law was submitted in the wake of two court rulings – one in earlier January and the other in November of last year – which said that the watchmen do not have the “authority to ask for identification as per their job definition.”

The court’s rulings followed lawsuits launched by two separate citizens who were asked by watchmen to show identification – one in the western province of İzmir and the other in the southeastern province of Mardin. The citizens’ refusal to show their identification had then ended up in a dispute and eventually in the court.

Most watchmen are on duty at night to supplement police numbers. They disappeared from the streets in 2008 after they were deemed unnecessary. But their role was revived in 2016, with the Interior Ministry having recruited thousands since then.