Hacı Bişkin / DUVARTurkey’s rights defenders concerned watchmen’s new authority will violate privacy
Following an ID check, the pseudo-police bekçi, or neighborhood watchmen, beat two brothers working on a construction site in the Istanbul district of Bağcılar. The brothers were later sentenced to eight months in prison after the watchmen filed criminal complaints against them.
Despite obtaining a doctor's report indicating they had been beaten and presenting this to the court, brothers M.A. and I.A. were sentenced to 8 months in jail for “resisting in order to obstruct duty.”
In 2018, the brothers were walking home from the construction site in which they work when night watchmen stopped them and made them wait for nearly half an hour. When one of the brothers asked why they were being held, the night watchmen allegedly assaulted M.A., prompting I.A. to come to his brother's defense, upon which the night watchmen handcuffed the men on the ground.
In their statements, the brothers said that they were put in the baggage compartment of a car, and spare tires and traffic cones were thrown on top of them. They claimed that they were beaten in the car until they began to bleed from their noses and mouths, and that the night watchmen took photographs to mock them.Watchmen in Turkey to have authority to use force, weapons
The brothers were taken to a nearby hospital where they received their doctor's report, but were brought to a police station afterwards. They stated that being beaten in such a way violated the law, and that during the time the incident occurred, night watchmen were not legally authorized to run ID checks.
The reintroduction of the neighborhood watchmen in 2017 and subsequent increase in their numbers in the ensuing years has sparked controversy. Critics say their heightened presence on the streets of Turkey's cities is tantamount to the establishment of a parallel police force by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The number of watchmen in Turkey doubled from 11,398 in 2018 to 21,319 as of March of this year.