A person who objected to go through body search was beaten by watchmen in Istanbul’s Fatih district amount mounting concerns on human rights abuses at the hands of the newly-authorized security force.
A footage shared by a Twitter account late on Feb. 1 showed a man getting handcuffed to fences in a park by a group of watchmen, as he shouted “You broke my ankle.”
The incident reportedly stemmed from the man, whose identity is unknown, refusing to undergo body search, which wasn’t among the authorities of watchmen until recently.
Watchmen, “bekçi” in Turkish, is a nighttime security force that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reinstated after an eight year break in 2016.
While their main duty is to support police in maintaining public safety, there are concerns that the watchmen, who receive very little training for their job, may abuse their power since they were recently given a number of authorizations, including body search, asking for identity cards, carrying out detentions and carrying weapons – all amounting to a parallel police force.
Following backlash on social media, Istanbul police released a statement on the incident, saying that the man was carrying drugs and escaped from watchmen for that reason.
According to the statement, the man punched a watchman and tore one of their uniforms apart.
“He was found to be carrying two pieces of the narcotic material called ‘skunk,'” the statement read, adding that the man has several criminal records for manufacturing and dealing drugs, using drugs and intentional wounding.
‘Watchmen will terrorize neighborhoods’
Earlier, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Sezai Temelli said that the watchmen will terrorize neighborhoods, as he also slammed Turkey’s presidential system, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP.
“Because this system is a made-up one, it survives with violence, cruelty and oppression,” Temelli said on Jan. 1, adding that the watchmen are the modernized version of village guards that were formed against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the country’s southeast.
“As if the violence mechanisms were not enough, it now modernizes village guards and carries them into towns. These watchmen will terrorize neighborhoods with their guns, because the presidential system is a oppression system. He [Erdoğan] will try to sustain this oppressive system with the so-called security force, which is, in fact, a paramilitary force,” Temelli also said.