When asked by the opposition how much pepper spray and tear gas had been purchased and used by law enforcement in Turkey in the last five years, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu responded, in essence, “enough."
This comes after months of Turkish ministers ignoring questions submitted by opposition lawmakers, which they are legally required to answer per the Constitution.
Turkish law enforcement has responded to protest and dissent in Turkey with increased violence in the past five years, since the coup attempt of July 2016. Protests and rallies - such as the yearly Pride March - have been countered with tear gas and riot gear, resulting in the injury of many civilians. In his parliamentary question, main opposition Republican People's Part (CHP) lawmaker Süleyman Bülbül asked Soylu how much tear gas and pepper spray was purchased for use by law enforcement in the past five years, how much of it was used, and how the chemicals were distributed and used according to year and province.
Soylu refused to answer the question, saying simply that the amount was sufficient.
“The tear gas used to intervene with social unrest was acquired in sufficient quantities for our country, as in all modern police organizations, to ensure strength in maintaining public order,” Soylu wrote in his answer, according to ANKA news agency.
Turkey lacks sufficient legislation to monitor the acquisition and deployment of tear gas and pepper spray. In 2013, after the violent crackdown by the police on the Gezi Park protests in Taksim Square, the Council of Europe called on Turkey to reform laws governing the use of the chemicals. Turkey in the eight years since has failed to do so.
MP Bülbül sa,d that Soylu’s response to his question is another step in the systematic effort by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians to block oversight and investigation of their practices.
“The AKP, which is trying to discredit the assembly by imposing a one-man system, is trying to block inspection,” Bülbül said. “In particular, Interior Minister Soylu [continually] ignores the parliament and violates the Access to Information Law, leaving our parliamentary question unanswered for the past five years.”
Soylu has ignored previous requests for information by Bülbül, including a parliamentary inquiry into why the sale of alcohol was banned and liquor shops closed during the coronavirus lockdown this spring. After tekels (monopoly liquor shops) were ordered closed on April 26, 2021, Bülbül submitted a query to Soylu asking for details on the ban. Specifically, he asked how many shop owners were detained, how many were fined, how many shops were closed throughout the country, and why this was a necessary measure to combat the spread of coronavirus.
In response, Soylu simply said that it was necessary to maintain public health and prevent the spread of the virus. Precautions were taken, he said, in line with Health Ministry's Coronavirus Advisory Board guidelines. He further said that violators were fined, charged, and criminal in conjunction with the Turkish Penal Code. He failed to provide any of the statistics that Bülbül requested.
Bülbül also requested statistics from Soylu showing how many soldiers, policemen, village guards, and civilians were abducted by terrorist organizations, as well as how many had been rescued, since 2015. He also asked how the government was working to mitigate these abductions. Again, Soylu refused to release these statistics.
“Our country is effectively and decisively fighting against terrorist organizations that threaten its national security and public order, those who target the life and property of our security forces and our citizens…within the framework of democratic and legal regulations,” he said.
Soylu further said that studies were carried out and that intelligence operations were carefully planned, but failed to state statistics or details on either.
This tactic of opacity - shielding internal government operations from public view - has been increasingly implemented in the years since the 2016 coup attempt and the 2017 Constitutional Referendum, as power in Turkey has been concentrated under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP.