Village Guards

   The village guards are a system of Kurdish tribes and villagers created by the Turkish government in April 1985 as a divide-and-rule tactic to combat the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Thus, they were reminiscent of the Hamidiye during late Ottoman times and, more recently, the josh in northern Iraq.
   Incentives to join the village guards included relatively good pay in an area that was chronically poor, as well as a chance to pursue ancient blood feuds with impunity, and sheer state intimidation against those who refused to participate. The most notable tribes that participated in the system were identified with the political right or already in conflict against tribes associated with the PKK. The government was also willing to use blatant criminal elements such as Tahir Adi-yaman, the chief of the Jirki tribe and at the time he was recruited still wanted for the earlier killing of six gendarmes in 1975. Other tribes that participated in the village guards included the Pinyanish, Goyan, Bucaks, and Mamkhuran.
   The PKK quickly targeted the village guards, resulting in some of the worst examples of the terrorism that became endemic in the southeast of Turkey. At times both sides killed the entire families of the other. Although they helped the state eventually control the PKK, the village guards were also an atavistic throwback to the past in which the Turkish government placed itself in the ironic role of revitalizing feudalistic tribes contrary to Ataturk's supposed policies and supporting criminal elements as illustrated by the Susurluk scandal that broke in October 1996 and some of the abuses of the Deep State and Ergenekon.
   Over the years the system of village guards become one of the most criticized policies pursued by the Turkish government in its struggle against the PKK and a strong symbol of official state repression. Abolition of the village guards has long been one of the first demands the PKK and other Kurds made for ending their armed struggle against the government. The supporters of the system, of course, came to have a vested financial stake in its continuance. In its 2007 progress report on Turkey's candidacy for membership in the European Union (EU), the organization stated that there were over 57,000 village guards still on duty. The Turkish Interior Ministry responded to a parliamentary question on 20 March 2009 that there were 71,907 village guards, an appreciably higher figure. According to the EU Progress Report on Turkey for 2009, there continue to be reports of village guards committing human rights violations.
   Despite these problems, the system of village guards is still in operation as of early 2010.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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