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Turkish Lawmaker: Gov’t Runs Camps for Training Armed Militia

A lawmaker from Turkey’s nationalist opposition party claimed that the Turkish government has built several camps across the country to give armed training to loyal supports as part of forming battle-ready militias to quell a potential anti-government unrest in the future.

Last week newly established IYI Party Chairman Meral Aksener voiced alarming concern over the formation of camps in central provinces of Tokat and Konya for providing sophisticated training for guerilla, irregular warfare to government supporters by SADAT, International Defense Consultancy Company found by former military members who were expelled from the military in late 1990s for their religious worldviews.

SADAT was enraged by her claims and refused running any camp.

“We demand that she file a legal criminal complaint to the public prosecutor’s office if she has any shred of evidence concerning the alleged training camps of SADAT,” Retired Col. Ali Cosar, a member of the executive board, said on behalf of the group.

The controversy ensued after IYI Party Chairman Umit Ozdag leapt to the defense of Ms. Aksener, an insurgent nationalist figure who broke away from her party, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

In a televised interview on secular Halk TV, he endorsed Ms. Aksener’s remarks and said she would not have talked without solid information.

The rumor mill over alleged efforts of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to establish loyal militia force has long been in overdrive. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also voiced concerns last year about the formation of informal security structures by the government at the expense of legal institutions, such as police and the military.

The public anxiety has reached a fever point in late December when the government enacted a pair of controversial decrees, granting immunity for loyal supporters from prosecution for their efforts to beat back putschists during the coup attempt and in its aftermath in 2016.

But the cryptic and ambiguous language has left the door for interpretation that the decrees were not indeed restricted to certain time period — during the coup and in its aftermath — to quell efforts to dismantle public order and the government.

The time frame defining the aftermath of the coup attempt, during the state of emergency, actually means an open-ended process, which also includes the possible actions at the moment and in the future. Against such a backdrop, opponents of the government said they have ample reason to be worried about legal shield being provided to loyalists to act with impunity and without fear for the prosecution to squelch any anti-government uprising or unrest.

Within that context, IYI Party Chairman Aksener aired renewed public concern over potentially disastrous ramifications of abandoning the authorities’ legal monopoly over the use of force, the means of violence to non-state actors.

In remarks to Halk TV, Mr. Ozdag followed a similar line, detailed the rise of people getting arms, firearms and all sorts of rifles available for commercial sale in the market. The Turkish government lifted restrictions on public access to rifles normally reserved for members of security forces, hunters, and private security companies which have legal licenses for such purchases.

In a riveting account, the deputy chairman of IYI Party offered disturbing numbers about the level of accumulation of arsenals of firearms by individuals.

There is an accelerating pace of acquiring firearms in the public, he noted.  “In the past 23 months, licenses for [the purchase] 2,300,000 rifles and pistols have been issued. [This is official] number by the ministry. It is a crazy armament,” he said in disbelief.

The Turkish security forces, the military and police, have been undergoing a monumental change and complete overhaul at institutional level since the failed coup attempt. The scourge of purge swept the military and Turkey’s national police, left a debilitating impact on their capacity for generations to come.

More than half of the generals in the Turkish military were placed behind bars, while Turkey’s most experienced police chiefs sacked in the far-reaching government purge.

Haunted by the sweep of the purge, both institutions are left in a state of disarray.

Apart fromTurkey’s security forces, Washington-based POMED nonresident fellow Howard Eissenstat argued in a policy paper, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also building informal security apparatus to ensure his power.

Adnan Tanriverdi, the founder of SADAT and a former general who was dismissed by the military by his Islamist leanings in 1997, has become the chief military advisor of President Erdogan.

The Turkish leader takes his views into account while restructuring Turkey’s once proudly secular armed forces.

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