Dr. Ismail Beşikçi recently summarized the issue of village guards for Bianet:
Village guard systemThe state, with it's military can be quite convincing to sign people up to be village guards. Those who decline being a village guard simply have to move away leaving everything behind or their villages will be burnt, they will be shot, you name it. Once you become a village guard, it's not easy to leave being one either. Your "resignation" simply won't be accepted. After the massacre of Zangirt village, 26 village guards in Wan wanted to lay down their arms and wanted out. The military will not let them go. If you keep insisting then what happened at Zangirt village will happen and everyone will get massacred.
At the basis of all the reasons listed above lies the denial of the existence of a Kurdish people. The state’s basic Kurdish policy is assimilation. When some insist on holding on to their Kurdish identity, a rise in state terror is common practice. The village guard system came about in this context. Forcing Kurds to kill Kurds is a systematic state policy. The state did not only give the village guards arms, they also gave them wide-ranging authority. All kinds of illegal activities carried out by village guards against their own people, Kurds, were met with tolerance or studiously ignored by the state.
Kidnapping young women, highway robbery, rape, racketeering, and taking over the land of those who left the villages when they refused to become village guards – all this became more common in the process.
State protecting feudalism
Feudal institutions like tribes, sheikhs, and large landholders have been protected by the state itself because the state can prevent national developments among Kurds with the tribes and sheikhs it has tied to itself. It is true that today’s Kurdish nationalist movement and social struggles and their leaders have emerged from the working classes and poor Kurds. The village guard system offered these feudal relations not only psychological but also material support. It is possible to see these people at public bids. Licences to open petrol stations are given to these people. The dealership rights for certain basic consumer goods are given to these people and their relatives.
The tribal leaders and sheikhs who were sent to the gallows for struggling against the state in the 1920s and 1930s were those who did not adopt the official position.
Mazlumder (the Association of Human Rights and Solidatiry for Oppressed People) just released it's report to the media. It turns out the people in Zangirt village wanted to lay down their arms and get out of the Village Guard system. (http://firatnews.com/index.php?rupel=nuce&nuceID=7523) According to Mazlumder's report, head of the village has argued with the commander of the military post, located 3 miles from the village. I suppose that explains why the soldiers arrived at the village two hours after the massacre although they were notified (and heard the gunshots too) as soon as the shootings started. But wanting to lay down arms was not the only reason. Some of the villagers wanted to come back home from the west, where they had to migrate because they had refused to be village guards at the time. Their lands were confiscated by the village guards who committed this massacre. These people wanted their lands back. On one hand you have the local military commander who wants to show everyone what it costs to lay down arms and refuse being village guards and on the other hand you have the brutal village guards who are slaves of their greed and want to take over other people's property. The result, 44 people plus 3 babies in their mothers' womb were killed and 6 people injured.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Turkey published the statistics associated with Village Guards for the past 17 years. HRW wants the village guard system to come to a halt. The report specifies the incidents annually. HRW built the data from applications made to them and the news. Here is a summary of atrocities committed from 1992 to 2009:
Number of villages burnt down: 38The act that defines village guards' power is kept secret and not shared with the public. A pretty convenient way to keep the heroin trade going, isn't it?
Number of villages vacated: 14
Rape and harassment: 12
Assault with firearms: 294
Number of civilians killed: 183
Number of civilians wounded: 259
Number of people went missing at their hands: 2
Number of civilians executed: 50
Number of extortions: 70
Number of people tortured and mistreated: 562
Number of people detained: 59
Number of people forced to suicide: 9
Number of forest arsons: 17
Killing and wounding of civilians
1992-2002: 132 killed, 176 wounded
2003: 12 killed, 17 wounded
2004: 12 killed, 21 wounded
2005: 3 wounded
2006: 3 killed, 9 wounded
2007: 6 killed, 4 wounded
2008: 18 killed, 23 wounded
January-March 2009: 6 wounded
[Zangirt (Bilge) Village massacre included, 2009: 44+3 Dead (3 women were pregnant), 12 wounded as of May 7]
Torture and ill treatment of individuals
1992-2002: 454 people
2003: 30 people
2004: 17 people
2005: 21 people
2006: 11 people
2007: 14 people
2008: 14 people
January-March 2009: 1 person [does leaving 70 children as orphans cause ill treatment? You figure this one out!]