Alarm as Turkey’s ruling party moves to empower night watchmen

In 2016, the Turkish government reinstated a nighttime security force known as “bekci,” or watchmen, to support police officers in maintaining public safety in urban neighborhoods.

Tasked with patrolling streets and calling police officers when needed, the bekci forces have acted as a complementary security force and have grown to more than 21,000 male and female officers.

Earlier this month, a proposal submitted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sought to expand the bekcis’ powers to include authorities normally retained by police officers, such as conducting body searches and detaining suspects. The proposal is currently being reviewed by AKP and Nationalist Movement Party lawmakers who appear positioned to pass the bill in a move that has drawn protest from opposition politicians and civil rights advocates.

Ali Oztunc, a deputy with the main opposition Republican People’s Party, recently argued the proposal not only created insufficient entrance exams, requiring applicants have completed only a middle school education, but also gave bekcis powers that could easily be abused.

Read the full story on Al Monitor.