Amid reactions to a new state of emergency decree giving immunity to civilians for suppressing coup attempts and terror attacks, the People’s Special Forces (HÖH), which has been called a militia close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by the main opposition party, announced that they will take to the streets only if Erdoğan orders them to do so, Hürriyet reported on Friday.
In an interview with the newspaper, Fatih Kaya, the head of the HÖH, said they established their organization on Nov. 30, 2016 and have 7,000 members and 22 branches across Turkey including in İstanbul and Ankara.
About a photo taken with President Erdoğan, the HÖH chairman said: “I went there to explain to our President [Erdoğan] that we are in this kind organization. Why are some people annoyed by a photo with a person who was elected by the people?”
Denying claims that they will take to the streets to put down events like the Gezi Park protest of 2013, Kaya said: “We will not go into the streets unless amir al mu’minin [Erdoğan] orders it, like on July 15, 2016. ”
“Our state, military and police control everything. When the time comes, if we are needed we are always ready as an 80-million-strong nation,” added Kaya.
Denying accusations that they are the militia of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Kaya said they do not receive support from the state and had to close many branches due to financial difficulties. Kaya also denied any links to cars carrying signs reading “HÖH,” underlining that they sued many of the owners.
Stating that they do not accept people who have photos of themselves posing with guns, about his own photo taken with ammunition and military fatigues in Syria Kaya said: “I am a public worker. I took a six-month unpaid vacation and went to Syria. I helped the Turkmens there. Everyone who goes there poses in military fatigues as I did.”
According to Article 121 of decree No. 696, which was released on Dec. 24, regardless of an official title or duties or the lack thereof, people who played a role in the suppression of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and subsequent events and terrorist activities will be exempt from criminal liability.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and human rights defenders slammed the government for the decree, saying it paves the way for armed civilian gangs in Turkey.
Kerem Altıparmak, a human rights lawyer from Ankara University, underlined in a tweet that with the new decree the worst human rights violations and all kinds of crimes have been legitimized under the cover of fighting terrorism.
Human rights advocate Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu summarized the new decree in a tweet: “If you make an innocent protest and someone kills you, he may not be punished. What else could be done to show that the state of law has ended?”
“Erdoğan regime has welcomed private participation in witch hunts against Erdogan enemies. Now pro-state vigilantism is formally legal,” tweeted Timur Kuran, a professor of economic and political development at Duke University.
Former President Abdullah Gül also called on the government to revise the decree: “The ambiguity that does not comply with legal parlance in the text of state of emergency decree No. 696, which I think was released to protect the hero citizens who took to the streets to resist a traitorous coup attempt on July 15, is worrisome in terms of a state of law.”
But President Erdoğan scolded Gül for his call: “The legal regulation [the decree] is pretty clear. We are determined to continue with this new regulation as is.”