The Trust Force, with their baseball caps, batons and backpacks, actively contributed to efforts to block the Gezi anniversary protests on May 31.
Our banana republic, it turns out, now has a team of regime guards, which Turkish columnists (for some reason very few have written about this), have likened to Iran’s Basij. Ours are called Güven Timi, which can be translated as the “Trust Force.” We saw them actively intervene in the Gezi anniversary protests last Saturday and beat up protesters.
They appear to be plainclothes officers, but with a twist. They are mostly bearded men. On Saturday, they were all sporting blue baseball caps, the same type of backpacks (black with vertical white stripes in front) and wielding (the same) batons. They did not have any insignia or any other official indicator suggesting that they work for the police force.
According to Wikipedia, Basij in Iran “consists of young Iranians who have volunteered, often in exchange for official benefits.” Although the Trust Force in Turkey was founded in 2009 as part of the Police Department, anything can happen here as we live in one of the least transparent countries in the world. These teams were, according to a quote from the Public Safety Unit’s Deputy Director Dursun Güneş in 2009 [featured in a post by T24 blogger Aram Ekin Duran], set up to “not look like cops,” and their primary target was to catch pickpockets red-handed.
But on May 31, Saturday, they were beating up young people instead of chasing pickpockets in Taksim in addition to 25,000 riot police and 50 water cannon trucks deployed in the area to stop the protesters.
Hopefully, we will know more about them if and when the opposition submits a parliamentary query about our own mysterious Basij.
Also during the protests, CNN’s Ivan Watson was detained live on camera while reporting from Taksim. One commentator said this was a clear message to the rest of the world that our government really doesn’t care about what the rest of the world really thinks about Turkey. (I am not trying to hide the commentator’s name, I just don’t remember who it was). Disturbing as it is, I think this is the only logical explanation behind the detention of Watson and his crew.
On June 2, Monday, the lifeless body of a young man was found in the Gezi Park — where the Turkish government doesn’t allow access to anyone who is not on the police force. The dead man was not a police officer. He was identified as 27-year-old Tuğrul Turnalı. The cause of his death wasn’t clear at the time of my writing this blog post, but there were reports suggesting that he died at the end of an epileptic seizure; asphyxiated by his own tongue. One cannot help but think that this was another protest related death. Maybe it was just a coincidence, or a seizure triggered by tear gas, but it is highly unlikely for anyone to die as a result of a coincidence at a park where no civilians are allowed.
Just last week, the police shot a man dead as he waited outside a cemevi (an Alevi place of worship) to attend a funeral. Seven people were killed in the Gezi protests of last year, most of them due to police brutality. Now the Trust Force is out on the streets, freely beating people.
Could it really be that, Erdoğan’s exit plan out of the corruption charges he is facing is to start a civil war? Only time will show. For now, with a higher number of cops on the streets and the latest addition — the Trust Force –, all we can be sure is that the country has never been more dangerous.
This blog was originally published in Today’s Zaman’s Blogs section.