Village Guards (Turkey)

Country: Turkey
Details of Formation: The government under Turgut Özal set up the village guard system to assist the Turkish military forces in the war against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). It provided money and arms to peasants and ethnic Kurds to help defend themselves and fight against the pro-independence Kurds (e.g. PKK).
Details of Termination: --
Purpose: The government created the village guards with the purpose of establishing a pro-government militia to help the security forces in the fight against Kurdish insurgents (e.g. PKK). They were used as local informants to help the government gather knowledge on the loyalties of the Kurdish population (Belge 2016).
Organisation: According to Belge (2016) influential individuals in a region such as tribal leaders seem to be village guard heads. The village guards often seem to operate out of direct government control (Wikipedia).
Weapons and Training: The pgm received weapons from the central government.
Size: According to Wikipedia estimates, the PGM’s size ranges from 50.000 to 90.000. As the government is said to want to phase out the village guard system one might expect its size might have decreased.
Reason for Membership: Reasons for membership were multiple, but the process was predominantly voluntary. Members joined the village guards for material and financial reasons. Joining the village guards was used to signal loyalty to the government, but also as a means to establish control over a certain territory, e.g by tribal leaders (Belge 2016). People also joined the village guards to avoid sanctions, such as resettlement, sexual assault and degradation by the security forces (Wikipedia).
Treatment of Civilians: The village guards seem to have treated civilians badly and to have misused their power to get rid of rivals. They are reported to have targeted civilians violently, sexually and sometimes forced them to flee their homes if they refused to become village guards. The government despite some attempts to compensate people who lost their property due to the village guards seems to have tolerated this behaviour on the whole. According to Belge (2016, 296) the presence of more village guards correlated with “more displacement and coercion against civilians.”
Other Information: Village guards ran alongside government-armed Kurdish militia and gangs/death squads all of which target Kurd seperatists/terrorists
References: Belge, Ceren. 2016. "Civilian Victimization and the Politics of Information in the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey." World Politics 68 (2): 275-306.

Wikipedia. “Village guard system.”