Purge in Turkey reaches Kurds paid to fight for Turkish army

The Turkish Interior Ministry said at least 559 village guards had ties to "terrorist groups" they were supposed to fight against.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A massive ongoing purge in Turkey has now hit even Kurdish paramilitaries, recruited and paid by the Ankara government to fight along with the Turkish army against fellow Kurds who lead a decades-long uprising.

A press release by the Interior Ministry on Thursday said it dismissed at least 559 of those paramilitaries legally defined as village guards on the grounds they were either members of or had ties with “terrorist groups and other organizations dangerous to national security” they were supposed to fight against.

The irregular militias usually operate in their local rural peripheries and help the Turkish army in Ankara’s war with fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as an additional local force familiar with the terrain and language.

Turkey and its Western allies label the PKK a terrorist group for its guerrilla warfare to achieve Kurdish self-rule.

Seventy-six other village guards were laid off temporarily because of involvement in “human and drug trafficking” until a final decision about them could be given after a wide-ranging investigation.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government began purging state ranks, mostly from the bureaucracy, army, and ministries, targeting over 160,000 people from their jobs after a military coup attempt to overthrow him in mid-2016.

The militias were founded in 1985 less than a year after the PKK launched its first deadly assault on a Turkish army base in the Siirt province.

Since then, their numbers have increased to 72,000, according to 2016 figures.

In the 1990s, when the war between the PKK and Turkey reached a height, the army forced thousands of villagers to take sides by either taking up arms against fellow Kurds or face the destruction of their local communities.

Acting under a state of emergency only applied in the Kurdish-majority provinces, thousands of villages which refused the offer were burnt with by government forces that led to an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people who in their millions today – along with their children – reside in major Turkish cities such as Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, and Mersin.

The guards are pejoratively called “jash” or “donkey’s foal” by pro-independence or autonomy-minded Kurds who accuse them of being quislings to the Turkish State, although reports have over the years emerged about some of them secretly cooperating with the PKK.

During the 2013-2015 failed round of peace talks between the Erdogan administration and PKK leadership, there were deliberations to disband the militias.

As of May 2018, a village guard was receiving 600 Turkish Lira, the minimum wage in Turkey, equivalent to 100 USD.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany