The Turkish Interior Ministry has announced on Friday that a probe has been launched into the People’s Special Forces (HÖH), an Erdoğanist illegal militia group that emerged in the midst of the clashes during a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 , following recent news reports and public outcry.
“After recent news reports on HÖH being an illegal formation, our ministry has begun investigating the organization,” the statement read. A criminal complaint was also filed against a web-based organization with a similar name as the People’s Special Forces, a self-claimed entity that is not officially registered, the statement added.
The group said it welcomed the investigation. “The reason why we feel content with this order is that we will rid ourselves from unfounded blames and accusations,” the militia group said in a statement, pro-government Doğan news agency reported.
“We set up a small tent after the heinous July 15, 2016 coup attempt while on duty on July 16,” Fatih Kaya, the leader of the group, told private broadcaster CNN TÜRK in an interview on Dec. 29, 2017. “Then on Nov. 30, 2016, we looked into whether there were any problems with the group’s name and then founded the organization in Trabzon’s Ortahisar district,” Kaya added, referring to the Black Sea province.
The Article 121 of Decree Law No. 696 dated December 24, 2017, which has been interpreted as a “licence to kill” for radical Islamist and neo-nationalist pro-government circles, reads: “Regardless of their official duties, or appointments, any individuals who took part in suppressing the attempted coup d’état on July 15, 2016, terror acts, and other acts which are considered to be a continuation of these, will be subjected to the first clause [on immunity].”
The HÖH, which has been called a militia group close to Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had announced that they will take to the streets only if Erdoğan orders them to do so. In an interview with the newspaper, Fatih Kaya 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 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 that “We will not go into the streets unless amir al mu’minin Erdoğan orders it, like on July 15, 2016. ”
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.”