The Turkish National Police (EGM) and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) will be able to use weaponry and equipment belonging to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in the event of terrorist attacks and civil unrest, according to a recent change in the TSK regulation governing movable property that was published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday.
According to the regulation the TSK, EGM, MİT, Gendarmerie Command and Coast Guard Command will be allowed to transfer all types of weaponry and equipment among themselves in cases of terrorism and civil unrest.
The new amendment has been criticized for allowing the police and MİT to intervene in any public protest they deem “dangerous” with military equipment. Mehmet Yılmaz of the T24 news website asked in a column what MİT was planning to do with military weaponry.
“Forget about the police. What will MİT do with heavy weaponry?” he asked. “Will MİT go beyond its legal boundaries and fight a war? Can the CIA use a military tank? Does MI6 own an aircraft carrier?”
Journalist Erk Acarer from the Birgün daily said the state was planning to use military tanks against its own people.
The Turkish government is widely criticized by human rights watchdogs for curtailing freedom of assembly. According to Amnesty International, there are severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Turkey. The authorities arbitrarily ban demonstrations and use unnecessary and excessive force to disperse peaceful protestors.
The new regulation came amid a wave of protests carried out by students, activists and academics against the appointment to Boğaziçi University of a new rector with close ties to the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) despite not being a member of the university’s faculty.
The police have been the subject of harsh criticism for using excessive force against protestors. During the protests the police “handcuffed” the university gates to keep the students out and used pressurized water and pepper spray against the students. Images have been circulating on social media showing İstanbul police and SWAT teams in full gear launching house raids on students’ homes.