The ministry has found that the recent urban auto arson cases may have been sponsored by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is known to be preparing to stage attacks in metropolitan areas.
A report issued by the Interior Ministry concerning the recent arson cases said that about 72 people were detained and 35 were arrested in connection with thee incidents. The ministry has put into place a number of tight measures against these arsonists, some of whom, according to the ministry, are PKK members. However, the ministry still has doubts about some cases. This is because the people arrested in connection with these arson cases apparently have connections with one another and are from different groups.
While the PKK's involvement is certain, some conspiracy theories have already begun to circulate.
Security experts note that the PKK has always targeted government and public transportation vehicles but have refrained from attacking private vehicles and they acknowledge that they have difficulties in establishing connections among people apprehended in connection with the incidents. They add that the PKK’s involvement in these incidents can be explained by the fact that having faced Turkey’s recent cross-border attacks, the PKK is trying to create chaos in big cities in response. While there are reports made to the İstanbul Security Directorate that a group called Komalen Ciwan (Komciwan), known to have close ties with the PKK, is conducting these incidents, it is also known that this group was previously considered the youth branch of the PKK in Europe and has not previously carried out such attacks, its primary purpose being to recruit militants for the PKK.
A high-ranking security official told Today’s Zaman that private security companies are also suspected, adding that as the number of arrests increases, things will become clearer and that the Interior Ministry is currently concentrating not on how to ascertain who the assailants are, but on how to prevent further incidents.
A traditional solution
The Interior Ministry is planning to employ night watchmen against arsonists. Under this project, the employment conditions and classification of night watchmen, who are currently around 6,400 strong, will be improved and they will be employed in metropolitan areas.
Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu noted that after the elimination of the night watchmen of the Ottoman era, nothing has been established in their place to provide security in neighborhoods and marketplaces, adding that this fact lends support to the reintroduction of the post. “In the Ottoman era, a night watchman was a deterrent. The sound of the penny whistle of a night watchman would reinforce the sense of security among the people. It would also deter terrorists, burglars and other criminals. This practice should be reintroduced. Anarchy and terrorism have common origins. They attempt to manipulate the masses by creating panic in society. We must be alert against those groups that try to use the recent incidents for their own purposes. For this reason, those involved in arson cases should be held up for public display,” he told Today’s Zaman.
Another proposal currently under consideration by the Interior Ministry is about employing private security units for ensuring the security of city streets. Many streets in a number of cities such Ankara and İstanbul are protected by private security personnel. However, the ministry is not warm to the idea of employing them as there are rumors of their involvement in recent arson cases. Ministry officials are also of the opinion that private security units will not be as much of a deterrent as night watchmen.
The ministry has proposed interesting changes to the current watchman position. One of the requirements is that watchmen can only be employed in their respective hometowns. Although they are now classified under the “security services” designation, they are still employed in the provinces, districts or towns of their birth. Promotion of successful watchmen to “police officer” has also been proposed. If they are employed in cities, the power and scope of their authority should be adjusted as they currently do not have much power.
Arson, the work of Kurdish youth, PKK admits
An interesting statement has been made by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in relation to the vehicles set ablaze in İstanbul and some other cities. The statement, published on the terrorist organization’s Web site, daid that the arsons were perpetrated by Kurdish youth.
The article, written by Alişêr Koçgıri, said that everything began with the cross-border operation. “Apparently, so long as the operation persists, so will the arsons. This is how Kurdish youth express their reaction,” says Koçgıri, adding that a war had laws of its own and that the most important of them was the right to defend oneself.
“Undoubtedly, patriotic Kurdish youth are taking their place in this war and will continue taking part,” Koçgıri said, adding: “For now, they set ablaze only vehicles. For example, luxury cars should be preferred. Buses, ships, trucks and trains also shouldn’t be neglected. Molotov cocktails can be used. The process has changed now. Attacking the attacker is a rule of such affairs. The youth should not remain inactive. Those who don’t know how to use Molotov cocktails should be taught how to prepare and use one; if there are no means to prepare one, what is at hand -- gas, oil, etc. -- should be used. A lighter or a match is enough.” Emrullah Bayrak Diyarbakır