In 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that private security companies should be eradicated because they were sometimes unjustified and overwhelming (CNN Türk, 03.04.2015). He essentially highlighted that a private security sector was redundant given that the state had an effective security structure in place. Two years later, the private security sector is experiencing growth.

Shortly after the deadly terrorist attack of the 31st of December 2017 in the Reina night club in Istanbul, that claimed the lives of 39 people and wounded another 70, Ankara announced a modification to the private security law of 2004. The modification enabled the employees of private security companies to carry weapons in previously forbidden places, namely schools, health facilities, private meetings and demonstrations, game halls, and bars / nightclubs (Turkish Policy, 14.03.2017).

Moreover, the massive purges carried out in the Turkish security sector, as a result of the power struggle between the government and the Gülen Movement (GM) (believed to have had infiltrated its members within the judiciary and security sector during Erdoğan’s reign) have diminished the Turkey’s defence capabilities. An exponential increase in the government contracting private security companies is believed to be filling the gaps left by a purged police force and military. It is also contributing to securing greater government influence within the wider security sector as private security officers appear to have ideological loyalty to the President and the AKP government.

Despite Erdoğan’s threat to shut this sector down, private security companies now enjoy an increased market presence. Since 2011, contracting of private security personnel has reportedly increased by 92%, with the last available data revealing that there are an estimated 284,300 people actively employed by private security companies (Hürriyet Daily News, 24.08.2017).

Key Points

  • Despite the President’s threatening messages in 2015 to eradicate private security, this sector has been growing, and is showing signs that it will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.
  • In a country where the most sensible economic sectors are closely influenced by the government, the rise of the Turkish private security sector is closely observed by the government.
  • In light of the significant purges within the country’s state security sector following the failed July 2016 military coup, private security is being leveraged (often unofficially) to fill resulting gaps in the country’s security capabilities and capacity.