We're always looking for ways to make better. Have an idea? See something that needs fixing? Let us know!

Turkey: Gendarmerie
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Police System > Gendarmerie


Primarily a rural police force, the gendarmerie maintains public order outside the municipal boundaries of cities and provincial towns and guards Turkey's land borders against illegal entry and smuggling. It has jurisdiction over 90 percent of the territory of Turkey and 50 percent of the population. The gendarmerie's recruits are supplied through the military conscription system, and its officers and NCOs are transferred from the army. New career junior officers are obtained by quotas from the graduating classes of the Turkish army academy.

In late 1994, the gendarmerie's headquarters in Ankara was commanded by Aydin Ilter, a four-star general. Subordinate to the commanding general's chief of staff, a two-star general, are typical military staff sections for personnel, intelligence, operations, and logistics, as well as the headquarters commandant. The major operational category consists of the internal security units, divided into stationary forces and mobile infantry brigades. These forces may be supplemented by air units and commando units equipped with Russian APCs and towed artillery weapons. In 1994 Turkey announced the purchase of nineteen Russian helicopters to assist in operations against the PKK. Elite fighting formations that distinguished themselves in Cyprus in 1974, the commando units execute many of the operations against the PKK in the southeast. The gendarmerie also includes headquarters and border forces, administrative control and logistical support units, and training staff.

The total number of gendarmes was estimated at 70,000 active members and 50,000 reserves in late 1994. They are organized into thirteen regional commands encompassing the seventy-six provinces. In each province, the principal gendarmerie commander, a colonel or lieutenant colonel, advises the governor on matters of security and maintains direct charge of the district gendarmerie commands, usually headed by captains. Below the district commanders are commanders of the administrative subdistricts, each of whom controls the fixed posts in his area. There are some 3,600 posts, exclusive of border posts, usually located at intervals along the main roads and staffed by a sergeant and six or more gendarmes. To foster detachment from local groups and their interests and quarrels, gendarmes are usually assigned away from their home areas.

The administrative functions of the gendarmerie correspond roughly to those of the National Police but include such distinctive requirements as enforcing hunting and fishing laws, fighting forest fires, and patrolling borders. The gendarmes' judicial tasks include guarding prisons and assisting in investigations and preparations for trial. They also have military duties: serving as adjuncts to the army in emergencies, enforcing conscription, apprehending military deserters, and working in military courts.

Gendarmerie officers are chosen from cadets during the second year of training at the military academy, an aptitude for law being a prime factor in the selection. After completing their academy training, officers attend the infantry school for six months and the commando school for four months. Further professional training follows at the Gendarmerie Schools Command. NCOs are selected by examination from army personnel who have already served at least one year. They are then trained at the Gendarmerie Schools Command for five months. Basic military training is given to conscripts by the Gendarmerie Schools Command, followed by specialized training in various areas.

Writing in the late 1980s, the noted political journalist Mehmet Ali Birand commented that the gendarmerie had had an unfavorable reputation since its founding in 1839 and its later reorganization on the pattern of the French gendarmerie. It began as the agent of brute force for the government, putting down civil conflicts, pursuing criminals, and collecting taxes. From the early days of the republic, the gendarmerie was the only body available to subdue unrest, enforce the principles of Atatürk, suppress opposition, and collect levies.

The gendarmerie has relatively few officers and NCOs; the main burden of the service falls on ordinary conscripts who predominate in the force of 70,000. The conscripts are poorly trained in matters of law and regulations and in the manner of enforcing them, contributing to the harsh image of the gendarmerie. As Birand notes, in contrast to Turkish gendarmerie operations, operations of the French, Belgian, and Italian gendarmeries are carried out primarily by officers and NCOs, privates being assigned sentry duty and other tasks that will not bring them into contact with the public.

The commander of the gendarmerie said in 1993 that efforts were being made to tailor the personnel structure to enable the force to perform its missions more effectively. Specialized sergeants were being recruited instead of conscripts. No longer standardized, unit training was being tailored to conditions in various regions and particular types of missions. New equipment had been introduced to improve air transportation and surface movement, and to provide mobile command, control, communications, and intelligence capabilities.

Formed in 1982 as the maritime wing of the gendarmerie, the coast guard is now separate but also reports to the Ministry of Interior. With a personnel strength of about 1,100, the coast guard is responsible for maintaining the security of the coast and territorial waters, for conducting missions to protect its Exclusive Economic Zone in the Aegean -- the boundaries of which are under dispute with Greece -- for search-and-air-rescue operations, and for protecting the marine environment. The coast guard is organized into four area commands: the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and adjacent straits, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. Surface patrols are carried out by fifty-two patrol vessels and smaller craft. The most effective of these are fourteen search-and-rescue vessels of 220 tons, all built within recent years in Turkish shipyards. Smaller 150-ton and 70-ton patrol boats of German origin were nearing obsolescence in the mid-1990s. An ambitious construction plan foresaw a major strengthening of the service with eight new vessels of 350 to 400 tons and forty-eight ships of 180 to 300 tons. A number of helicopters and aircraft were to be acquired to expand a small maritime air unit of three United States-manufactured OH-58 (Jet Ranger) helicopters.

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Turkey Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 196 of 206


Click any image to enlarge.

National Flag

(TL) Turkish Lira (TRY)
Convert to Any Currency


Locator Map