Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
From the beginning of the Rotary Peace Studies Programme, I have had the opportunity to share the story of my homeland, both verbally and in writing, many times. Writing a blog also offers me an additional opportunity to share a different issue with my colleagues. This week I would like to share with you the tragedy experienced by Kurdish children who are kept in prisons under inhuman conditions.
In the early 1990s, when intense battles were taking place between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish Security Forces, the Law on the Fight Against Terrorism (TMK) was passed by the Turkish Parliament (1991). The Law was implemented to secure domestic security. Article 8 of this law stated:
“Regardless of method or intent, written or oral propaganda along with meetings, demonstrations, and marches that have the goal of destroying the indivisible unity of the state with its territory and nation of the Republic of Turkey cannot be conducted.”
This article was later discussed as it was seen as a severe restriction on the freedom of speech and a threat to Turkey’s progress towards European Union (EU) membership. Therefore, in 2003, the Article 8 was repealed.
But in 2004, when tension between the PKK and the Turkish Security Forces ignited once again, the softening of the anti-terror law was criticized from inside the government. Demonstrations among the Kurdish people grew and resulted in the death of 10 people, six of them under the age of 18.
Therefore, on June 2006, further changes were made to the anti-terror law. Changes in the law made it possible to prosecute children outside the juvenile courts of justice. Children above the age of 15 could be prosecuted in the adult criminal courts. Both groupings could be prosecuted under the anti-terror law (TMK).
This law was especially tough on Kurdish children, who were either participating or passing by civil society demonstrations. While those who were charged and/or prosecuted for other crimes (e.g. murder) were freed or sentenced to lesser punishments, Kurdish children and youth were sometimes sentenced from 15 – 20 years for throwing stones at police during demonstrations.
Between 2006-2010, approximately 4,000 children were arrested and/or taken into custody for reasons, such as: throwing stones at the police; having scars in their palms resembling the use of stones and being sweaty. These children are referred to as “the stone-throwing kids”.
The conditions of imprisoned children in the country have—with the claims around unfair conditions in the Adana Pozantı Juvenile Prison in 2011—yet again become a subject of discussion in Turkey. Information gathered from different prisons has shown that the inhumane treatment of children has and is still taking place.
According to a Dicle News Agency report, children in prisons have been raped and tortured repeatedly. Likewise, inhumane conditions have been reported by different children in the prisons of Antalya, Kürkçüler, Şakran and Sincan. Children have shared in descriptive detail the means that prison workers utilize to supposedly beat them.
Instead of investigating these prisons, the Turkish Minister of Justice, Sadullah Ergin, issued a press release in February 2013 and stated that the number of children in prisons has increased. As a result, the number of prisons for children would be increased from five to 15 by 2016.
There should be an end to this violence. Children, regardless of their crimes should not be isolated from, but be brought back into society. Their restriction of freedom should be the absolute last choice. Each time a child’s rights are abused, permanent scars will be left not only in the life of the child, but also in society.
Ipek Tasli, Turkey
Rotary Peace Fellow