I met with a child who grew up "in the middle of wars" on Saturday. A "victim" of Anti-Terrorism law... He was at the event of Followers of Justice for Children (ÇİAT) at Ankara. There was anxiety in his face and anger at his voice.
I asked his name. He didn't want to tell it. I asked "Why?" He said. "We were released by law amendment as we were under 18 years of age however they began to put us in jail when we are older than 18. That's why I do not want to tell you my name."
I asked "Would you like to pick a nickname for yourself?" and he said "Let's say Umut (Hope). We wouldn't be able to live without hope. That's why I prefer you call me Umut."
A year at the Prison
Umut was taken into custody as he participated an act organized in order to commemorate the people who were imprisoned and died at Diyarbakır Prison The coup of 12 September 1980.
He was just 15. "I was just leaving the place and the policemen began to beat me and put me in prison." says Umut.
They told us to put our head between the seats at the bus. They were hitting, beating the ones who lift their heads. They also threw a gas bomb so it was also effecting us." He was at the Anti-Terror Branch for 4 days and then he was imprisoned and sent to Diyarbakır Prison.
"Were you also exposed to violence at the prison?" I ask. He says " People know each other in Diyarbakır. That's why the guardians didn't touch us" and he adds, "Prisons are not the place to stay for children. There were nine, ten years old children there. They were playing games."
He was 72 kg when he was imprisoned in 2008 and he was released as 60 kg in 2009. In fact he thought he wouldn't be able to release. He got insomnia problems for a long period. He began to recover with the help of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, thanks to a psychologist.
"Normal people can not remain unresponsive"
We are talking about 23rd of April. Suddenly I realize the anger at his voice. "What's the meaning of April 23rd?" I ask and he's describing two different pictures:
"I visualize two pictures on each 23rd of April. The first is from the Western side of this country. The 'statesmen' are giving their seats to children, they are making jokes etc... The second picture is just the opposite of the first one... The policemen are torturing children at the eastern side of Fırat (a river at the Eastern Anatolia Region). That's why April 23 is not the feast of Kurdish children"
People know them as "stone-throwing" children. "What was the anger hidden under these stones" I ask to Umut and he says:
"At least one of the relatives of each children at our region are killed or are in prison. The children know it and they cannot remain unresponsive. Actually, normal people cannot remain unresponsive at such a situation. If they do, there's a problem."
"I want to be a lawyer"
He was graduated from high school after he was released. He was just studying for Higher Education Examination and he was taken into custody when there were just 10 days to the exam. "The snout is not known, he's anonymous. They say that I am hiding something at the house"
He was released after a while. He took the examination however it wasn't successful as he wished. He says he'll study and re-enter the examination. His biggest dream is becoming a lawyer...
"The state doesn't want the Kurdish children to receive education. They oppress the university students. There are students that are put in jail because they clapped their hands. After witnessing such injustices, I want to do something to change them so I want to be a lawyer."
I ask, "What would you draw if you had drawn anything?" and he says "I would like to draw a world without violence and a world that children are not at prisons
At the end of our conversation, he warns me again "You will not use my name, OK? I believe in you. I do not want to go behind bars again." (SK/HK)