TURKEY: Kurdish children victimised [news]

NGOs have reported several incidents of prosecution by the Turkish government of Kurdish children between the ages of 12 -17. In one case, children who sang at a culture festival in San Francisco, USA, were charged with “spreading terrorist propaganda” on their return home. In another, a child who had his arm disslocated on camera by police was charged with “resisting arrest;” and held for 21 days without medical care.


Case#1: Kurdish Children at risk of being imprisoned:

Three members of the Diyarbakir Yenisehir Municipality’s Children Chorus have been charged for singing the Kurdish anthem “Ey Raqip” (Hey Guard), written by the famous Kurdish poet Dildar (1917-1948) 70 years ago, while in prison in Iraq. The indictment asks that three children under the age of 18 to be charged with the article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law (of Turkish Panel Code).

Members of the children chorus, which was formed under the Yenisehir district of Diyarbakir municipality, are being charged for singing “Ey Raqip” anthem in the city of San Francisco and San Diego during the World Music Festival that took place in October 2007.

The chorus sang songs in eight different languages including Dutch, English, Hebrew, Russian and Arabic and Kurdish. They also played Beethoven’s 9th symphony. However, Diyarbakir Public Prosecutor’s office issued indictments against 16 year old S. Y., 17 year old G.O. and 16 year old V.M. for singing “Ey Raqip” under the Kurdish flag.

After the video clips of the festival were broadcast by TV channels, Diyarbakir Public Prosecutor’s office filed a case against the entire members of the chorus.

The 15 members of the chorus who were/are minors were taken to the Prosecutor’s office for interrogation as soon as they left the USA for Turkey.

In the indictment, the prosecutor argued “children sang the Kurdish national anthem ‘Eq Raqip’ which is used by different political circles such as the Kurdistan Workers Party (also known as PKK) and all other Kurdish political parties.”

The prosecutor’s office has charged these children for premeditating propaganda for Kurdish organisations. However, such accusations cannot be supported. During the interrogation, these children claimed that it was only after a request from the audience, that conductor, Duygu Ozge Bayar, picked the anthem.

Even though “Ey Raqip” was initially not part of their programme, these children have been accused of making deliberate propaganda, and their trial will start on June 19th, 2008 in Diyarbakir

It should be noted that the anthem “Ey Raqip” , and a flag hung at the event, are used by the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq.

Case#2: Cuneyt Ertus: A Kurdish teenager’s arm was dislocated by police in front of running cameras:

In the largest Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, more than a million people celebrated Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, on March 21st without incident. However, in the city of Hakkari, as in a few other Kurdish cities, the Turkish government did not give permission for Newroz celebrations. When members of the public insisted on holding the celebration, police attacked civilians and brutally beat them, including women and children. During one of the beatings, plainclothes police officers dislocated a 15 years old boy’s arm in front running cameras.

The boy’s name is Cuneyt Ertus, and he was immediately taken to the police station where he was interrogated and tortured for two days. Cuneyt then was sent to prison which is more than 100 miles away from his hometown for “resisting arrest.” After Amnesty International sent a worldwide appeal, Cuneyt was released 21 days later. Here is the video footage of the moment when Cuneyt’s arm was dislocated:

Case#3: Mehdi Kurt: A 16 year old boy from Hakkari beaten badly by security forces: Mehdi Kurt was also beaten on March 22nd. He said:

“I was an assistant at a garage. During the incident, a group of security officials entered the garage. They held truncheon and started to attack everyone. I ran over to the top of the Baran’s Car Wash. Roughly ten officers caught me and started to beat me up. As they were beating me, I tried to stand up and run but I couldn’t. They cornered me and beat me until I passed out. Drivers in the area took me to the office where I came to myself. From time to time, I bleed from my nose and mouth. I can’t fall asleep at nights.”

This case has recently been taken by the Van branch of Human Rights Association (IHDin Turkish). Here is the link for this case:

The Committee for Saving Kurdish Children is asking the international community to:

• drop charges against Yenisehir Municipality’s Children Chorus members;

• remind the Turkish government its obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which applies to all 3 above cases since these children are minors under national and international laws;

• adopt and implement a “zero tolerance” torture policy.

• compensate these children financially for medical and legal fees.

• call for a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into claims that Cuneyt Ertus and Mehdi Kurt were ill-treated by police officers during and after their arrest and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

• urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that Cuneyt Ertus and Mehdi Kurt have access to an independent medical examination and can access appropriate medical treatment;

[Source: American Kurdish Association and The Committee for Saving Kurdish Children]
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