Leaving Diyarbakir…

Heading back to Istanbul after a very busy few days.
Perhaps what has stuck with me most in Diyarbakir is the Orwellian dictum displayed on signs around town: “Ne Mutlu Türküm Diyene!”- Happy is he who calls himself a Turk.
Over the course of my time here, I have been more often reminded of its corollary: Unhappy is he who calls himself a Kurd.
Whilst here I interviewed some children who have fallen victim to Turkey’s anti-terror laws. Since 2006, teens aged 15-17 can be tried as adults if facing terror charges, and receive adult sentences. Moreover, a terror charge can result from merely attending a demonstration sanctioned by the PKK.
Most extraordinary was the story of one 17-year-old kid I spoke to, who is facing up to 45 years in prison on a number of charges all of which he denies, and the most serious of which is throwing a Molotov cocktail.
All evidence against him comes from the statements of police – the same police who he says broke his nose so badly when he was arrested he now has problems breathing through it.
Many of the children are radicalized by their experiences in prison. As Mehmet Atak, who has spearheaded a campaign to change the law in regard to child terror charges, said to me: “These kids go in as children, and come out as militants.”

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