On Friday 3 March, a group of 20 Kurdish youth met with UNICEF Official Jon Sparkes and June (surname not known) and then SAVE THE CHILDREN Officials Ishbel Matheson and Jude Bridge to discuss the abuse, torture and rape suffered by Kurdish children in Pozanti Prison, Adana, Turkey.
The first meeting took place at UNICEF as the youths entered the building and requested to see officials after their emails and phone calls were left unanswered for days. After a few minutes of waiting and confusion by UNICEF staff, UNICEF O perations Manager Jon Sparkes and his colleague June (surname not known) appeared and accepted to meet with the spokespersons of the group.
During the 20 minute meeting the spokespersons of the group explained the incidents of systematic torture, abuse and rape of Kurdish children in Pozanti Prison, Adana, SE Turkey; and also described the general tableaux of mass arrests of stone throwing children, the mass rape suffered by the 12 year old N.Ç. by state officials in Mardin; the hunger-strikes of children in Maltepe Prison and the assimilation, abuse and rape suffered by Kurdish girls in Regional Primary Boarding Schools (YIBO). The UNICEF Officials said they were sensitive to the issue and that they would do everything they could to intervene.
The spokespersons made five requests to UNICEF:
1) make a statement to world public opinion and highlight the violations of children’s rights in Turkey and abuses suffered recently at Pozanti Prison.
2) send a committee to Turkey to meet and interview the children who are putting forward these claims. This can be done through the Human Rights Associaton of Turkey (IHD).
3) send this committee to Pozanti Prison to investigate the prison and talk to the inmates at the prison regarding these incidents.
4) bring onto its agenda the case of ‘stone throwing children’ in Turkey, hundreds of whom are still imprisoned and end their unjust imprisonment.
5) continue monitoring Turkey’s violations of children’s rights and intervene and take action when necessary.
Following discussions UNICEF Officials said they would bring the matter to the attention of the UNICEF Turkey branch and that they would make sure it would be followed up in Turkey. The spokespersons handed a detailed file of the abuses over to UNICEF and the parties exchanged contact information. The spokespersons exited the meeting room to the applause of their friends who were waiting in the reception area. The group left shouting the slogan ‘UNITE FOR CHILDREN’S RIGHTS’ and applauding.
The second meeting took place at SAVE THE CHILDREN HQ only a few minutes away from UNICEF. The group once again entered the building and opened their banner, which read ‘KIDS IN PRISON CELLS ARE BEING RAPED ONE BY ONE – THIS IS TURKEY!’ and began applauding. After the refusal of the secretary to call an official from SAVE THE CHILDREN, the building’s manager was called and both he and the secretary threatened to and then eventually called the police, much to the amusement of the group.
A Save The Children employee intervened and said he would find an official to meet the group but disappeared and did not reappear again. About 10 minutes later two police officers turned up and then called another van full of officers who surrounded the peaceful protestors. The group did not budge despite threats from police and seeing that they were determined to go through with their action the police backed off. There was much interest from Save The Children workers and many of them opened the door to their ground floor building but were not permitted by the building’s manager. Two Save The Children Officials finally appeared to meet with the spokespersons of the group much to the chagrin of the building’s manager and secretary.
Similar things were discussed in the meeting with SAVE THE CHILDREN Officials Ishbel Matheson and Jude Bridge. The meeting lasted for over 30 minutes and many things were discussed in detail. Once again the systematic rape and abuse of Kurdish children was highlighted and it was emphasised that this was connected to the mass arrests of Kurdish children, politicians, women, journalists and lawyers in the past two years; and that with this policy the Turkish state was using children as a means of blackmailing and taking prisoner the whole of the Kurdish nation in Turkey.
It was indicated in the dossier given that the following articles of the UN Convention of Children’s Rights had been violated by the Turkish state:
Article 4 (protection of rights)
Governments must do all they can to fulfil the rights of every child.
Article 19 (protection from all forms of violence)
Governments must do all they can to ensure that children
are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and
mistreatment by their parents or anyone else who looks after them.
Article 30 (children of minorities)
Every child has the right to learn and use the language,
customs and religion of their family whether or not these
are shared by the majority of the people in the country
where they live.
Article 34 (sexual exploitation)
Governments must protect children from sexual abuse and
Article 37 (detention)
No child shall be tortured or suffer other cruel treatment or
punishment. A child shall only ever be arrested or put in prison as
a last resort and for the shortest possible time. Children must not
be put in a prison with adults.
Article 39 (rehabilitation of child victims)
Children neglected, abused, exploited, tortured or who are victims
of war must receive special help to help them recover their health,
dignity and self-respect.
Article 40 (juvenile justice)
A child accused or guilty of breaking the law must be treated with
dignity and respect. They have the right to help from a lawyer and
a fair trial that takes account of their age or situation. The child’s
privacy must be respected at all times.
Save The Children stated that unfortunately they did not have a branch in Turkey and that they could not directly assist the group. However they promised that they would discuss this issue in their next staff meeting and would put the spokespersons into contact with other organisations who would be able to help them take the issue to the UN.
The spokespersons were escorted out by the two lovely ladies from Save The Children and were met by the applause of their friends once more. There was a short briefing outside the building and the group left as the police looked on, relieved that they hadn’t been ordered to come face to face with the Kurds of London.