News / Europe

    Former Child Prisoners Seek Help in Turkey

    Before Turkey reformed its anti-terror laws last July, hundreds of Kurdish children had been prosecuted and jailed for allegedly supporting the Kurdistan Workers Party.  Since then, many have been released, but deep psychological scars remain.  Efforts are underway to help the children in Diyarbakir in the predominantly Kurdish southeast region of Turkey.

    For 18-year-old Hebon Akkaya, this treatment center in Diyarbakir has almost become a second home.  He was just 15 years old when he and a couple of friends were arrested near a Kurdish-rights demonstration.  He said he could make no sense of what happened to him when they were taken to the police station, lined up, and terribly beaten by huge policemen weighing more than 100 kilograms.  He said he just kept thinking "why, why, why?"  He said that memory never leaves him.

    Akkaya spent more than a year in an adult prison, charged under Turkey's anti-terror law.  He was released earlier this year and came to the Human Rights Foundation's treatment center in Diyarbakir after his father persuaded him to seek help.

    Social worker Nevim Yakut Gunay is the first person people like Akkaya see when they seek help.  Gunay said that for most cases they say, "I was in prison and it is finished, now I can go back to life."  She said there is this denial, they say, "I do not need any help."  But for most cases you can read from their faces, they have suffered a terrible trauma.  She said she starts therapy by asking simple questions and slowly their story comes out.

    The Human Rights Foundation is a converted residential apartment with a kitchen and living room.  The bedrooms have been turned into interview rooms.  It is comfortable and homey by design, to help those visiting feel at ease.

    Gunay said the children are encouraged to treat it as their own home and allow them to do simple things, like letting them use the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

    The center helps anyone who has suffered abuse or torture, but now much of its efforts and resources are devoted to children.  The Human Rights Foundation draws on the expertise and help of social workers, psychiatrists, community workers, and parents.  Meetings of the various groups are held to discuss how to deal with the growing numbers of children looking for help.  Foundation head Necdet Ipekyuz says they need all the help they can get.

    Ipekyuz said they are desperately short of social workers and psychiatrists who speak Kurdish and understand the particular customs culture and traditions of Kurds, which is important in working with these children.  He said it is a huge job because all of the family can be affected, and cites a case in which the sister of an imprisoned child was completely traumatized, suffering hysterical crying fits.

    Ipekyuz says one of its most important supporters is the group Justice for Children, which was created by parents of the imprisoned children.  One of its founders was Akkaya's father, Arif, who explained the network not only works to help their children, but also helps the families to come to terms with what happened.

    Arif Akkaya said he has been imprisoned, and his daughter and eldest son have both been taken into custody, so they know very well what prison means.  But he said his family was more worried for Hebon because he was only a child.  Arif said they felt helpless, and when Hebon came out of jail he was not the same son, he never talked and just wanted to be alone, his soul was gone.

    With his new freedom, Hebon Akkaya is making plans to attend university.  He said for now he has stopped seeing his psychiatrist so he can focus on up coming exams.  But when asked if he considers himself as a child anymore, he smiles.

    He said after going through all of this, no child can remain as a child.  He said that before he was carefree, but not anymore.  The terrible things that happened ended my childhood."  He said he is filled with rage and anger, but he now understands there are other ways to fight against injustice, and that is why he is studying hard to go to university and become a lawyer.

    While the word lucky seems inappropriate in Hebon's case, he is fortunate for having received help early.  But centers like this are only able to serve a few dozen children at a time, while hundreds of others are facing their traumas alone.


    You May Like

    Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora