The PKK terrorist organization continues to abuse the rights of children in the southeast by using them as fighters, brainwashing them and coaxing them to attain a heroic position in its war.
Many civilians are fed up with the PKK’s vandalizing policies that disregard life, property and cultural heritage through digging ditches, erecting barricades and declaring autonomy, and children are also subject to PKK policies.
A photo from Hakkari’s Yüksekova district of children wearing Civil Defense Union (YPS) masks, the PKK’s newly established youth-wing for children under18, was widely published in the media on Wednesday. Holding toy Kalashnikovs and playing a game digging in the snow to make emplacements, the photo was used in the pro-PKK Dicle News Agency (DİHA), under the headline “YPS-Zarok [Child] announcement from the children of the resistance.” Over the reaction it received, DİHA later removed the report from its site. Regarding the report, İlhami Işık, a Kurdish writer known for his views on the Kurdish issue, thinks that using children as a propaganda tool comes from a “diseased mentality.” “They are even using children in their propaganda and show it off with pride. This is totally inexplicable,” he said, adding there is an animalized morality behind such a thing.
Speaking to Daily Sabah, Bahadır Gültekin, media correspondent of Amnesty International’s Istanbul branch, said such action that aims to recruit children under 15 is defined as a war crime. He said:
“Amnesty International is categorically against the recruitment and use of child soldiers in armed conflicts. Under international law, the participation of children under 18 in armed conflict is generally prohibited and the recruitment and use of children under 15 is a war crime.”
Along with using children for its propaganda, the PKK also deprives children of education by targeting schools in Diyarbakır and Şırnak. On Friday, children playing in the yard of Nuriye Eser Elementary School in the Bağlar district of Diyarbakır were wounded in a PKK bombing.Furthermore, the double-story Sema Cıngıllıoğlu Primary School in the Dicle neighborhood of Şırnak caught fire from Molotov cocktails thrown by a group of PKK terrorists on Jan. 6.
Terrorists also targeted public places, Quran educational facilities and other locations populated by children last year. On Dec. 8, two schools in the Sur district were burned with hand-made explosives. On Sept. 14, a Quran educational facility was shot at in Cizre, leading to the evacuation of the building. On Oct. 8, Hasan Yılmaz, 9, was killed and three children aged 6 to 10 were injured in the Diyarbakır neighborhood of Silvan when a mortar planted by the PKK exploded.
On Aug. 20, the BBC published a story called “In pictures: PKK fighters prepare for battle with IS [DAESH].” Ankara, which believes that Western media applies double standards regarding the PKK, called the publication “unacceptable,” describing it as “written and visual propaganda” for the PKK through depicting it as “an innocent organization” fighting against DAESH.
* Merve Baran contributed this report from Istanbul