‘Streets mean freedom to Kurdish children’

Welat Ay; photo – bianet

By Yüce YÖNEY, bianet:

On Wednesday, Welat Ay, fellow at Diyarbakir Political and Social Research Center, held a presentation entitled ‘Ghost Bodies in an Insecure Place: Kurdish Children’ at Bilgi University.

Ay’s presentation focused on his research, based on one-on-one interviews with 50 Kurdish children ages between 12 and 18, in the heavily Kurdish-populated neighborhoods of Mersin, a south-eastern province to which thousands of Kurdish families have been forced to migrate.

The presentation outlined how Kurdish children responded to power relations and control mechanisms in different environments such as school, family and streets. It also revealed how they coped with these mechanisms.

“Kurdish children regard the streets as terrains of freedom, while they see schools as a platform to debate with the Turkish state. Families think streets are unsafe whereas the children think the opposite and gather in streets,” Ay said.

Which childhood?

Ay emphasized the gaps between a ‘child model’ in the eyes of families and school, and a model that the streets are demanding.

“School is an environment where families frequently hope that their children can integrate into the society,” Ay said. “However, most of the teachers have a Turkish nationalist mentality that undermines their credibility in the eyes of Kurdish children.”

Ay said that, while families see schools as a ‘way out’, kids see them as a battlefield. “The relations between the children and school,” Ay continued, “don’t create a hopeful future but only engender a sense of revolt by Kurdish children against depersonalization.”

‘I won’t forgive the Turkish state’

Comments by the children Ay interviwed included:

“I know how [the Turkish state] burnt down our village, I know how we were forced to come here, I know how we are miserable now.”

“The Turkish state killed my uncles. I won’t forgive the Turkish state for that.”

Ay said children felt happier in the streets because they considered the streets as terrains of freedom where they could express themselves. “The insecurity at home and school pull children out to the streets.” he said.

The original article has been lightly edited.

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