The PKK and the ‘Child Soldiers’
Turkey has been struggling with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a long time. The question has, of course, political, legal, economic, social and psychological aspects. Among the most important aspects of the issue, which has been ignored up to now, is the “child soldiers” who have been abused for various purposes.
A survey which I conducted with a friend of mine on the data regarding the age, gender, region, survival time and so on of the PKK recruits has pointed out how serious a problem we are facing. The survey is based mainly on the data of 1,362 militants among the PKK’s mountain cadres who lost their lives for various reasons between 2001 and September 2011.
According to this, 12 percent of armed militants were females while 88 percent were males. Some 73.3 percent of militants were Turkish, 12.4 percent were Syrian, 10 percent were Iranian and 3.7 percent were Iraqi. In light of this data, the PKK is apparently a trans-border and highly complicated question.
The most striking piece of information is the recruitment age of the militants. Some 42 percent of the PKK militants were 18 and below. Also, 9.25 percent of mountain cadres consisted of minors under 15. The situation was graver regarding females. The recruiting age for girls declines further, and the average sinks to 17.7.
Of course there are many reasons behind those have been recruited. Those reasons are not fixed and may change in time. For example, children “volunteer” nowadays mostly because of economic, social, cultural, anthropological, psychological and other reasons, whereas they were abducted and forcibly recruited in the beginning.
The survey shows that the PKK, just like similar organizations, is recruiting a number of children and exploiting them atrociously for its military purposes. Thus, a short while after that survey appeared in the media, Murat Karayılan, the PKK’s military chief, confirmed the data in a sense by making a statement in northern Iraq to a news agency close to them.
“Still, there are international institutions which follow those issues and are working in parallel with the United Nations,” he said. “Let me put it right now that the [PKK’s fighting forces] signed a protocol a month ago with an international agencies regarding the age of the fighters they would take into the war. Perhaps the Turkish state is informed about that; nowadays, both the prime minister and Nihat Ali Özcan are especially emphasizing the age issue. It’s true; there are recruits at younger ages. But not kids at 9 years old. What we call tender ages are youngsters who are 16 to 17 years old. But we do not put the youth at that age into war. At the beginning, we could not find a chance to send them back since they had already come. So we try to prepare them for the future by training them … in our environment and giving them an ideological, political and cultural education. There is such a reality but there are not kids that are 9, 10 and 14 years old as they stated – that is not true.”
Putting children into conflicts directly or indirectly is not an acceptable situation for anybody. Everybody is responsible for their future and for protecting their rights morally and consciously. Everyone has the duty and responsibility to terminate this.