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A 19 years old PKK penitentâ€™s view of Article 221
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 1974 days ago | Sunday, 23rd December , 2007 , 06:44 [am] | Azerbaijan
|.|| “I was waiting for the police after I came back from the mountains. I was suspicious. I did not know what would happen to me. I was ready for anything. But they were so nice and sincere, I decided to be sincere, too. Now, here I am. I want a new life,” says 19-year-old N.
She was a member
“I was waiting for the police after I came back from the mountains. I was suspicious. I did not know what would happen to me. I was ready for anything. But they were so nice and sincere, I decided to be sincere, too. Now, here I am. I want a new life,” says 19-year-old N.
She was a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) until recently but decided to return from the northern Iraqi mountains that she went to when she was just 15 years old. She did not know about Article 221 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which allows members of any criminal organization who have not been involved in attacks to avoid punishment if they turn themselves in and inform on the group. “If I had known such a law existed, I would have take my daughter from the mountains long before,” her father adds.
After the Turkish government signaled the likely amendment of Article 221, Sunday’s Zaman had an interview with N, who benefited from this law.
According to experts the article has some shortcomings; it is not widely known, its name refers to active regret or repentance — which is unattractive for members of the terrorist organization — and it is aimed basically at those who are not involved in violence. N, beside her personal story, also told us her ideas about Article 221 and how it should be. She mentions the attitude of the police when she surrendered as a very positive experience.
She began by telling us her own story. â€œI was an activist. I was participating in the demonstrations of [forerunner to the current pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP)] the Democratic Peopleâ€™s Party (DEHAP). When I was watching Roj TV (a TV station allegedly linked with the PKK) seeing these people in the mountains attracted me. So I decided to join,â€ she says. At that time N was a high school student in a major Turkish city. But she underlines that most PKK members are from Kurdish-populated areas. She has Kurdish origins, too.
According to her, reasons for joining the PKK differ from person to person: â€œSome of them are running away from forced marriages or marriage at an early age, or they lost a loved one in the clashes; they want revenge. Or they follow some of their relatives who are already in the mountains,â€ she says. N underlines that her family was not putting pressure on her about anything. â€œI have an adventurous nature,â€ she says — smiling as her bright eyes sparkle.
Her father, who has two other children, interrupts: â€œIn the first years of the PKK we thought that they were against the feudal system in the region. Then they started to target the state, too.â€ He also has something to say about young people joining the PKK: â€œThere is a hatred of state forces in the region. Once when I was young, I was stopped at a checkpoint. It was raining. The soldiers made us wait there for one-and-a-half hours. Then someone ill arrived. I told the soldiers to at least let him pass. The soldier said to me, â€˜Did I tell him to be unwell?â€™â€
After deciding to join in to the PKK, N entered northern Iraq with a group of her friends. She remembers an experience from life on the road: â€œWhen we were going to the mountains I stayed in a Kurdish village for a couple of days. There was a child in the house who was in the fourth grade at that time, but he didnâ€™t even know his basic ABCs. Before I left I wrote a letter to his teacher stressing that they should provide a proper education.â€
She mentions that living conditions in the mountains of northern Iraq were not difficult. â€œI knew it was difficult in the war zone, but in Iraq we were not hungry. In summertime we traveled with our bags and in the winter we stayed under a roof. The conditions were not that difficult. But relations were not easy,â€ she says.
â€œThey were trying to teach us to live collectively. They demand that you should have [a general] relationship with everyone, they donâ€™t like close friendship much, only with some people,â€ she underlines and continues: â€œI have a rebellious nature. They sometimes asked us to do some jobs, like digging a hole or collecting wood for the winter. If you are reluctant to do so they are critical of you. I had to get the commanderâ€™s permission even to wash my socks. I did not like that.â€
N says that in the camp she was staying in she began theoretical and practical training. When asked how she felt the first time she took a gun in her hand, she stops for a while: â€œThis was the aim. It wasnâ€™t strange. But when I put on the clothing the first time, those militant clothes, I felt little bit strange.â€ As she is talking I notice a Mickey Mouse pendant gleaming at her neckline.
N says it was difficult for her to spend four years in the mountains and that she decided to leave. â€œYou can not tell anyone that you want to leave; they would try to prevent you,â€ she says. After making the decision to return home, she says, she went to a village in northern Iraq and convinced a woman there to allow her to stay in her house for a couple days. She called her family and settled down to wait for them.
Her father remembers those days: â€œWhen we got the call we thought maybe she had been wounded or was very ill. We went there. The first thing I did was tell her to stand up. I wanted to make sure she was OK.â€
Since her father knew the region, he organized a route back to Turkey for her with smugglers via Syria. The road home took her three days. â€œI was at home and waiting for the police to take me. I was worried, of course,â€ she says and smiles: â€œThey thought that I had come back for an operation. They mentioned Article 221, and I decided to benefit from it. They were sincere so I told them my story.â€
N stayed in prison for 15 days and her court case still continues, but she is sure she will be acquitted. â€œI was not involved with action,â€ she says. When it comes to the implementation and scale of TCK Article 221, she says since the name includes the word â€œpiÅŸmanlÄ±k,â€ meaning penitence or regret, it is unattractive for PKK members. â€œLook, if they decided to turn themselves in it means they are regretful. But to call it that is humiliating,â€ she says. Her father adds: â€œThose people are young. They are so keen about their honor. If there is to be a new law, its name should be something related to returning home. Saying â€˜reintegration into societyâ€™ is also humiliating.â€
Article 221 contains preconditions of confessing and giving information about the organization. N thinks that this is also another factor that makes the amnesty unappealing: â€œOf course people do not want to tell everything they know. They would hesitate.â€ She underlines that not being involved in violence is a preconditions of benefiting from the article.
The article offers little to the leadership of the terrorist organization. N thinks that is not necessary, anyway: â€œLook, if I had a company I would not let it be closed down. I would do anything in order to keep it going; if necessary I would borrow money to make it survive, and this is the same for the leadership, too. Even if there was an amnesty for them, most of them would not choose to benefit from it.â€
N and her father both stress that Article 221 is not widely known. â€œIf I had known this law existed and that it would be so easy, instead of taking my daughter back home via a complex route I would have had her enter Turkey via the [border] gate. If people knew about it, at least half of them would come back,â€ he says.
When his daughter was in the mountains, he went to northern Iraq seven times to see her, but only succeeded in doing so once, because the PKK does not allow families to contact members. â€œIf someone sees their families because they are missing them a lot, they could decide to leave,â€ N says.
Her father remembers people who knew he had the means to travel to northern Iraq — something very expensive for an ordinary family — bringing the names of their sons and daughters who had gone there and asking him to find out if they were alive or dead. Nâ€™s father says, smiling, that the same people were so surprised to hear N was back and had benefited from Article 221 and that the police had not harmed her. â€œThey couldnâ€™t believe she was home after only 15 days in prison. I made them read Article 221. I read the article in the police station, too. The police made me,â€ he says.
N and her father think the familyâ€™s attitude is very important for the implementation of any amnesty. They pointed out that for some family members it is important, even a status symbol to have a son or daughter in the mountains. â€œI know a man who promised to give one of his children to the organization every year. Two are dead and three are still in the mountains,â€ N says.
Her father adds that some families do not care about their children, but he also underlines that families are becoming politicized by state pressure, by their villages being evacuated or by a family member being killed. According to him all these things are turning the issue into a sort of vendetta. â€œI knew two sisters whose brothers joined the PKK. Soldiers came to their home frequently and were putting pressure on them, taking them away to God knows where. In the end one of the sisters killed herself and the other one went to the mountains,â€ he says.
N now seeks a new life. She wants to continue her education where she left off. She says her adventurous nature has not changed, and perhaps this is why she hopes to be a journalist or lawyer. But she wants to say one last thing: â€œIt is important to create awareness among the Kurdish people, but that alone is not enough. Turkish people should be educated, too. The ones in the mountains are hesitating; they think that if they return, Turks may humiliate them. The whole problem cannot be solved solely by the Kurdish people.â€sundayszaman, Voice of a Nation