Friday, July 30, 2010

Turkey Softens Law That Jailed Young Kurds

New York Times
July 29, 2010

Berivan Sayaca, a vivacious 15-year-old Kurdish girl, dreamed of escaping her life as a seamstress and studying law. Instead, she was convicted of supporting terrorism by attending a protest rally and sentenced to nearly eight years behind bars.

This week, Berivan was released from prison about 10 months into her sentence. The move came after the Turkish Parliament, in an attempt to alleviate rising tensions with the Kurdish minority here in the southeast, passed a bill this month reducing the sentences of hundreds of youths, 18 and younger, who had been put on trial and nicknamed the “stone-throwing kids.”

An estimated 40,000 people have died during the decades of conflict over national identity and land between Turkey and the separatist guerrilla group known as the Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K. In recent years, many young Kurds have been accused of being terrorists, yet in some cases their only crime was to have attended a demonstration, chanted a slogan or thrown a stone.