Thousands of child soldiers are used by armed groups in their struggle for power. Some children are abducted from their families, while some others are brainwashed and themselves join these organizations. Regardless of the motive, the end tends to be the same: they kill, they die. The PKK is no exception and like many other armed groups in the world, the PKK is also using children in its terror campaign.
While the PKK seems to be unhappy about reports on its child soldiers carrying bombs or machine guns in its camps in Iraq and Syria, it proudly shows off the children’s “resistance” against the Turkish police in Turkey’s cities. Children were in the front lines in the PKK’s trench war in its attempt to create liberated urban areas in southeast Turkey in the Summer of 2015 as well. As the PKK’s professional forces withdrew from the towns after the defeat, these local children surrendered in tens and the total number of surrendered and captured children reached in the hundreds in less than a few months.
In a nutshell the PKK needs children to kill and die for the organization. They help the PKK both dead and alive. At the end of the day, each child soldier is a soldier for the PKK and can be used against Turkey. If they happen to die in combat, then the PKK aims to gain sympathy over the children’s dead bodies. So, the PKK’s reasoning is pretty clear, it is a win-win game.
But what about the children themselves, why do they join the PKK either as full members or as part-time militants? Well, there is no single answer to that question and individual reasons vary. Some children do, in fact, voluntarily start fighting in the PKK ranks as early as 12 years old. Some others are simply kidnapped or abducted. Some join the PKK together with their family members while some others do not seek parental consent. Some children may start by throwing stones at police as a game, spurned to do so by older people already part of the PKK or sympathetic groups, of course the child’s mother may notice him in the crowd and take him home.
Well, this whole thing is a tricky issue for the Turkish security forces. For one thing, it is not always easy to spot the age of an enemy who is directing a machine gun at them or about to throw a bomb at them. Nevertheless, if the security forces are not in an immediate danger situation, which means that they do not have to act in a few seconds before a bomb drops on them, they have more of a chance to deal with the PKK’s child militants.
At the end of the day, they are children. If you can get the gun from their hands before they pull the trigger or the bomb before they throw it and give a ball instead, they shoot to score rather than kill. Sometimes it is as simple as that as seen in the case of police officer Asum Bulat who repeatedly disarmed stone throwing or tire burning children by passing out bananas or chocolate to the crowd. It gets harder though as bombs start to replace stones.
Sometimes, a 14 year old loses his fingers when a handmade bomb explodes in his hand before he could throw it at the police. Sometimes those handmade bombs burn other people alive. And it gets hardest when a kid is taken from his/her family and goes through ideological and military training in the camps for months. They are taught to kill and die before they could have a chance to live their own lives. Here, it is pointless to try to shame the PKK who have and will continue to use child soldiers no matter what. The cure is somewhere between the baby being born and it growing into a killer. The cure is in care, hope and love as melted in police officer Asum Bulat’s sweet chocolates.