I met Hawar's father, Arif, for breakfast in Diyarbakir. A small man
with a gray mustache and two pens clipped neatly to the inside of his
shirt pocket, Arif spoke adamantly about the stone-throwing kids, a
cause he has taken up since Hawar's arrest. He tells the story of the
arrest with determined, slow speech--bored with the familiar narrative,
still stunned by the details.
When Hawar wasn't home by 11 p.m., Arif started to worry. He called
police stations, looking for him. "If he was in a hospital, I would have
gotten information right away. If there is no news, it means he is
Arif, like the three boys, was unaware that in 2006 Turkey had
tightened its anti-terror laws and that juveniles could now be tried as
adults. When he realized that his son could be in prison for years, "It
was like volcanoes were exploding inside me," he said. "There was
nothing I could do for him."
Arif's retelling, though thick with residual fear, included some
optimism. Hawar's prison term--ten months and eight days--was
comparatively short and since then, he's been doing well. Later that
day, from a plush arm chair below framed photos of himself and his two
brothers, Hawar narrated his own imprisonment.
"They arrested us and put us in the back of the police car. They beat
us and swore at us. Then they took us to the hospital, where doctors
examined us, supposedly for evidence of torture. They did not record our
bruises. 'Their' doctors didn't care about us."
Being unaware of the severity of the charges against him, each day in
prison was a new shock to Hawar. But nothing compared to the shock of
the sentence itself: 38 years. "When I saw the 38 years, I thought I
have to get used to living my life in prison."
It was a life that included a 7 a.m. head count followed by an
"inedible" breakfast, reading books or beading bracelets, then to the
small courtyard for his "right to breathe," then lunch. After lunch they
read some more, and in the evening they were given the day's
newspapers. Hawar, Mazlon, and Ferman favored the more independent Taraf and Radikal,
"The best of the worst." There were no Kurdish news sources allowed.
"They were doing their best to close our eyes to the world," Hawar told
But, in spite of the harsh sentence, Hawar found himself more
determined. "Before prison I was not interested in finishing school," he
said. "But then I saw the unfairness in this country and decided I
wanted to do something. With this Kurdish issue, there are two ways of
struggling: with weapons or with politics. I chose politics because war
never ends." In June, Hawar will take the university entrance exam. He
plans to become a human rights lawyer.
In prison, Hawar was comforted by the presence of his two friends,
but began to worry about Mazlon. The boy had always been cheerful,
smiling and making jokes. At first, Mazlon spent his time beading
colorful bracelets he would then give to his family when they visited.
But he was becoming quickly more radicalized. "When we were talking
about resistance, he would say that the only way to fight was with
weapons," Hawar said.