Photo story: Children of war

A soldier holding Turkish flag (KomNews/Duygu Yildiz)

By Duygu Yildiz*

In, Nusaybin, the southeastern province of Mardin, Turkey, a military curfew was declared on Tuesday. The residents of the town have been exposed to several curfews at intervals since July, 2015. Hundreds of people had to migrate, tens lost their lives. As always, the ones affected most were the children.

Speaking to Kom News, a teacher of first graders who requested anonymity, has revealed the harmful impact of the war on her students.

“It was the first day after the 5th curfew, I decided to organise an amusing activity with the children. I asked them to draw whatever they wanted. I wish, I hadn’t,” she tells us.

“I broke down when I saw their drawings. The drawings were all about war.”

 

“There were masked special forces soldiers in one drawing. In daily life, they see masked soldiers and the Kurdish militia on the streets. I asked my student who drew the masked people why he drew one in a mask and the other without a mask, ‘I know the unmasked one, he is my neighbour’s son. He won’t shoot at me’ he replied. They were aware that this was a war and there were two sides of this war.”

“My students usually drew police cars, police officers, soldiers, guns, tanks and helicopters. In the west, a seven-year-old normally draws birds, flowers, clouds or trees. Nusaybin’s children are exposed to extreme violence, as you can see from the pictures,” says the teacher.

“I don’t know what will happen to them when they grow up,” the teacher says. She speaks hopelessly about the children’s future. “They have been deprived of education for almost one year.”

“One of my students, Hasan, has sketched the plan of the whole neighbourhood. He was gifted at fine arts. He painted only one house, then I realised it was his own house, the red one in the middle.”

“Finally, I saw a colourful drawing and I felt happy for the student who drew it. I thought, one of my students was not affected negatively by the war. I went to talk to her. ‘What a colourful drawing,’ I said. ‘I’d have wished you’d have drawn people, too.’ I was shocked with her devastating reply. ‘There are people in the drawing, teacher. They are at home. They are not allowed to go out because of the curfew,'” the teacher recounted.

“Then, I asked her about the black spots in the sky, ‘the bullets are coming from the sky, my teacher,’ she said.”

*Duygu Yildiz is a journalist and photographer based in Germany. She has worked as a photojournalist and editor for an internet news outlet in Turkey. She made several exhibitions in Turkey and Europe. She is currently working for Kom News.