DIYARBAKIR (Turkey): Deniz was 10 when he committed his first crime. “I stole a few candy bars; it was pretty easy,” recalled the gaunt teenager, his speech slurred by chronic drug abuse. “Now I do cell phones.”
Deniz, who just turned 17, is part of a swelling band of juvenile criminals roaming the streets of this predominantly Kurdish city of 1.5 million people in Turkey’s impoverished southeast region. Delinquents are blamed for a skyrocketing number of pedestrian muggings, stolen cars and house robberies.
Muggings carried out by juveniles — many of them substance abusers between 15 and 18 years old — rose by a staggering 94 per cent in 2004, according to a report released this week by the Diyarbakir security directorate. More than half of the offenders do not attend school, and police say there are at least 30 juvenile gangs operating in the city.
“Juvenile crime is the most serious problem in Diyarbakir, and we are unable to cope,” says Firat Anli, the mayor of Diyarbakir’s commercial Yenisehir district, among the worst affected.
The rise in juvenile crime here is widely linked to the 15-year-long fight between the Kurdish separatist insurgency and the Turkish army. The army’s scorched-earth campaign in battling the insurgency that has been led by a rebel group called the PKK resulted in 1.5 million Kurds, including Deniz’s family, fleeing their villages.
Read the rest of the article on Dawn