SOHRAM Casra: Dignity for Victims of Torture and Refugees in Turkey

They are committed to combating violence in society: be it violence through war or civil war, domestic violence, sexual harassment or discrimination based on ethnic or religious affiliation. The Centre SOHRAM Casra supports the rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of torture and takes care of internally displaced persons and refugees.

He was only fifteen when he was arrested and tortured: the Kurd Yavuz Binbay has been campaigning for democracy and human rights in the Kurdish part of Turkey for the last forty years. The geologist and engineer spent over seven years in prison and still bears the deep scars of torture. His own traumatic suffering was the reason for the courageous man to campaign for former co-prisoners who had also been the victims of torture.

He survived the fourth murder attempt seriously injured. In Geneva he found asylum with his wife and two sons and established connections to many Human Rights Organizations here.

However, the situation in his native country allowed him no peace of mind and so Yavuz Binbay returned to Diyarbekir in 1997 where he laid the foundations for his relief organization SOHRAM. It is the only centre of its kind in the area offering victims of torture and violence legal support and helping them to come to terms with their trauma. In peace workshops SOHRAM encourages intercultural dialogue and conveys principles such as non-violence and tolerance.

Violent conflicts between the Kurd worker's party PKK and the Turkish army still take place in the Turkish native country of the Kurds even today. Many people fled from rural areas to the capital city of Diyarbakir in order to escape the fighting, but they sank into poverty because there was no work. The children suffer most of all. Many children do not go to school because the families have no money for school uniforms and teaching materials. Instead they work as street vendors and prostitutes. They often see their only chance as PKK soldiers. The fate of these young people was the prime motivation for Yavuz Binbay to return to the country which tried to break him. SOHRAM succeeds in integrating children from the slums into state schools; many young people finish their training and find employment. In this way they have the opportunity to take their place in society again and lead a life in human dignity.

In addition, countless refugees have come from Syria. Only a small part is housed in organised accommodation, while thousands of people camp freely without food and are dependent on help of all kinds. Yavuz Binbay and his team - some full-time staff and many volunteers - are doing incredible things in their centre in view of this situation. They have a school project for children and young people from the poor areas who cannot pay school fees for the state schools. They offer language courses "Turkish for refugees" so that they can find their way around the country. They do trauma work for people who have experienced violence (state or family violence or civil war). It is supplemented by medical help (free consultations and medication) and legal help (by a voluntary lawyer). Finally, a team of an employed caregiver with volunteers offers social help with family problems, job search, free meals and running a second-hand shop.

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