CIZRE, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish troops are hunting down Kurdish guerrillas across the border in Iraq, but in southeast Turkey young rappers are keeping alive the spirit of rebellion by reaching for the microphone rather than the gun.
MC Hayalet (Ghost) and MC Cizik (Scratch), raised in a region scarred by a Kurdish separatist insurgency in which 40,000 people have been killed, use rap to voice their defiance of the trials and tribulations they face.
Politics, say the two youths, both Kurds, does not interest them. Their tales are of lost love, similar to those of teenagers across the world.
Kurdish militants fighting for self-rule in southeast Turkey have set up bases in northern Iraq, where Turkish troops are attacking them.
Young people in Cizre, rejecting such violence, have turned to the Internet as a gateway to a more exciting world and an escape from the pressures of school, family and work.
“We want the world to hear our voice with these raps. That is our aim in the difficult conditions in which we live in this region,” said Sukru Tosun, 18, the third member of the group known as DJ Ciyan.
After failing his school exams, Tosun started working in an Internet cafe in the backstreets of Cizre, an impoverished town on the banks of the Tigris, where he raps with friends in the evening.
Pulling down the shutters on the cafe while small children gather outside, they give an impromptu performance of the raps they sing in Turkish and post on the YouTube Web site.
“If only I had never seen you, never loved you,
Now you’ve gone and finished our love,
Now I’m left here with your last words on my tongue,” the spiky-haired youths lament in one song.
Omer Neymen, 18, who uses the alias MC Hayalet, hopes to read law at university but has discovered rap music as an outlet for his energies in a town where there are few opportunities for young people.
“Through rap music we express our feelings and our rebellion against life, but it is hard doing this music in Cizre because nobody is interested in it,” he said.
There is no mention in their lyrics of the conflict which has plagued the region since the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) took up arms against the state in 1984.
The group’s attention is focused on the lack of things to do in Cizre, a town suffering from chronic unemployment fuelled by forced migration from surrounding villages.
“Life is hard in Cizre and there aren’t many work or leisure opportunities but I really love Cizre because it is my home,” said Tosun.
Small, basic Internet cafes have sprung up across the town, where many youths spend their days exploring the Web, chatting with others across Turkey and dreaming of leaving home.
“I want to get away from here. I want to escape, whether it is abroad or to another place (in Turkey),” said unemployed Ismail Vesek, 22. “Youths here have nothing to do. I don’t see my family as much as I see the Internet cafe,” he said.
The conflict and hardship have triggered the migration of hundreds of thousands of people within the region, to western Turkey or still further afield.
Over the last decade a sense of normality has descended on Cizre and other towns in the region, despite sporadic violence and a large military presence.
At the same time, technology has given young people the chance to express their feelings, like those expressed by the rappers in Cizre:
“I can’t express how it feels to be without you,
I’ve never smiled since then,
The daytimes have become dark as night,
In this rap my rebellion is all against you.”
Editing by Tim Pearce