Silhan Özçelik, on Trial in London, Accused of Wanting to Fight Islamic State.
Silhan Özçelik, Accused of Wanting to Fight Daesh.
Teenage girl ‘had dreamed of joining PKK since age of 13.
Reports the Guardian today
A British teenager dreamed for almost five years of joining the PKK, a proscribed terrorist organisation, after being inspired aged 13 by a film about a leading Kurdish female guerrilla fighter, a court has heard.
Silhan Özçelik left her north London home, leaving behind a video and letters for her distraught family explaining: “As you read this letter at this moment I will have joined the PKK ranks,” a jury at the Old Bailey was told.
In two letters and a video, Özçelik, then 17, explained she had first been motivated by a film about “comrade Beritan”, and had made a promise on the grave of another female guerrilla, “comrade Ronahi”.
Özçelik, now 18, took a train to Brussels on 27 October last year, explaining in the 25-minute video that she could not stand by and do nothing while Islamic State fighters occupied the largely Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria.
“Right now Kobani is under occupation,” she said in Turkish on the video, a translation of which was read to the court. “Our honour is being crushed there. But no men are setting out to go.”
Isis was “behaving like barbarians”, and raping women, she said. “Our race is dying. I can’t be expected to stay quietly here.”
The court heard she said she was prepared to go wherever the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ party, sent her, including Kobani. “I thirst for the guerilla like a flower in the desert,” she wrote in one letter. She said touching the PKK flag “brings a torrent of love”, and she was “in love with this cause for eternity”.
She wrote: “When I hear the name PKK my heart feels it’s going to burst. Nothing can stop this love.”
Özçelik, who was born in London and is of Kurdish descent, denies one charge of engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorist acts contrary to the Terrorism Act 2006.
She was arrested after flying into Stansted airport from Cologne in Germany on 16 January, and told officers: “That will teach me to run away from home,” and “I feel like I’m in a movie,” the court heard. She told them she had needed space from her family and an ex-boyfriend and had met with another boyfriend in Belgium.
This is incredibly moving.
The jury heard in one letter she wrote she had “started to dream about being a guerilla” when she was 13, and had wanted to join the PKK aged 15. At 16, she had told a “friend high ranking in the organisation”, but was “not taken because of my age”. She wrote she was rejected again at 17, on the grounds it was an emotional decision, the court was told.
In the video, she said she “took soil” from the grave of “comrade Ronahi”. “I made my promise at comrade Ronahi’s graveside. All that is left to do is complete it”.
Asking her family to be proud of her, she said: “I cannot be a revolutionary by holding placards for two days.”
She spoke of the way women were exploited, and treated like slaves, said the prosecution. She wanted to be “married to the mountains,” she wrote. “You are giving your only Silhan as a bride to the mountains,” she wrote to her three older siblings, the court heard.
More in the Islington Gazette.