ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
The Hürriyet train project, which came to the end of its journey this week, provided many Anatolia children and parents with unique exposure to human and children's rights, but it is the passengers of the train who truly seem to have been transformed by the experience.
Starting July 1 in the northeastern city of Kars, 80 people journeyed by train through 43 provinces over 45 days, finishing Thursday in the far-western city of Edirne, in celebration of 60 years of Hürriyet newspaper and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The project was organized by Hürriyet newspaper and Turkish State Railways, or TCDD. Ani King Underwood also plans to shoot a documentary about the train with the theme �a rights train in Anatolia.�
�We reached more than 110,000 people directly with this project. We gave workshops on human rights and preventing domestic violence of over 2,500 women and children around Turkey,� said Evrim Sümer, a manager at Hürriyet corporate communications. The passengers, who came from Hürriyet, CNN-Türk news channel, Amnesty International Turkey, the Akbank Children's Theater, Konda survey company and Mimar Sinan University, call themselves the �train people� because the train became their home for 45 days during their 9,900-kilometer journey. �Most children had heard about human rights, but they did not know what that means. We made workshops in every terminal with children by playing games with them,� said Ela Asra Günad, the coordinator of the project at Amnesty International Turkey. Günad was also one of the people who traveled on the train. �Not only have children learned that they have rights, but also their families, watching the workshops in curiosity, heard about human and children's rights,� she said, noting that many in Anatolia were happy to have the opportunity to engage in community activities. For many children, this was also their first opportunity to see a theatrical production.
The Hürriyet train project, with the slogan �Hürriyet (freedom) is our right and the train is hürriyet,� will be back in the next years with themes of �right to access clean water� and �right to a clean environment.�
�We found a surprising crowd in each province, and we realized that national media do not pay enough attention to the problems and wishes of Anatolia,� said Emel Armutçu, another Hürriyet corporate communications manager, who is responsible for social projects. Armutçu expressed the hope that Hürriyet's visit to Anatolia might lead to a positive change in the attitude of the national media.
A train to leave behind prejudice
The residents of host provinces were not alone in being touched by the train's visit, which brought a children's theater, workshops and seminars on human rights to their cities. The �train people� were also impressed with what they found in the 43 provinces, from the east to west. �We have prejudices about the eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey, but all that changed for me after the Hürriyet train project,� said Ceyda Binyıldız, a master's student of photography at Mimar Sinan University. She is one of 24 photography students who traveled with the Hürriyet train and is now preparing a book with photographs of the train's visits. She said that she was warned by her friends to wear conservative clothing in eastern Turkey but found that �it was all our prejudices to believe in that. I was comfortable there wearing my everyday clothes and people were amazingly friendly. I realized that city life makes us isolated and nervous.�
The train people, impressed with the 43 provinces they visited, including Kars, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Sivas, Zonguldak, Edirne, claimed that people in each city welcomed them with open arms. �The visits and play were supposed to be the same in each terminal, but it was different as people were welcoming us with excitement in each station,� said Yasemin Karslı, also a master's student of photography at Mimar Sinan University. Karslı said that they slept on the train but that it was renovated for them in a comfortable way, noting also, �When people heard that we were sleeping on the train, they insistently invited us to their house; they were indeed sincere.�
Anatolia a promising land
�We observed that there is a huge potential in terms of people and resources in Anatolia that we should not underestimate,� said Temuçin Tüzecan, Hürriyet corporate communications director. Tüzecan said it was satisfying to note that many state officials were working to develop the region's cultural, social and economic status.