One hundred days have passed since Kurdish families started a sit-in protest in front of the pro-PKK Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) headquarters in southeastern Diyarbakır province with the aim of saving their children, abducted by the PKK, from the clutches of the terrorist group.
Despite the ongoing indifference of the terrorist group to the protests, the families continue to hold onto hope while calling on the international community to see the true fact of the PKK and support their cause.
“We have never lost hope,” said Süleyman Aydın, a father who has been participating in the protest in hopes of seeing the return of his 19-year-old son Özkan, who was kidnapped by the terrorist group four years ago. Aydın underlined that although it has been 100 days, the HDP maintains its silence. He said that he has no clue regarding the whereabouts of his son.
“My son was tricked in (Diyarbakır’s) Sur district and brought to the HDP headquarters. From this point, they (the terrorists) sent my son to the mountains. It’s been almost four years since I’ve received any information from my son. We have no idea if he is dead or alive,” the father said.
Aydın’s inspiration to join the protests was Hacire Akar, a mother who launched the initial protest and became the first one to see the results of her protest when her son returned home.
Hacire Akar had turned up at the doorstep of the HDP's Diyarbakır office one night. A week later, on Sept. 3, 2019, families inspired by Akar transformed her solo stance into a collective sit-in protest. Akar's son Mehmet returned home on Aug. 24, showing people that there is still hope.
The sit-in protests are seen as a reaction against the outlawed PKK, a terror group that has abducted and recruited their children, as well as the HDP, a political party which many of these families view in league with the PKK.
Since the beginning of their protest, the mothers have received support from all around the country with almost all segments of society expressing solidarity with their cause. Currently, a total of 57 families are participating in the protests.
Erdoğan praises the mothers
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan congratulated the families on Wednesday for their strong stance.
“The stance of the mothers who are keeping guard in Diyarbakır to save their children have defeated the bloody terrorists,” the president said.
Aydın also underlined that the PKK does not represent the Kurds but is instead using them. “We are determined to not to end the protests. We want our children. I call on all of Europe. If the PKK was to represent the Kurds truly, it would not take 14- and 15-year-old children forcibly and take them to the mountains,” Aydın said.
Addressing Europe, Aydın said that as long as they continue to back the PKK, their misery will continue.
Turkey has long criticized European authorities for tolerating PKK activities in their countries and has pressured them to take stricter measures against the propaganda, recruitment and fundraising activities of the group.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years and has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children.
Despite its status as a designated international terrorist organization, the PKK has enjoyed relative freedom in European cities and has a particularly strong presence in Germany.
Europe manipulated by PKK
According to the Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who spoke on the issue on Wednesday, one of the main reasons why Europe has been defending the PKK for years is the claims of women's liberation, which is nothing more than a manipulation tactic of the terrorist group. Stating that the PKK claims to liberate women by taking them to the mountains and turning them into terrorists, Soylu said that this protest of the Kurdish families is the greatest response to such manipulations of the terrorist group.
“For 100 days, a great lesson has been given to the ones who brought women to the mountains, armed them and urged them to fight against their own country and people,” Soylu underlined, adding that terrorist groups have been harassing and abusing women and children for years.
“(Europe) assumed that they have a common value (with the PKK) in secularization (regarding women’s liberalization.) The PKK terrorist group haunted Europe with this harassment for years and still continues to do so,” the interior minister stated.
The PKK's use of child soldiers in its ranks has repeatedly been documented and criticized by international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The groups reportedly trick families into giving up their children or kidnap them and take them to training camps, where they are denied contact with their families.
PKK kills Kurdish youth
Another grieving Kurdish mother, Aysegül Biçer, emphasized the fact that many of the Kurdish youth are being killed due to the PKK and its terrorist actions.
"Many of our youth are now lying in graves, half of them are in the mountains, half in prisons. We do not accept it," she told Anadolu Agency.
Biçer's son left home on the morning of Nov. 17, 2018, and she never heard from him again. On Nov. 19, 2018, they received a phone call informing them that the child was recruited by YPG terrorists and taken to the mountains.
The family has no intention of giving up on their child, and both mother and father have a strong belief that sooner or later their son will return.
"We will eventually be reunited as a family and live in peace as we used to," said Rauf Biçer, the father of the child.
Both the mother and father of the child said they are not afraid of any threats that they have been receiving.
"We are constantly being threatened by the youth branches of the HDP. On the fifth or sixth day of the protest, three men came to our door with guns ... they ambushed us at front of the door. The masked men said if you continue protesting, we will kill you here and we will kill your son on the mountain," said the mother.
The father of the child said: "I work in construction and I have a good reputation. Earning money is not a problem for me, I could even work as a shoe shiner or a sanitation worker and take care of my family financially. I have no arrogance; all I want is the return of my child. I could do anything for him, for my family."
The HDP is accused by the government of having links to the PKK, and accused by the protesting mothers of kidnapping or tricking their children to join the terror group. The HDP, long facing public reaction and judicial probes over its ties to the PKK, is under pressure due to this growing civilian protest movement. Various groups from around Turkey have supported the Kurdish mothers in their cause, with many paying visits to show their support.
The party is also known for encouraging young people to join the terrorist organization. That is to say, children abducted by the PKK are first radicalized by the HDP. The would-be recruits are then used as an instrument for propaganda and are forced to work.
"I pray for other families (as well). I pray and I want them to have their children in their arms as soon as possible. Because I'm well aware that there is no selfishness in the heart of any mother. We all know what the pain is like and how it's tearing us apart day by day. I'm also fighting for others," the mother said.
"The families of martyrs and veterans came here to support us and said ‘your pain is our pain. At least we have a grave to be consoled. Your pain is much bigger than we have.' We are so honored with this brotherhood. We were very touched. This is the greatest proof that we are one and united," the father said.
Recently, the Interior Ministry launched a new initiative to urge abducted children to surrender to security forces. Families are involved in the process, informing security forces about their children while calling on the children to surrender. The initiative also ensures that the children, as long as they do not commit any crimes in Turkey, will not be charged and be able to continue their lives once they testify. So far, 214 children have been saved from the PKK with this new initiative.
Soylu stated that they do not only have efforts to convince the terrorists to surrender but also many other approaches to save these people.
“We are scattering letters, brochures in the mountains. We are scattering letters from the mothers. We are reminding them how special it would be to spend the holidays with their families, in accordance with the tradition of every region,” Soylu said, adding that they are happy to see the positive outcomes of these efforts. He further expressed that all these approaches are scientifically approved.