A father whose daughter was abducted by the PKK terror group four years ago when she was 17, joined the Kurdish families protesting the PKK, demanding their children back.
“My child was abducted by the HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party]. I sent my child to school, they kidnapped [her],” Yasin Kaya said, adding he could not find his daughter when he went to the school to ask for her.
With tears in their eyes and hearts full of hope, dozens of Kurdish families have been staging a sit-in protest in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakır for 43 days, demanding the return of their children who they claim were forcibly recruited for the PKK terror group.
On Aug. 22, Kurdish mother Hacire Akar staged a protest near the pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) office in Diyarbakır, claiming that her 21-year-old son was taken to the mountains by the PKK after being brainwashed by party members.
Her son returned home four days after she started her protest, giving hope to a number of mothers who have suffered similar situations regarding their children.
On Sept. 3, another mother, Fevziye Çetinkaya, started a protest saying that her son was forcibly recruited by the PKK, she was immediately joined by other mothers. Since then, the number of families in front of the HDP building has been growing.The families, who come from different provinces, say their children were either kidnapped or deceived into going to the nearby mountains to join the PKK.
"We just want our children back," said Süleyman Aydın, 39, who was a taxi driver in Diyarbakir before getting fired from his job because he attended the protest, he claims.
Like other families, Aydın is looking for his son Özkan Aydın, 19, who disappeared four years ago.
"My son was 15 years old. He was a sixth grade student. He worked at a barber shop after school," he said.
He believed his son was deceived and said: "My son's dream was to become a policeman or a soldier."
When asked about why he was sitting in front of the HDP's office, he said: "There are records showing my son entering this building. Where else should I go?"
In testimony to law enforcement, four confessed terrorists gave vivid details of links between the terrorist PKK and the HDP, a party long accused by Turkish authorities of having links to terrorism, according to security sources on Sept. 29.
Seeing daughter on PKK-affiliated channel
Türkan Mutlu, 43, mother of Ceylan Tekin, came all the way from Turkey's northwestern province of Bursa, in the hope of finding her daughter.
Her daughter Ceylan, 24, disappeared seven years ago when she was just 17, preparing to study sociology at Turkey's Balıkesir University.
"We had dreams. They destroyed our dreams," Türkan said.
Less than a year after Ceylan went missing Mutlu saw her daughter on a PKK-affiliated channel. "She was in Kobane [Ayn al-Arab], northern Syria," Türkan said.
Türkan believes a friend of Ceylan threatened her to go to the mountains. "She was brainwashed. They first take their minds then their bodies," she said.
Fatma Akkuş, 49, has been searching for her daughter for five years. "My daughter Songül was just 14 when she went missing. She was a calm and modest girl, working in the textile sector," she said with tears in her eyes.
Fatma said that she was holding Songül's last photograph, which was taken for her education registration. "She wanted to be a health care worker, to take care of me and her father," she added.
"She just left a note, saying, 'I'm going to freedom,' but her twin is sure that the handwriting doesn't belong to Songül," Fatma added.
PKK/YPG and child soldiers
The PKK terror group has long been documented and criticized by national and international organizations for recruiting children aged 11-16.
Yılmaz Aytekin, author of the book "They Were Just Children," said 20,000 children joined or were forced to join the PKK over the last 35 years.
Yılmaz was a former PKK member, who was jailed for 10 years, and later dedicated his life to draw attention to the PKK's child soldier recruitment.
"The mother's protest in Diyarbakır is one of the most important peaceful protests I've seen in the last 35 years," he told Anadolu Agency (AA).
The protest is an important step as it was impossible for mothers to raise their voice back in the 1990s, he said.
According to the U.N.'s Children and Armed Conflict report, the People's Protection Units (YPG), the PKK's Syrian offshoot, recruited 313 children in 2018, up from 224 in 2017. The report also unveiled that nearly 40% of children recruited by the YPG, were girls, 20 of them under 15. Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed the same year that the groups were still recruiting children for military training, despite pledges to stop using child soldiers.
"It's especially horrendous that the group is recruiting children from vulnerable families in displacement camps without their parents' knowledge or even telling them where their children are," said Priyanka Motapharty, acting emergencies director at HRW, in a statement in 2018.
The PKK has been waging a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, in which nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants, have been killed. It's recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
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