BITLIS / MUS, Turkey
Families in eastern Turkey whose children were kidnapped by the PKK terror group are marking another Eid al-Fitr on Thursday apart from their children.
The families have been protesting since Sept. 3, 2019, in southeastern Diyarbakir province, and encouraging their children to give up their weapons and surrender to authorities.
They hold the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) responsible for kidnapping their children and mothers have also been staging sit-ins in various provinces, including eastern Van and Mus. The government accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK.
Three families in Bitlis and Mus provinces told Anadolu Agency that they took part in the sit-ins to make their voices heard.
Veciye Gokkus said her son, who was selling bagels in the marketplace, was deceived six years ago and taken to the mountain and since then she has not received any information about him.
“We searched for my son a lot but could not reach him,” she said. “Whether my son comes back or not, we will continue the protest. We are all like a family in the tent in Diyarbakir.”
She said when a child surrenders, all mothers and families feel as if it is their child who surrendered.
“I constantly cry, my eyes have no sleep. My son, surrender when you find means to do so. Don’t believe what they say to scare you,” said Gokkus.
“May Allah help and make our state, president, interior minister and security forces even stronger,” she added.
Ekrem Gokkus, the boy’s father, also voiced sadness for not being able to celebrate the holiday that begins Thursday with his son for six years.
“While everyone is experiencing the joy of the holiday, we are upset. They took my son seven days before the holiday. Parents like me know this pain,” he said.
HDP hurt everyone
Semsettin Ozcan from Mus province, who joined sit-ins with Diyarbakır mothers, said her son, Atilla, was deceived and taken to the mountain in 2016.
She encouraged him to surrender.
“HDP took my son and handed him over to the PKK,” she said. “The HDP has nothing to do with Kurdish people. We are also Kurds. They took the children of the Kurds. These are the enemies of Kurdish people. HDP hurt everyone.”
She also encouraged mothers whose children were kidnapped to join the protest campaign.
“Fear Allah, why are you afraid of HDP? I am not afraid, I will continue until the end,” she said, adding that her son was kidnapped twice – the first time he stayed on the mountain for 45 days and surrendered.
‘Life has been a poison’
Gilbahar Teker, mother of Mehmet Emin, who was kidnapped in 2014 and taken to the mountains, said she joined the protest in Diyarbakir and continues to demonstrate from Mus.
Teker said that “life has been a poison” for her family since the day her son was kidnapped and that they have heard nothing from Mehmet for two years.
She thanked the government for “opening a door” for them to call on their children to surrender.
“My son, do not be afraid, just as I am not — come and surrender,” she said. “If you love me, you will come before I die.”
More than 230 families, whose children were forcibly recruited, deceived or abducted by the PKK, have participated in sit-in protests for more than 600 days.
Twenty-five children have responded to their families’ call and escaped the terror group.
In Turkey, offenders linked to terror groups who surrender are eligible for possible sentence reductions under a repentance law, including relatives of the protesting families.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara