“Anyone involved in the PKK does so voluntarily,” said the statement. “It would be impossible for us to force someone to be here against their will.” Photo: Ramazan Moray
COPENHAGEN, Denmark—For weeks now a number of Kurdish parents have been gathering in front of the Diyarbakir municipality, demanding the return of their children whom they say were forcefully recruited by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
“No father would like to be separated from his child,” said Selami Eren, whose 15-year-old son, Firat, went missing in the suburbs of Diyarbakir last month. ”My son should not be in the mountains, but in school.”
“I ask the PKK to release my son,” Eren told Rudaw.
Eren is one of 20 parents who have staged sit-in protests in Diyarbakir, pleading with local authorities, Turkish officials and PKK leaders to explain the fate of their children and let them return to their families.
Eren claims that his son was attending an outdoor picnic organized by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and People's Democratic Party (HDP) with his friends when he disappeared.
He believes his son “was deceived and taken to the mountains” by PKK guerrillas.
For his part, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quick to speak for these parents, asking the PKK and pro-Kurdish parties to work for the release of the children.
“I whole-heartedly greet those mothers and fathers who are now demonstrating in front of the Diyarbakir Municipality for their children who have been kidnapped in the mountains,” the Turkish Hürriyet newspaper quoted Erdogan as saying.
“Hey BDP, HDP, where are you? Go and get the children of these mothers… You know their addresses very well,” said Erdogan.
The PKK however, dismissed the families’ accounts as propaganda, saying the Turkish state is using these families in its war against the PKK.
“The PKK will not use minors for war,” said the PKK in a statement published on Firatnews.
“Anyone involved in the PKK does so voluntarily,” said the statement. “It would be impossible for us to force someone to be here against their will.”
The PKK wrote that the group respects international laws with regard to the age of its members.
“In addition, we have an age limit in our group according to international conventions to which we adhere,” read the statement. “Those who do not comply with the age limit will be turned back.”
Ramazan Moray, a member of the Central Committee of the Rights and Freedom Party (HAK-PAR), known for its disagreement with the PKK, supports the case of the families of the missing youth.
“The children do not have the capacity to think about the consequences of their actions,” Moray told Rudaw. “They have been brainwashed to take to the mountains and do not know what they are doing. The PKK should according to international conventions send the children back to their families.”
Abdurrahim Ay, chairman of the Diyarbakir branch of Mazlum-Der, a Turkish Islamic association for human rights, says that 11 families have reported to him the disappearance of their children.
Ay told Rudaw that in most cases the youth have joined the PKK voluntarily.
“Out of the 11 cases, the four children are between 14 and 16 years,” he said. “We request the PKK to keep these young people away from armed struggle and send them back to their families.”
Altan Tan, a parliamentarian from HDP, believes that stories of “kidnappings” are mere allegations, and he hopes that the PKK wouldn’t allow people under age to join the group.
“Whether it is right or wrong, we do not know,” he said. “But if there are any minors in the mountains, below the age of 18, as is claimed, then PKK should of course send them back to their families and prevent new minors from coming and participating in the group.”