PKK ‘abductions’ heat up Kurdish bid debate

PKK ‘abductions’ heat up Kurdish bid debate

PKK ‘abductions’ heat up Kurdish bid debate

A group of families make a press statement in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır for their children kidnapped by the PKK on May 27. AA photo

Parliament’s pro-Kurdish bloc has moved to work for the release of children who joined the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) following threats of an operation by the prime minister, increasing the pressure on Turkey’s slow-moving peace process.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş held a meeting yesterday with the families of children who were “abducted” by the PKK, eight days after the families began a sit-in protest in front of Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality. The number of families had risen to 16 as of May 28.

“Demirtaş told us he would speak with Kandil [the mountain range in northern Iraq where the PKK has its military headquarters],” said Mahfuze Eren, in a statement on behalf of the missing children’s mothers following their meeting with the BDP co-chair.

In Ankara, speaking at a press conference at the Parliament, Kemal Aktaş, a lawmaker for the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), the BDP’s sister party, said they had been closely involved in looking for a resolution to the issue.

“At the moment, BDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş is holding talks with the families; the families have not been abandoned,” Aktaş said.

In response to repeated questions on the issue, Demirtaş said the children went to the mountains of their own will. “Going to the mountains,” is a phrase used in Turkey to refer to those who join the PKK’s armed fight in mountainous areas.

Demirtaş’s action comes amid growing public pressure which has also been fuelled by a call from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 27.

“Hey BDP, HDP, where are you?” Erdoğan said, addressing a parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). “Well, sometimes you go [to Kandil], make agreements, take news and bring it back. Go and get these children, too. You know their addresses very well. You know where everything is extremely well. You will go, take [the children] and come back. If you don’t, we will operate using our plan B and plan C,” Erdoğan said May 27.

Operation ruled out

Holding a rally in the eastern Anatolian province of Ağrı, in which local elections will be rerun on June 1, Erdoğan touched upon the issue again.

BDP and HDP politicians can bring back those who have been “kidnapped” by the PKK because of their collaboration with the group, Erdoğan said.

“I believe that you will not allow the sabotage of this beautiful process, this process of serenity and security,” Erdoğan said, referring to the long-stalled government-led initiative to solve the long-running issue by ending the three-decade-old conflict, dubbed the “peace process.”

Erdoğan said the Kurdish opposition parties had been torpedoing the peace process by remaining silent in the face of the issue of the children.

In the capital city, a senior executive of the AKP told daily Hürriyet that the state bodies would not stand idly by in the case.  

“An operation is not desirable in this case,” the same executive, however, added, referring to Erdoğan’s remarks on alternative plans. “Since there are children under the full legal age, they may also get harmed due to such an operation. That’s why, in order not to reach that point, every means including diplomacy will be used for the resolution of the issue,” he said.

Meanwhile, the armed wing of the PKK, the People’s Defense Forces (HPG), refuted charges that it “abducted” children, maintaining that it complies with international conventions regarding the age of those joining their ranks.

“First and foremost we stress that everyone who joins the guerrilla ranks of the PKK does so on a voluntary basis. It is not possible for us to keep anyone in our ranks who does not want to be there, and no one has been abducted against their will. There is also an age limit,” the HPG was quoted as saying yesterday in a statement by the Fırat News Agency, which is ideologically close to the PKK. The HPG also noted that Turkey is not a safe country for children.