Political debate over children ‘abducted’ by PKK deepens

Political debate over children ‘abducted’ by PKK deepens

Political debate over children ‘abducted’ by PKK deepens

Two mothers hold photographs of their sons, who were allegedly kidnapped by the PKK, during a protest in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. DHA photo

The rift over children allegedly kidnapped by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) continues to grow as the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) turned down a call from the prime minister for the release of the children through contacts with the PKK.  

“If they won’t do this, if they are not enough courageous to do so, it’s better for them to say so,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said June 3 in his parliamentary group meeting. Erdoğan repeated that the government had a Plan B and Plan C on the issue but underlined that they wanted the HDP to resolve the problem.

“Otherwise we have other methods,” Erdoğan said without detailing what these methods could be.

The issue of “abducted” children came to the country’s agenda after more than a dozen families commenced a sit-in protest in front of the Diyarbakır Municipality and the government asked the HDP to take action on the issue.

When asked what plans the government had for the release of the children, all under 18, Erdoğan said: “Can we take a result if we disclose these plans? Our security forces are in close follow-up on the issue. This issue has multiple dimensions. We are in preparation.”

Noting that all steps could be taken, he said: “Motherhood has no politics. No mother should hesitate or be afraid. The peace is getting close if the mothers are also involved in this process. I salute once again these heroic mothers who continue their demonstrations in Diyarbakır,” Erdoğan said, criticizing the HDP mayor of Diyarbakır for allegedly trying to force the demonstrators to end the protests.

HDP turns down PM’s call

An hour after Erdoğan’s challenge, HDP co-leader Ertuğrul Kürkçü issued “an open call” to the government.

“Do you want children – who passed to the other side of the border, who believe that they have found a safe space there and who chose to go there – to rejoin with their families? The most important thing that you will do is attach importance to the peace process and eliminate inequalities and unlawfulness,” Kürkçü said in his address to his parliamentary group.

“There is no reason for a demand from us. We are neither the conscription office nor an institution tasked with finding missing children. Who can give assurances to these children about their future if they decided to return?” Kürkçü asked.

Responding to Erdoğan’s statement on the government’s alternative plans, Kürkçü said: “We know more or less about your Plan B. This is about obstructing the HDP’s activities in every corner of Turkey.”
The HDP’s co-leader vowed to continue their struggle for both peace and the liberation of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK.

Demirtaş: Families 'paid' to demonstrate

Selahattin Demirtaş, co-leader of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), meanwhile, said June 3 that the families protesting in Diyarbakır were being paid by the intelligence organization to do so and that the children had voluntarily joined the PKK.

“I openly say: We don’t advise any child to go to [Kandil] mountain [where the PKK has its headquarters]. We are doing politics and we are calling all children to engage in politics,” Demirtaş said, accusing Erdoğan of pushing children to join the PKK with his rhetoric against the youth.

The HDP and the BDP are sincerely working for the good sake of the process with the purpose of securing the permanent return of all youngsters on Kandil Mountain, said Demirtaş. “But the government should not make things ugly. I absolve some families who have their children in the mountains but the rest of the families who are in a sit-in protest there are receiving payments from the intelligence organization. They have no children in the mountains. Some children have been kidnapped by some drug gangs.”

Gov’t won’t permit sabotage

In his long address, Erdoğan acknowledged that there were some improvements with regard to the peace process but that did not mean they would tolerate the kidnapping of children, blocking roads or racketeering – developments that he claimed have recently occurred in Southeast Anatolia.

Erdoğan vowed that the government was still committed to pursuing the peace process, saying, “We will not allow anybody to sabotage this process.”

Öcalan’s recommendation

PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan reportedly recommended that children who joined the organization should rejoin their families if they want.

“Children should not definitely be armed,” Öcalan was quoted as telling a parliamentary delegation from the HDP on June 1, daily Hürriyet reported.

“Children should be kept away from zones of conflict and those who are willing to do so should be reunited with their families. If they do not want to stay in the mountains after their meetings with their families, then they should be given the opportunity of leaving the mountains,” Öcalan reportedly told the HDP’s two deputy group chairs, İdris Baluken and Pervin Buldan, and the HDP’s Istanbul deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder, who were on İmralı Island in order to visit Öcalan, who has been serving a life sentence in the island prison on the Marmara Sea since he was captured in 1999.

Although it released a written statement about the meeting later on June 1, the HDP did not include the messages in the statement. The HDP deputies, are, however, expected to directly convey the messages to the PKK leadership when they travel to Kandil Mountains.