Turkish PM calls on HDP to free children abducted by PKK

Turkish PM calls on HDP to free children abducted by PKK

Turkish PM calls on HDP to free children abducted by PKK

A group of families stage protest in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır for their children kidnapped by the outlawed PKK. DHA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has delivered an ultimatum-like statement to the pro-Kurdish party represented at Parliament, saying it should work for the release of a group of children abducted by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the government will take its own action for their release.

“I whole-heartedly greet those mothers and fathers who are now demonstrating in front of the Diyarbakır Municipality for their children who have been kidnapped in the mountains,” Erdoğan said on May 27, addressing a parliamentary meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

He was referring to a group of families who on May 20 began a sit-in protest in the mostly Kurdish-populated southeastern province of Diyarbakır, expressing their anger at the PKK, which allegedly kidnapped their children.

“Going to the mountains,” is a phrase used in Turkey to refer to those who join the PKK’s armed fight in mountainous areas. The outlawed group’s headquarters and military camps have been based in the Kandil Mountains, located along the Iranian border of Iraq, for nearly 20 years.

“Hey BDP, HDP, where are you?” Erdoğan said, calling out to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), two sister-parties both represented at Parliament and sharing the same grassroots as the PKK.

“Well, sometimes you go, agree, take and bring back. Go and get the children of these mothers too,” he added, apparently referring to the mediation of Kurdish politicians in the past for release of soldiers and bureaucrats kidnapped by the PKK.

“You know their addresses very well. You know where everything is extremely well. You will go, take and come back. If you don’t, then we will operate our B plan and C plan,” the prime minister said.
After finishing his speech, Erdoğan was asked by reporters what he meant by “B plan and C plan,” to which he simply responded that “people would see when it is done.”

In last few weeks, protests against the building of new outposts in the predominantly Kurdish-populated southeast, as well as the alleged kidnapping of children by the PKK, have dominated reports from the region.

Delivering a speech at a parliamentary group meeting of her party only about an hour after Erdoğan, HDP co-chair Sebahat Tuncel said the government’s insistence on building new outposts did not match with the idea of expanding the democratic political zone.

“The prime minister says: ‘Families are staging a sit-in in Diyarbakir. HDP [deputies] will go and take those children too.’ Mr. Prime Minister, didn’t you promise that ‘Peace will come and there will be no more war’? The Kurdish people are waiting for those children, so that they shall come back from the mountains and join in democratic politics. What will you do now? Is the issue solely an issue for the BDP and the HDP?” Tuncel said.

“We want all people to join in democratic politics and for all prisons to be emptied. We don’t want people to go the mountains; we want those in the mountains to come back so that they can do politics here. But you don’t take any steps,” she added, referring to the apparent stagnation in the government-led initiative to solve the long-running Kurdish issue by ending the three-decade-old conflict between security forces and the PKK, dubbed as the “resolution” or “peace process.”

Some of the families demonstrating in front of the Diyarbakır Municipality have said their children were on a picnic on April 23, the National Sovereignty and Children’s Day - a national day during which all schools around the country are closed - in Diyarbakır’s Lice town, when they were “deceived and taken to the mountains.”

HDP Diyarbakır deputy Altan Tan, speaking to the Doğan News Agency (DHA) on May 26, underlined that regardless of whether they were kidnapped or not, if children under the full legal age joined the PKK, it is the PKK’s responsibility to hand them over to their families.

Tan also stressed that he had no knowledge of whether the PKK really did kidnap the children.

“However, if 15-16-17 year-old children who are not at the full legal age went to the mountains either this or that way as it has been alleged, it falls on the shoulders of the PKK to turn them back to their families, or not let those [children] who come [to join them] this way,” he added.