By Osman Bilgin, Ekrem Payan, and Faruk Kucuk
DIYARBAKIR/SIRNAK, Turkey (AA) - Families in Turkey whose children have been abducted or forcibly recruited by the PKK terrorist organization continued a sit-in protest on Thursday in the southeastern Diyarbakir province.
The families have been protesting for 703 straight days since Sept. 3, 2019, encouraging their children to give up their weapons and surrender to authorities.
Protests outside the office of the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in Diyarbakir started with three mothers who said their children were forcibly recruited by the terrorists. The Turkish government accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK terror group.
Demonstrations have since spread to other provinces, including Van, Mus, Sirnak, and Hakkari.
Ayten Elhaman wants to reunite with her son who was abducted four years ago.
“We want our children back from HDP and the PKK. I will not leave here until I get my child back. I look forward to the day when I will be reunited with my son,” said Elhaman, who encouraged her son to surrender.
A father, Abdullah Demir, said: “I want my son Fatih back from HDP. Bring my child back.”
Demir said he would not stop protesting until his son is returned and he urged his son to surrender to security forces.
- Families protesting in Sirnak province
Parents and siblings of abducted children, people who lost relatives to PKK’s terror attacks, and workers of non-governmental organizations also gathered at a protest camp outside the HDP office in the southeastern Sirnak province.
Emine Ustek said her son was kidnapped six years ago when he was just 15 years old.
She stressed that she will continue to protest despite the difficulties that the coronavirus pandemic has brought.
"My son was taken by the hands of HDP. My protest will go on until he comes back," she said.
The boy’s father Omer Ustek added: "I want my son to come back as soon as possible. When Diyarbakir parents reunited with their children, we have also become much more hopeful. Let us not make mothers cry anymore, and kill no one's child ever again."
Hamdiye Arslan said her son was taken to the mountain five years ago. She has ever since lived with the hope of getting her son back.
"We have hope. With the power of our state, we will also reunite with our children," she said and called on her son to surrender.
In Turkey, offenders linked to terrorist groups are eligible for possible sentence reductions under a repentance law, if they surrender.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of at least 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
* Writing by Zehra Nur Duz and Merve Berker in Ankara.