By Yildiz Aktas
ANKARA (AA) - The terrorist groups Daesh and the PKK are just the same, as both exploit children to carry out their attacks, said a leading Turkish lawmaker on Friday.
During Turkey’s current Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria, among the PYD/PKK terrorists found dead have been minors, Fatma Benli, the deputy chair of parliament's Human Rights Committee and a Justice and Development (AK) Party MP from Istanbul, told Anadolu Agency.
Benli stressed that these children did not voluntarily join the terrorist group but were abducted from their families.
"There is no difference between Daesh, which is using children as suicide bombers, and the PKK, which is carrying out terrorist attacks against Turkey with armed children," said Benli.
The PKK -- recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey -- has taken some 40,000 lives during its 30-year terrorist campaign. The PYD/PKK is its Syrian terrorist branch, as well as one target of Operation Olive Branch, just across Turkey’s border in northwestern Syria.
Benli added that Turkey is fighting terrorism to secure not only its borders but also its neighbors’.
"Turkey, as a NATO member country, is also defending NATO's southern borders," said Benli.
Benli said that Turkey is trying to help more 3.5 million Syrians now taking shelter in Turkey return to their Syrian homes in peace and security.
"With the [Afrin] operation, the people from that region who found shelter in Turkey since the beginning of the civil war in the country will safely return to their homes," she said.
- Secure region
Turkey hosts more refuges than any country in the world, including some 3.4 million Syrian refugees, according to the UN. It has spent $30 billion on the Syrian refugee crisis since 2011.
Benli said more than 100,000 Syrians returned to their homes after Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield ended last March.
"After Operation Euphrates Shield, the region became secure, and more than 100,000 Syrians returned to their homes. After the [current] operation, the Syrians will also return to their homes," said Benli.
Operation Euphrates Shield began in August 2016 and ended in late March 2017 to improve security, support coalition forces, and eliminate the terror threat along the Turkish border.
Under the operation, approximately 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) of territory was freed from terrorists and transformed into a safe zone for residents.
"Saving Afrin from terrorists will be salvation for both the Syrians that return to their homes and the children used by PKK/PYD."
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.