'Give me my son or I will burn this place down!': A Kurdish Mother’s Fight against the PKK

Now, Kurdish mothers whose children were abducted by the PKK are encouraging each other to take their children back, and are asking the HDP, the political arm of the PKK, instead of cursing the PKK at home.

Give me my son or I will burn this place
In Diyarbakır, non-governmental organizations supported Hacire Akar, who started a sit-in protest by claiming that her 21-year-old son had been kidnapped by HDP members. August 23, 2019, AA

49-year-old Hacire Akar, a mother of eight children from Diyarbakır province, was one day called by PKK militants. They told her that her son was killed and she should take his body. According to Akar, her son Fırat was abducted by the terror group in 2004, when he was only 14.

The PKK, on the other hand, claim that he joined the group of his own volition, just like all the other children recruited by the PKK as if it made any sense speaking of a 14-year-old’s choice. She was also informed about the death of another son two years ago, when he was 27 years old. Then, her nephew joined the terror group and was killed afterwards.

Last week, Akar sat in front of the HDP Diyarbakır Provincial Office, and cried: “Give me my son! Or I will burn this place down and suffer all consequences!” She asked: “Why have you taken three people from one household? Why have you wasted those three? They took my children, and then called me to take their dead bodies.”

Akar staged a sit-in protest in front of the HDP office on the grounds that her 21-year-old son Mehmet Akar was abducted only a few days before his wedding. Obviously, the terror group was disturbed by the outcry of a Kurdish mother in Diyarbakır and the public reaction in support of her.

Upon this, a pro-PKK media outlet Mesopotamia Agency contacted Mehmet Akar, who was previously unreachable. A video of Mehmet Akar speaking was then broadcasted, although it was obvious from the tone of his speech that he memorized the text by force. In the video he says that the claims of his abduction were not true and that he fled his house because he did not want to marry. “It has nothing to do with the HDP. It is wrong for my family to stand there. I’ve already told them that I wrote them off from my life. They should not blame anyone, because I left home by my own will,” he says in the video.

It is not known whether Fırat Akar was abducted by the PKK or joined the group of his own volition, but everyone, including his mother, was certain that he was with the PKK. The video shared by the Mesopotamia Agency also verified this. Akar continued her protest in front of the HDP Diyarbakır office: “They take the youth in and send them to the mountains by numbing them with drugs. The HDP is the centerpiece of this oppression. I am tearing my heart here at this evening hour while everyone else is at their homes. Why am I here?”

“They take the youth in and send them to the mountains by numbing them with drugs. The HDP is the centerpiece of this oppression. I am tearing my heart here at this evening hour while everyone else is at their homes. Why am I here?”

The reverberations of the protest grew and finally made it to the headlines of all national TV channels and newspapers. Hacire Akar continued to shed light on the issue by giving an example from her own life. Addressing the HDP politicians, especially female HDP members, she said: “Why is no one siding with me? They are saying ‘we’re all mothers, and we suffer a lot.’ But they are lying. I see hypocrisy. Their children can freely go on with their lives. But I’m here, and my son is no longer with me. Why would my son kill innocent people?”

It is really curious that not a single HDP politician showed any effort to comfort Akar. The same politicians who always speak using the slogan: “Mothers’ tears should stop”.  Are they not informed about the children and youth manipulated by the PKK?

The answers could be found in a book entitled Bizim Gizli Bir Hikâyemiz Var (We Have A Secret Story) written by Berivan Bingöl, a doctor from Bingöl province, and published by İletişim Publications in 2016. The book compiles the stories of 20 women who left the PKK. The sub-heading of the book is “Women from Mountains to Motherhood”. The book is briefly described as a work of memory and confrontation. A graduate from Ankara Gazi University School of Medicine, Bingöl has worked on rights violations in many non-governmental organizations including the Turkish Medical Association, Foundation for Society and Legal Studies and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. I would like to quote some accounts of the women from the book:

Rojda: “I still see in my dreams that I am in a clash on the mountain. My children are also with me in my dreams, I try to protect them, hide them… The fear of losing them is ingrained in my soul. I find myself soaking wet with sweat when I wake up.”

Sorxwîn: “Some say that we should move to Turkey. But how could we? Imagine that my child starts going to school in Turkey and meets the child of a killed military officer. How can I ensure my child’s safety? I am here for ten years now (in Duhok), and none of my neighbors know that I was on the mountains back then.”

Zınarîn: “My daughter always brags about me, saying that ‘my mom is a Kurdish police’. But when she finds out that I have been in the middle of a real war, she will probably ask whether I have killed anyone. So many people are asking me this question, and I don’t even know how to answer. You can never be sure about which reality you will stick to. I wish some facts could be told open-heartedly in this world so that we could get them off our chest, I wish everything could come to light. I don’t believe in any religion and I tell my friends that if only there was a judgment day, so that I could confront everyone.”

Hebûn: “I often dream that I am in a battlefield with my child, who is in my hands in the midst of all the chaos and fighting. I am very afraid that something might happen to him, and I ask myself in the dream how I have ended up there again.”

Serdil: “I spent thirteen years on the mountain. Now I am even scared of the mention of wars although it is ironic to look at it like an anti-militarist organization member who has never experienced a war. I used to be in the field, looking to kill, and I am shocked at the thought of that today. I think every creature deserves to live their own life. This is my current standpoint.”

Rojda: “I talk to my therapist about how many attacks I joined. But I am always trying to look out for my kids in my dreams, I am always trying to save them. I talk about those dreams to my therapist, asking for her advice. She smiles and says: ‘There is nothing to do. You cannot easily get rid of this mental state.’”

What are the difference between these teenagers and the teenagers joining Daesh? The PKK does not abstain from organizing horrendous terror attacks, using suicide bombers, smuggling arms and drugs, engaging in intra-organizational killing, and all kinds of torture.

According to the accounts of the 20 women interviewed for the book, almost all of them went to the mountains when they were very young. The one leaving her home at the youngest age was 13. Most of them began this path with great excitement but ended up with resentment. They think that their choices might have been different had they felt the way they feel today. They could sympathize with their mothers and truly understand their pain only after they became mothers themselves. Now they filled with the anxiety with the fear that their children might also want to follow a similar path in the future. One of the women even says that she will never let her child be away from her, let alone go up to the mountains.

They have also understood the pain of other mothers throughout this process. One of them says: “While we were in the organization, we would approach people very rudely without understanding them. We were forgetting that they also had mothers. We destroyed the dreams of mothers while we were chasing our own dreams. Unfortunately, some dreams end at the point where other dreams start. We went up to the mountains by killing those left behind.”

These are the accounts of former PKK militants. But what about the ones in politics? Hacire Akar rightfully protested that no women from the HDP sided with her, and ended up breaking some windows of the party building in rage. No HDP deputy or mayor has children actively fighting for the PKK on the mountains although they have other relatives there. They know about the stories of all the women who started a new life after leaving the organization. They also know what it means to join the PKK. They do not have the courage to face Hacire Akar but they attend the funerals of young PKK militants in the name of politics. They glorify those dying or killing for the organization even if they are only 14 or 15 year olds or suicide bombers. This is exactly how ideologies work; they make people blind, conceited and egoistic. They make people mere spectators to the pain of others.

What are the difference between these teenagers and the teenagers joining Daesh? What makes the PKK different from other terror groups? As is already known, the PKK does not abstain from organizing horrendous terror attacks, using suicide bombers, smuggling arms and drugs, engaging in intra-organizational killing, and all kinds of torture. What is their difference from other terror groups if they are sending suicide bombers to the busiest streets in Ankara and Istanbul? There isn’t any.

Hacire Akar’s fight finally yielded results. Mehmet Akar returned to his mother. But what about all the soldiers who lost their lives while fighting against the PKK? And their mothers, wives, and children? The following is an account of another woman interviewed for the book:

“We were in Çirav region of Gabar in 1994. (…) Zana was moaning, losing blood. Rengîn said that there was a voice down there, and it could be one of our friends. We walked down the path to find out the source of the voice, and saw a wounded soldier covered in blood. He leaned against a rock, and blood was pouring down his throat. When Rengîn hollered at him, he opened his eyes and gulped when he saw us. I think he regretted seeing us, two female ‘terrorists’. I approached him and asked: ‘How are you?’. His condition was serious, he could hardly breathe. Rengîn doused a napkin and wiped his face. It was obvious that he was a hopeless case. The soldier pointed to his pocket with his hand. There was a letter and a photo in his pocket, the photo of a little blond girl in a blue dress, who was around three or four. “Esmanur” was written in the back of the photo. I asked if she was his daughter, and he nodded, smiling vaguely. When I held the letter, he waited a little and then said ‘Read’, a word written in all ancient documents. On that day, this word was uttered in the unnamed rocky areas of Çirav, for the people of two different worlds. I began reading the letter, it was written by his wife, who penned her longing, worries and good wishes. His head fell before I finished reading…”

Hacire Akar’s struggle to take back her son encouraged other mothers too. Fevziye Çetinkaya, a mother who claims her son was abducted and taken to the mountains by the PKK, is following her example. Like Akar, Çetinkaya launched a sit-in protest in front of the HDP Diyarbakır Provincial Office. Now, Kurdish mothers whose children were abducted by the PKK are encouraging each other to take their children back, and are asking the HDP, the civilian wing of the PKK, instead of cursing the PKK at home.

Belkıs Kılıçkaya
Kılıçkaya worked as a journalist for Cumhuriyet and Milliyet newspapers. In 1992 she moved to Paris and completed her studies in International Relations. After returning to Turkey in 2009, Kılıçkaya started working for Habertürk. In 2016, she formed a three-part documentary on DAESH.