DIYARBAKIR, Turkey

Once dreaming for her children to get a proper education and escape the poverty she had to deal with her entire life, Nihal Ciftci has for years committed herself to finding her long-lost son, Emirhan, after his abduction at just 14 years old by the PKK terror group.

Only weeks after starting his high-school education in southeastern Turkey, Ciftci says her son suddenly disappeared without a trace in 2012. Emirhan’s mother blames the PKK and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is accused of links to the terror group.

After nine years of searching, the tearful mother joined an anti-PKK sit-in protest in Diyarbakir province earlier this month with other families whose children have allegedly been abducted by the terrorist organization.

The protest began on Sept. 3, 2019, when three mothers said their children had been forcibly recruited by PKK terrorists. It is situated outside the provincial offices of the HDP and has been growing since then.

“[Emirhan] had just started high school. I sent him to the school one day and he didn’t return,” said Ciftci, underlining that her son had not been aligned with any political or ideological creed at the time of his alleged abduction. She has yet been unable to contact him.

“I joined [protest] 15 days ago. I’m here primarily to make it clear where I stand and make my voice heard to my son [abducted by PKK terror group]. If he’s alive, I want him to surrender to the [Turkish] state.”

“My fellow mothers and I aren’t daunted by the threats, and we won’t leave without our children.”

She continued: “A mother’s love is something else, nobody can understand. Those who haven’t suffered [loss of child] can’t know this […] I’ll never stop following him until I die. They’ll hand over him to me, dead or alive.”

Ciftci feared her worst nightmares had become reality when in 2018 a PKK-affiliated TV channel claimed her son had been killed. However, DNA tests later confirmed that the body was not Emirhan’s.

Though this was a source of relief for the mother, not knowing his son’s fate was also deeply distressing, a feeling that was “killing her every day.”

“If he’s alive, I want him to surrender to the [Turkish] state. Well, I don’t know who he is working for there, or for what purpose. These have nothing to do with being Kurdish and Turkish. I don’t want him to be anybody’s pawn,” she lamented.

Son’s abduction by PKK shatters mother’s dreams

Harassment, death threats

Ciftci said that though she had always wanted to pursue an education herself, financial difficulties had always prevented her from doing so and she vowed to provide a better life for her children and send them to school.

Even after Emirhan’s abduction dealt the first blow to her dreams, a second came when her daughter, Helin, was forced to drop out of school because of the recruitment attempts of PKK-linked individuals.

Helin said the PKK affiliates first attempted to trick her into joining the terror group by saying she could reunite with her brother. Rejecting this offer, she had to endure harassment and death threats.

Now 19, Helin was eventually forced to leave her education behind and break her promise to her mother to go to university and graduate with a degree.

Both women say they are determined to continue their protest until Emirhan is brought back “dead or alive,” adding that the solidarity of the families seeking their abducted children had encouraged many others to join them against the terrorists’ forced recruitment designs.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and EU — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people including women, children, and infants.

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