ANKARA / DIYARBAKIR, Turkey
Even while struggling to make ends meet, Solmaz Ogrunc, a mother in southeastern Turkey, had saved up to buy her son a cellphone that he had wanted for some time, only to find out in horror that he had been abducted by the PKK terror organization.
Ogrunc’s son, Baran, was 15 years old when he was forced to join the terror group in 2015. In her search for him, she has since scoured the country as well as northern Iraq, where the PKK is known to be active, to no avail, finding herself at home in the eastern Van province, embracing Baran’s clothes and belongings to ease her pain.
The passing years did not ease the mother’s grief, which brought her to join other families like herself taking part in a sit-in in the southeastern Diyarbakir province in Turkey calling for the return of their children from the PKK.
The protest had begun on Sept. 3, 2019, when three mothers said their children had been forcibly recruited by PKK terrorists. They continue to protest outside the office of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which the government accuses of having links to the PKK, and have been joined by others like Ogrunc.
“I’ve been here for one-and-a-half years. I’m here for my [son] Baran. As long as I breathe, I’m not leaving this tent without getting Baran back,” she said, and accused the HDP of assisting in her son’s abduction.
“I’ll never bow down to them [terrorists], I won’t be afraid […] They’re child killers. Look, first they kept our police and soldiers hostage for five years, then killed them,” she said, referring to the PKK’s execution of 13 unarmed hostages — most of whom were Turkish citizens — in northern Iraq’s Gara region.
The tearful mother said her son had no interest in politics or ideology before his abduction and was probably terrified of armed conflict, adding that all she ever wanted was the return of her son.
“Come back, my son, don’t believe them; they have no religion, belief, or conscience. Come, take shelter in my [Turkish] soldiers, there’s no punishment. They’re tricking you, they brainwashed you, don’t believe them […] These are people who murder children in the cradle,” she said.
The Ogrunc family was distraught by their young son’s disappearance, the mother lamented, adding that her husband had become seriously ill.
Addressing her son, she said: “Baran, I breathe in the scent of your coat, sweater, watch […] Come back my child, enough is enough. You wanted a cellphone, and I got one, left it there in [his room] still in its box. Enough of this longing, it burns our hearts.”
“God willing, my son will surrender to security forces somewhere. The ember burns where it falls. My heart is shattered […] I loved my son more than anything, it feels as if my heart was shot by a bullet.”
Being unaware of her son’s fate has pained Solmaz to her core, though she still finds solace in the success stories of the ongoing protest. So far, 24 former members of the PKK have voluntarily surrendered to security forces and laid down their weapons. Mother Solmaz wakes up every day hoping that it will be the one in which she gets her son back.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people including women, children, and infants. The YPG is its Syrian branch.
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