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Uproar as AKP members and pro-government celebrities visit families accusing PKK of abducting their children

Members of the ruling party and pro-government celebrities in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakir visited the families who have staged sit-ins in front of the provincial building of the pro-Kurdish party which is blamed for abducting Kurdish children to make them fighters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), local media outlets reported on Friday.

Critics slammed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its fellow celebrities over media-supported visits and interests to the families, accusing them of applying double standards.

They also accused them of ignoring similar but anti-government families, such as Saturday Mothers whose loved ones went missing while in police custody in the 1980s and 1990s.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and some celebrities, including Ahmet Yenilmez, Hulya Kocyigit, Yavuz Bingol, Cengiz Kurtoglu, Muazzez Ersoy, Gulben Ergen, and Hasan Kacan, on Friday, visited the families who have been protesting in front of the HDP building in the province since August 22.

During the visit, the minister said the significance of the families’ move would be better understood in the coming years.

“They [the families] are here [protesting against the HDP and the PKK] not only for their own children but also for all children [to be abducted in the future] of our country,” Soylu said.

However, on the anti-AKP front, the families’ move is not regarded as a sincere act as it was initiated by a mother, Hacire Akar, on August 22, three days after the suspension of Kurdish mayors by the interior ministry.

Akar’s child was found shortly after going missing, which was allegedly not due to abduction and put under house arrest, raising doubts on the abduction claims.

On August 19, three Kurdish mayors in south-eastern Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces were ousted and replaced with state-appointed officials over claims that they used their posts to engage in terrorist activities.

The AKP dissidents see the sit-ins as an AKP counter-attack against the national and international reactions over the mayoral suspensions which are deemed as a political coup.

The celebrities visiting the families along with the AKP members are also at the center of the criticism.

Actress Hulya Kocyigit vowed that she was giving the families support now in Diyarbakir as she had been standing by the Saturday Mothers in the past.

However, journalist and Activist Irem Afsin claimed that the actress was lying about her previous support for the Saturday Mothers.

“To tell a lie publicly! Kocyigit has not participated in the gatherings of the Saturday Mothers so far. This is confirmed information [claim]. Ms. Kocyigit, why are you telling a lie? You only take side with the government [in power], with the powerful, and with the ones who serve for your interest,” tweeted Afsin.

Afsin also implied that the celebrities were attending the visits in Diyarbakir at the behest of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The aides [the pro-government celebrities], who have not even once visited the Saturday Mothers over the course of 24 years, are showing off,” Afsin further posted.

Another AKP opponent, Eylem Deniz Durgun, called for justice for everyone through her Tweet.

“No pain can be compared with each other. But the struggles should not also be manipulated. The Saturday Mothers have been asking for their children in the streets for years, despite all kinds of [police] violence and humiliation. Kocyigit is now showing off,” Durgun posted.

The Saturday Mothers, who have gathered at the Galatasaray Square every week since 27 May 1995 surrounded by police barricades, cannot stage sit-ins there for 56 weeks due to an AKP ban, being frequently subjected to police intervention and violence.

The PKK is regarded as a terrorist organization by the Turkish state which also sees the HDP as having links to it.

Last week an investigation was launched over claims that the HDP’s provincial and district organizations in Diyarbakir have been abducting Kurdish children to be used in armed combat by the PKK.

“Everyone in Diyarbakır and Mardin knows that HDP organizations take these innocent children to the terrorist organization [PKK]. We know that as well and will do whatever is necessary,” the minister Soylu added during the Friday visit.

In response to the sit-ins in Diyarbakir, the HDP administration has been calling for a parliamentary commission in order to solve the problem.

“Why are these children on mountains [at the PKK camps]? Why are they killing each other? Let us set up a commission in the parliament. Let us talk about how to end the Kurdish matter peacefully. The place for solving the problem is in parliament and the responsibility to do this lies with the ruling party [AKP]. We invite the families [in front of the HDP building] to parliament,” said Gunay Kubilay, the HDP spokesman, on Friday.

On the same day, Erdogan repeated his rejection against the HDP’s proposal.

“They [the HDP and the PKK] want to legitimize themselves by taking the issue to the parliament. We do not accept that. By the way, the number [of visitors to the families] has been gradually increasing and will increase more. If people are set free, not only 28 families, but also thousands will go there [to the HDP building],” Erdogan vowed, referring to the alleged fear from the PKK.

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