In Turkey, Mothers’ Quest For Justice Exposes Political Hypocrisy

Mothers in Istanbul and Diyarbakir fight for their sons, either to find them or to release them from prison after unjust conviction. The ruling party’s selective approach exposes deep moral flaws.

Abdullah Ayasun

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Mothers of young boys who were believed to be taken by PKK to mountains protest in front of Kurdish HDP party in Diyarbakir. (Photo Credit: D Agency)

In Diyarbakir, the heartland of Turkey’s restive Kurdish population, a group of mothers’ weekslong sit-in protest in front of the pro-Kurdish party to demand information regarding whereabouts of their sons believed to be captured by the outlawed PKK has generated an ongoing political controversy. It galvanized the public and whipped up remarkable support for the mothers at the national level.

The protest in Diyarbakir is, by nature, of an awkward type from numerous angles, but grasping the rationale of choosing the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) as the responsible actor expected to resolve the riddle of mysterious disappearances of several high school students is the most difficult part of any effort to make sense of the entire drama. Why the HDP? Is the party’s regional headquarters in Diyarbakir an office of finding missing persons?

Certainly, the issue is more complicated than it seems. Why does a government minister embarrass herself by shedding tears in front of HDP in supposed solidarity with grieving mothers? If the sons of mothers are captured by the PKK, as the government and its media claim, why does an Interior Minister (Suleyman Soylu) visit a sit-in protest instead of doing his job — trying to locate the missing children? Isn’t it his and his government’s responsibility to find them? To shifting the onus on the HDP, just because it shares some ideological, if not completely organizational and structural, roots with the militant group is entirely misleading.

Whatever the public perception may be about the HDP regarding its leading role on the political front within the context of the intractable Kurdish question, the party is not the address where mothers, and a large group of Turkish celebrities and media outlets, can vent their outrage and frustration for the lost children.

That said, the whole drama playing out in Diyarbakir is less a tragedy than a farce marked by the most…

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun