A vigil which began on 3 September 2019 in Diyarbakir (Amed) in front of the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) building in Turkey – reportedly by families of young people who joined the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), allegedly after being forced to do so by the HDP – continues. Reports by a number of political commentators have suggested that the vigil has been deliberately organised by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to criminalise the HDP by accusing it of forcing Kurdish youth to join the PKK.
The HDP has repeatedly issued statements that it has no links to these young people who joined the PKK. It warned the public that this was a propaganda campaign against the party, aimed at smearing and criminalising it.
Speculation from some quarters – leading to heated debates and discussions about the ‘deep political’ dimensions of the vigil – has suggested that these families were paid and/or coerced into joining the vigil. What the Kaçar family stated to MA suggests that there may be truth behind some of these suggestions.
The Kaçar family comes from the Siirt (Sert) province of Turkey. Family members state that their daughter joined the PKK in 2009. They state that they were forced to join the vigil in front of the HDP building and added that soldiers even offered to take them to ‘operation areas.’
The story of the Kaçar family demonstrates what many Kurdish families experience if they are opposed to the state’s policies in Turkey. Father Agit Kaçar (59) was arrested in 2005 on political grounds and spent three years in Diyarbakir’s Type-D Closed Prison. He was arrested again in 2008 and released after four months.
One of the sons of the family, Teyfik Kaçar, has been arrested 10 times and spent five years in prison. Some of the lawsuits against him are still pending. Another member of the family, Rafik, was also arrested for allegedly being a “member of the organization” and has been imprisoned in Elazig (Elezîz) 2 Closed Prison for six years.
The house of the Kaçar family has been raided more than 50 times. “The doors of our house are still broken and we were exposed to torture in each raid,” said father Agit Kaçar.
Since the vigil before the HDP building started in 2019, the family has been continuously called by soldiers pressurising them to join the vigil.
“They first called us from Siirt (Sert) Provincial Gendarmerie Command in 2019. Then, they called us every three months. They called us and said, ‘Come and have tea with us.’ We said ‘no,’ but they never stopped calling.”
Finally, when the family told them that they could only come with a lawyer, the soldiers refused and asked them to come alone. The last call was made 20 days ago to the family. Father Kaçar explained the details of the conversation: “They invited me to the station ‘for tea’ again. When I said I would not go, they came to my house this time. Three people in plainclothes showed up: one of them was a woman. They said, ‘Why don’t you help us? Your daughter’s been there a long time. Let’s take pictures of you and your wife. Let’s throw the picture in Mount Gabar and maybe your daughter will see it and come back.'”
When the family once more refused their ‘invitation,’ they left. But three days later, father Kaçar said, the Sirnak (Sirnex) Gendarmerie Command called them and, again, they were forced to go to the front of the HDP building.
“It turned out that the child of someone who was in the vigil was working in construction in Istanbul. Most of those who went there were given their children’s dead bodies. The state pays them to join the vigil: I will not go there,” said father Kacar to the soldiers on the phone.
“Later, they asked me to go to the operation area and contact my daughter. They wanted to send me to a place that is not safe. This is murder,” Agit Kaçar said.
The family will be filing a criminal complaint over the intimidation that they have been subjected to.