Al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and pro-Assad groups that have established themselves in Turkey’s Adiyaman, Bingol, Batman, Urfa, Diyarbakir and Bitlis provinces are taking young men to fight in Syria either for money or the jihadist cause. Their families go to war zones and pay ransoms to save their children.
Murat Celik of Diyarbakir was one of hundreds of young men taken to Syria to fight. His father, Nezir Celik, went to Aleppo in December to bring back his son, who had joined Jabhat al-Nusra. For months, he traveled from camp to camp to find his son. When he heard his son was a prisoner of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), he went to the Kurdish-populated Afrin. Since then, nothing has been heard from the father.
Reports say Nezir was abducted by Jaysh al-Hur, which is demanding a $25,000 ransom. Nothing is known about the fate of the father or son, as younger son Ihsan Celik, who lives in Diyarbakir, is asking for the help of authorities to save his father and elder brother.
As the debate rages surrounding claims that Turkey provided help to gangs in the Syrian civil war, the Turkish daily Radikal broke the story under the headline “Adiyaman-Syria Jihad Pipeline,” which detailed Turkish men between the ages of 18 and 30 being taken from Adiyaman, Bingol, Batman, Urfa, Diyarbakir and Bitlis to fight in Syria.
We were to go together but …
Nezir Celik of Diyarbakir had told me that he had been to Syria several times looking for his son. We agreed to travel together the next time. But two months after our meeting, on Dec. 23, Nezir Celik hastily went to Aleppo to pursue a lead. Upon learning that his son was a prisoner of the PYD, he headed to Afrin where a violent civil war was raging. Since then, there has been no news of him.
A man who was in touch with the family and who said he worked as a guide for Nezir in his travels to camps, told the family that Nezir was abducted by Jaysh al-Hur, a group that is demanding $25,000 ransom for his release.
Ihsan Celik, whose brother and father went missing, considered how to put together that much money. He said, “We haven’t heard from my father and our brother for months. We don’t know if they are dead or alive.”
Ihsan said his brother left home in 2012 with the excuse of finding a job and joined Jabhat al-Nusra. “He said he found a job in Balikesir [western Turkey] and he was going there. But he never called after that. We then heard a man named Suleyman, who was very close to my brother, had gone to Syria and joined Jabhat al-Nusra under the alias of ‘Suleyman Abu Azzam.’ When we read news of Suleyman’s death in Syria, my father went to his family. The family told my father that my brother had gone to Syria with Suleyman and both were killed together. My father didn’t believe it. Then a newspaper printed a photograph of my brother among those who had gone to Syria to join Jabhat al-Nusra. Then we were sure he had gone to Syria. One day my father said he had talked to some people who had a list of young people from Diyarbakir who had gone to Syria to fight and my brother’s name was on the list. After that, he went to Syria many times but couldn’t locate him.”
Is Murat Celik in the PYD’s hands?
Ihsan Celik then explained how they learned that his brother was a prisoner of the PYD.
“A relative called and said he had seen a news report on a Kurdish-language channel of my brother as a prisoner. The report said my brother had gone to Syria from Diyarbakir, joined Jabhat al-Nusra, but was later captured by the PYD. My father then went to the Syrian Kurdish region of Rojava several times, but couldn’t learn anything. On Dec. 22, 2013, he first went to Kilis [in Turkey] and then to Aleppo. When we didn’t hear from him, I was looking through his papers at home and found a business card with the phone number of Mahmut Saban Suleyman, a commander of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade. I immediately called him and asked about my father. Mahmut Saban Suleyman said my father had been with him and stayed for a week. There was a man acting as a guide to my father in Syria. Two months later we contacted him. He is the one who told us that my father was abducted by Jaysh al-Hur while going to Afrin and that the group wants $25,000 to release him. This man, too, disappeared. We have no news about my father and my brother since then. Are they dead or alive? We don’t know."
We expect help
After his father disappeared, Ihsan Celik went to the police but with no results. "Since then, I have spoken to several people who went Syria to look for their sons. They told me Syria was very dangerous and they, too, had escaped death several times. Police told me there was nothing they could do. We are desperate. We want the help of authorities to find and bring back our father and brother. If the state can’t do anything about it, then I will go to Syria at the risk of death to find my brother and father.”
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