Truth in the Heart of Darkness: Ejin’s Mother in Search of Her Kidnapped Daughter

A report of a mother’s search to get family’s only daughter, Ejin back, from PAK.

Iranian Kurdistan Human Rights Watch recently conducted an interview with the mother of a girl named Ejin Amini, joined the Kurdistan Liberation Armed Group at 14. This shows that child soldiers and its effects in the local communities of Iranian Kurdistan is still a critical issue.

Ejin’s mother has detailed her efforts to get her daughter back. These efforts include asking for help from the United Nations in Erbil (where in the last week of January 2024, a group of families of these children gathered in front of the United Nations accompanied by the Iranian Kurdistan Human Rights Watch), the police department and the courts of the Kurdistan Region and the investigation in Iraq and repeated visits to the headquarters of the Kurdistan Liberation Armed Group to meet their daughter.

In the following, we draw your attention to the interview of Kurdistan Human Rights Watch reporter with Ejin Amini’s mother:

 – IKHRW: You recently traveled to the Kurdistan region and were following up on your child’s condition. Tell us a little about what happened when your child became a member of this group:

– Ejin’s mother: Honestly, when our daughter left, we didn’t realize what happened, that night, we were looking for her since morning, but her phone was switched off. At almost 10 at night we called her and a man answered and told us not to look for your daughter because she has already joined PAK. After that, her phone was turned off, we still don’t know if he was a smuggler or a member of that party or who! After that, we ourselves decided to go to Iraq and look for our daughter. We were there for about a month, but none of them accepted that our daughter was there. Almost a month later they finally agreed to answer. I begged them a lot to let me see my daughter, I was telling them my daughter is very young, she is only 14 years old, please let me talk to her for at least 10 minutes.

Of course, the main reason was that she was almost 14 years old when we married her.  That boy was also one of our relatives, of course he was not old enough, but generally my daughter was against and upset and did not want to live with him. But because of our insistence, she had to get married. Even after Ejin left the house and we went after her and divorced her in Iran. We even wanted to tell her don’t worry anymore and you don’t have to live with that guy and you can come back.

– IKHRW: What did you do to get your child back?

– Ejin’s mother: Honestly, the best way to explain is when he left home, we went to the desert for fun, and he was with us. It was around noon when she told us that she wanted to go out with some of her friends. We agreed and she left. By the time it was dark and we all wanted to go home, we couldn’t find Ejin everywhere we looked, even with her friends. They did not even see her. Her phone was switched off and we looked for her everywhere until 10:00 p.m., after that the man answered the phone and that’s when we found out where she went and quickly reached Iraq that night. During the month in Iraq, we visited their headquarters several times, but they did not give us the correct answer. Of course, we mostly went to one of the headquarters where Ardalan Khosravi was, even Ardalan Khosravi’s wife was there. Even Hossein Yazdan Panah’s wife was there. Until a month later, they allowed me to talk to my daughter for only 5 minutes. I begged them to let us talk alone, but there were about four or five people around us, so we couldn’t talk to each other properly. I felt that my daughter was afraid of them and could not speak properly and only said say hello to everyone and pray for me. So, I couldn’t bear it anymore and I was shouting and crying all the time. I was shouting and saying my daughter is a child, you won’t let me see her, I just want to talk to my daughter for 5 minutes alone…

As I was sitting on the same street for hours and just crying, Yazdan Panah’s wife came out several times and threatened me, saying that there are cameras everywhere and we will record your pictures, if you don’t leave here in 5 minutes, I will send some of those Peshmerga to you and let them disrespect you in any way they want.

On the same street, there was another base, although it was not related to the PAK, they were Peshmerga of the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party. When they saw the situation, they tried to calm me down and took me inside and gave me a glass of water They told me, try to get out of here with your husband right now, we know them, they have no dignity.

– IKHRW: How old was your child when she joined and why did not you take care to prevent this tragic event?

– Ejin’s mother: Ejin was only 14 years old at that time, now that I am talking to you, she is already 16 years old, and I have not seen her for two years. Of course, as I said before, the main reason my daughter ran away from home was that she was almost 14 years old when we married her, but in general, my daughter was against and upset and did not want to live with him, but because of our insistence, she agreed to get married, or rather was forced to marry.

   – IKHRW: Some videos have been published of some of these children who say they are satisfied with where they are, they seem to be reading from a fixed text. Could this be an instance of forced confession? What is your opinion? Do your children really like to be in these groups?

– Ejin’s mother: Yes, I saw, of course one of those girls was my daughter wearing a khaki dress. Not only my daughter, but all those who were behind the camera were forced to read these words from paper in order to brainwash other children as well.

– IKHRW: Can you explain about your group trip to Kurdistan region, what did you do and what were the results? Were the follow-ups of the Iranian Kurdistan Human Rights Watch fruitful and do you have any hope of achieving any results?

– Ejin’s mother: Honestly, all your colleagues who came to Erbil with us spared no effort. Until now, no one has helped us and other families like you. They helped us wherever we needed, from going to the Consulate General of Iran in Erbil to going to the United Nations and the courts of the Kurdistan Region, etc. Now it is up to the authorities, lawyers and representatives to follow up on our complaint.

 – IKHRW: We have heard from some people separated from this group that they torture the members and put them under psychological pressure. Has such behavior happened to your children?

– Ejin’s mother: I honestly don’t know what to say, since the last time I saw her for only 5 minutes, we have only been able to talk to each other in video almost every 40 days. Of course, she is never alone when she talks and there are always several people watching over her. It was clear from her face that she was afraid to speak. She kept biting her lips as if trying to stop herself from crying and kept clenching her teeth, just saying: Don’t be upset, mother, for God’s sake. This was the only thing my daughter was saying, although the last time I talked to her was almost 15 days before we went to Erbil to complain, since that day, many times we called, she did not answer. This has caused us concern and we are afraid that they have brought harm to our daughter.

– IKHRW: We found that during your trip, someone threatened your children that if your fathers and mothers do not return to Iran, they will be tortured or killed. Can you explain what happened?

– Ejin’s mother: Yes, two of those Peshmerga came. They attacked us when we were in front of the United Nations and said: Why did you come here? Why didn’t you come to our headquarters to see your children?

They said that we should see who you came with, we should take pictures and videos of you and identify you. They even threatened to make us not see our children. They were only insulting, even one of them, who was a young man, rushed towards one of the fathers named Kak Abdallah, who had come there to look for his son.

– IKHRW: What was the reaction of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional authorities? Did they help you reach your children?

– Ejin’s mother: We went to the United Nations, Asayish, the police and all kinds of courts and the judiciary of the Kurdistan Region. All they said was that we can really do nothing, but we’re trying our best.

IKHRW: Did the officials of the Consulate General of Iran in Erbil help you and your children?

– Ejin’s mother: They said the same things there and asked the same questions and took notes and said that we will follow up on your complaint and share it with the lawyers. Of course, they told some families why you didn’t come for your children earlier? We could have done something better when they were under the legal age, God may help do something for my daughter, she is only 16 years old now.

 – IKHRW: If you want to give a message to your daughter, what would you say?

– Ejin’s mother: We once wronged our daughter and made her leave us, now I only ask God to return her to the family. We just want to make up for every injustice we did to her and tell her to live as she pleases.

 – IKHRW: If you want to give a message to PAK leaders, especially Hossein Yazdan Panah, what would you say to them?

– Ejin’s mother: Of course, I saw Yazdan Panah’s wife and she only threatened me. I told her, how dare you to displace a 14-year-old girl?! Do you want the same for your child?

The words that the Yazdan Panah’s wife said were his own words too. They only threaten and say that you should be proud that your children are here, why do you want to return them under the tortures of Iran? The last time I met my daughter I begged her to come back, but two of the other women who were sitting higher said to me mockingly: What a mother that want your child to return? You should be proud…

Well, my daughter is also a child, when she hears those, she believes and thinks that her mother is doing wrong and they are right. Because they scare children from torture, prison and execution and brainwash them. Her father and I are hoping every moment that Hossein Yazdan Panah’s life will be destroyed, because we only have this daughter. I saw my husband cut 10 cm of my daughter’s hair and tied it with a string, since that day until now, every night when he sleeps, he puts it under his head and cries and sleeps. During these two years, we could not sit around and eat food without crying.

What is Hossein Yazdan Panah like? What kind of person is he who brings this disaster to us? What kind of Kurdish is this? Is it Kurdish to take the children of my brothers and sisters to Iraq and take them hostage and destroy their future? Do you think this is Kurdish, Mr. Yazdan Panah?

  Final word:

The experience of this family shows that facing such situations has deep effects on the family and the local community, especially in the Kurdish regions of Iran. This experience can increase tensions and differences in the society and shows the necessity of making solutions to prevent children from entering armed groups and maintaining the safety of the society.

The interview with Ejin’s mother shows that issues such as child soldiers and the transfer of children to armed groups not only have a lot of psychological and social effects on individuals, but also on the local community. This report discusses the reasons for choosing children as members of armed groups, the family’s efforts to return them, and their disappointing experiences, and emphasizes the need to investigate and solve these social problems.

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