Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal on Friday calling on Turkey to lift a ban on protests in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square, a site of great symbolic importance to the activist group known as the Saturday Mothers.
The Saturday Mothers, a collective made up of relatives of victims of enforced disappearance and other human rights defenders, had been denied their right to peaceful assembly in Galatasaray Square since August 2018. This ban was only lifted following two Constitutional Court rulings, one in November 2022 and another in March 2023, which found that the group’s freedom of peaceful assembly had been violated. The rulings stated that the Saturday Mothers should be allowed to hold their weekly vigils without the threat of excessive police force, arrest or detention.
Despite the court granting their right to return to Galatasaray Square, the square has remained under police blockade since 8 April. Every Saturday, those who try to take part in their short, peaceful vigils are detained by the police before they can reach the square. Journalists and civil society organisations are also prevented from observing the police operations. Law enforcement officers routinely use excessive and arbitrary force to disperse these peaceful demonstrators.
This week, Turkish police once again prevented the Saturday Mothers from marching to Galatasaray Square, resulting in the arrest of more than 20 people on Saturday.