Turkey is not going to be respected as a country if the rights of the citizens are in the hands of a police officer instead of the hands of the Constitutional Court, said Nacho Sánchez Amor, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, in a press release following the group’s 975th protest in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square.
The Saturday Mothers, a collective of determined women demanding justice for their disappeared relatives, have been holding sit-ins in Galatasaray Square since 1995, demanding accountability for the perpetrators. For five-and-a-half years until three weeks ago, the Turkish police had been preventing the group from exercising their right to protest, in spite of an earlier ruling by the Constitutional Court that the ban on the Saturday Mothers’ sit-ins was a violation of their rights.
Nacho Sánchez Amor visited Istanbul at the invitation of the Hafıza Merkezi (Remembrance Centre) to express support for the group and to observe the implementation of the Constitutional Court rulings.
The EP Turkey rapporteur highlighted the peaceful nature of the protest, but noted the heavy police presence during the event. He criticised the failure to implement the Constitutional Court’s decision upholding the legitimacy of Saturday Mothers’ right to peaceful assembly despite clear instructions to do so.
Regarding the challenges faced by the groups, Sánchez Amor further commented on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s selective compliance with court rulings.
Sánchez Amor praised the Saturday Mothers as a remarkable example of citizens asserting their rights in Turkey, and expressed his happiness at being able to join in one of their demonstrations.
In response to questions about the recent arrests of Saturday Mothers members, Sánchez Amor suggested that it might be necessary to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in the future. He criticised the actions of police officers as ultimate decision-makers, saying that society in Turkey needs to decide if they want their constitutional rights protected by a single politician or police officer, the governors of Beyoglu or of Istanbul, or the Constitutional Court.