The Saturday Mothers, a group seeking justice for their disappeared and murdered relatives by state security or paramilitary forces, held their 978th weekly demonstration at Galatasaray Square in Istanbul, Turkey. The focus of this week’s protest was on İsmail Bahçeci, a former Marmara University student and student federation president, who vanished 29 years ago.
Aysel Ocak, from the Commission on the Disappeared of the Human Rights Association (İHD), read a statement questioning Bahçeci’s whereabouts and criticising the state’s failure to investigate such human rights violations effectively. Ocak detailed Bahçeci’s political activism in the 1990s, his arrests and his alleged torture by state forces. Bahçeci’s disappearance began after a 1994 police raid, and despite efforts by his family and human rights organisations, his fate remains unknown.
In solidarity with the Istanbul demonstration, families in Diyarbakır (Amed), Batman (Êlih), Şırnak (Şirnex) and Hakkari (Colemerg) also held protests, demanding accountability for their disappeared relatives. Each city’s demonstration highlighted individual cases, such as Mustafa Erdal in Diyarbakır, who disappeared in 1984, and Mahmut Kaya in Batman, missing since 1980.
The Diyarbakır event, marking its 776th week, saw the İHD Diyarbakır Branch head Ercan Yılmaz discuss the unresolved Maraş Massacre and its implications for Turkey’s democratic progress. Erdal’s story was shared, highlighting contradictions in the official account of his death in custody.
In 1978, the city of Kahramanmaraş in Turkey witnessed a devastating event known as the Maraş Massacre or Maraş Pogrom. This tragic incident predominantly affected the Alevi Kurdish community and individuals with leftist political views. The death toll ranged from 105 to 185, alongside 1,000 to 3,000 injuries. The Grey Wolves, a Turkish ultranationalist group associated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), now an ally of Turkish President Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), orchestrated the massacre.
Meanwhile in Batman, the 612th week of protests was marked by focusing on Kaya’s disappearance during the 1980s political turmoil. The Şırnak demonstration centred on Erdal’s case, while in Hakkari, activists demanded justice for several high-profile cases, including the 1994 abductions and killings of Savaş Buldan, Adnan Yıldırım and Hacı Karay.
These demonstrations, accompanied by symbolic sit-ins, reflect a persistent demand for justice and truth in the face of ongoing impunity for enforced disappearances in Turkey.