The Saturday Mothers, a group of Turkish women seeking justice for their loved ones who disappeared under police custody in the 1990s, have once again faced police brutality on Saturday during their weekly vigil in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square.
This marks the 944th week of their peaceful protest, and also the fifth consecutive week of police intervention and their unlawful ban on the gathering.
Despite a recent Constitutional Court decision stating that the blockade of the square was a violation of human rights, the police once again prevented the Saturday Mothers from holding their vigil. They surrounded the group with shields and stopped members of the press from approaching the area.
Twenty-five protesters, including Mikail Kırbayır, Besna Tosun, Arat Dink and İkbal Eren, were detained during the protest.
Several rights defenders, academics and rights organisations also attended the vigil, with some expressing their solidarity with and support for the Saturday Mothers in short videos against the five-week long unlawful obstruction. In addition to members of the Saturday Mothers, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey’s Secretary General Coşkun Üsterci, Istanbul Branch Representative Ümit Efe and the President of the Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association Gülseren Yoleri have also been taken into custody.
During the detention of the Saturday Mothers, Ahmet Kaya’s song for the disappeared, “Find Me Mum”, was played in Galatasaray Square.
“We are here to demand justice for our missing loved ones who disappeared under state custody. Being in Galatasaray is our constitutional right, and we will not give up this right,” the Saturday Mothers said in an online statement.
“The Constitutional Court’s decision is final and binding. All actors exercising public power must comply with its decisions. Failure to do so is a grave breach of the principle of the rule of law and the constitutional order,” they added.
The Human Rights Association’s (İHD) Istanbul branch condemned the police intervention and called for an end to the harassment of the Saturday Mothers in a statement issued online,
“The right to gather and express oneself peacefully is a fundamental human right that must be respected. We call on the authorities to respect this right and to allow the Saturday Mothers to hold their weekly vigils without interference,” the association said.
The Saturday Mothers have been holding their weekly vigils since 1995, and they have become a symbol of Turkey’s struggle for justice and accountability for the crimes against humanity during the 1990s war between the state and the Kurdish movement.
“We will not be silenced. We will continue to demand justice for our loved ones, and we will continue to fight for a better future for Turkey,” the Saturday Mothers said.