Turkish police, in violation of rulings by the Constitutional Court, on Saturday once again detained members of the Saturday Mothers, a group consisting of relatives of the victims of enforced disappearances, during their 947th-week of gathering to demand justice for the disappeared at Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square.
The group has been gathering every Saturday for what is the longest-running peaceful protest in the country to demand justice for their loved ones, most of them Kurds and left-wing activists who disappeared in state custody during the 1990s.
The police disregarded a recent Constitutional Court ruling in favour of the Saturday Mothers’ right to peaceful assembly and blocked the group during the International Week for the Elimination of Disappearances in Custody. Members of the press attempting to cover the event were also beaten and removed from the area.
Several relatives of the disappeared and human rights activists were detained and handcuffed behind their backs, which Turkish law stipulates may not happen without good reason or for prolonged periods. Despite the ordeal, the Saturday Mothers vowed to persist in their search for the missing, and demanded the reopening of Galatasaray Square as their meeting place.
Human rights activists condemned the ongoing blockade and police violence in Galatasaray Square and the violation of the Constitutional Court’s ruling in a press conference at the Istanbul headquarters of the Human Rights Association (İHD).
Maside Ocak, the sister of Hasan Ocak, who was disappeared in detention, recalled the ‘violation’ decisions of the Constitutional Court and said, “We have been detained for six consecutive weeks and handcuffed behind our backs. We want to know the reason for this. You all know us very well. We want an explanation as to why we, who have not harmed a single human hair until today, should be subjected to such violence. We want to know what illegality they were stopping us from doing. We want the district and provincial governorship to respond.”
Media and Law Studies Association representative journalist Murat Kök said that the group has been following the protest of the Saturday Mothers on the ground since the Constitutional Court ruling, and that they have observed and documented the police violence.
Members of the İHD placed carnations in the sea to honour those killed in custody, during a demonstration in Turkey’s westernmost province of Izmir for the international week of the disappeared. İHD executive Caner Canlı spoke to the press describing the policy of disappearance in custody as a systematic attack to silence social opposition. He emphasised the importance of locating the disappeared individuals and bringing the perpetrators to justice. The protest concluded with a five-minute sit-in, highlighting the ongoing struggle for truth and accountability.
Meanwhile, relatives of the disappeared and murdered individuals also held protests in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority provinces of Diyarbakır (Amed) and Batman (Êlih), demanding justice for loved ones who went missing or were killed in 1994.
In Diyarbakır, the families sought information about the fate of İkram İpek, Servet İpek, and Seyithan Yolur, who also disappeared after being detained by the security forces. The lawyer representing the families recounted the events of the disappearance, which involved a raid on a village, the burning of homes and the subsequent disappearance of the three individuals. Despite numerous attempts, the families have not received any information about their missing relatives.
In Batman, attention was drawn to the murder of Abdulcelil Kaçar, Hüsnü Kaçar, Halil Erzen, and Rafet Özer, who were falsely portrayed as killed in an armed clash. The bodies were disposed of and the families were denied access. The protests concluded with a sit-in to demand justice for the disappeared and murdered individuals.