The Saturday Mothers, known for their long-standing protests against enforced disappearances in Turkey, have strongly criticised nationalist opposition Good Party (İYİP) leader Meral Akşener’s recent comments on past political assassinations. During their 982nd week of protest, they focused on the case of Abdullah Canan, who was abducted and murdered in 1996, highlighting a pattern of state-sponsored violence.
Gülseren Yoleri, Istanbul Branch President of the Human Rights Association (İHD), responded to Akşener’s remarks made in Sivas about past political assassinations being “honourable”. Yoleri stated, “Meral Akşener’s words are a confession of the crime. The dark and political murders of the 90s being described as ‘honourable’ is an act of glorifying these crimes. If these crimes were ‘honourably’ committed, why are they still shrouded in darkness and why is there a fear of being tried for them?”
Yoleri detailed the case of Abdullah Canan, a businessman from Yüksekova, who was forcibly taken into custody by soldiers and later found dead with signs of severe torture. Despite the family’s efforts for justice, including a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), those responsible for Canan’s death were never convicted. Yoleri emphasised that the names of those responsible are known and recorded, urging the state to accept its responsibility in Canan’s enforced disappearance and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Vahap Canan, the son of Abdullah, also spoke at the event, saying, “The ‘honourable’ political murders referred to by Meral Akşener were a mortgage on our future. Those before us and after us will never cease this quest for justice. We are the candlelight of this country’s future.”
Amidst the backdrop of Meral Akşener’s contentious remarks, the quest for justice continued with weekly vigils in four Kurdish-majority cities aside from Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square: Diyarbakır (Amed), Şırnak (Şirnex), Batman (Êlih) and Hakkari (Colemêrg). The ongoing demonstrations called for uncovering the fate of the disappeared and holding the perpetrators accountable, underlining the enduring nature of their struggle.
In Diyarbakır, the 780th weekly action by the İHD and relatives of the disappeared was held at the Monument of Right to Life in Bağlar (Rezan) district. Focusing on the cases of Nuri Dayan and Ömer Önen, who disappeared on 14 January 1994, the gathering saw the participation of families bearing photographs of their lost loved ones.
Ercan Yılmaz, the Diyarbakır Branch President of İHD, termed Akşener’s comments as an admission of the crimes committed, particularly against Kurds and dissidents. He emphasised the need for a reckoning with this past and an abandonment of such mindsets.
Nezire Baran, Önen’s wife, shared her harrowing tale, underscoring the unending pain of not knowing the fate of her husband. She vowed the continuation of this quest for justice, stating, “Even if we die, our grandchildren will continue to ask about the fate of the disappeared.”
In Batman, during the 616th week of action at the Human Rights Monument on Gülistan Street, the focus was on Mehmet Şirin Maltu, who disappeared on 31 January 1995. Yunus Bağış, an İHD Executive, narrated the ordeal of Maltu’s abduction and the family’s relentless pursuit of truth and justice.
In Şırnak, families and human rights activists gathered to reiterate their demands for uncovering the truth about the disappeared, specifically mentioning the cases of Ömer Öner and Nuri Dayan, who vanished in 1994.
In Hakkari, the 106th week of action brought together various groups, including the Peace Mothers, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) and the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) leaders. Sibel Çapraz, co-chair of İHD Hakkari, voiced strong criticism of Akşener’s remarks, asserting that the families of the victims of unsolved murders will not relent in their pursuit of justice.