A vigil took place at a cemetery in Istanbul, Turkey, on Friday as part of the events organised for the 17-31 May International Week for the Elimination of Disappearances in Custody. The gathering aimed to honour Hasan Ocak and Rıdvan Karakoç, two symbolic figures of enforced disappearances in police custody, while raising awareness about this pressing issue.
Activists from various organisations came together to pay their respects to the victims and shed light on the gravity of the situation. The commemorative event took place at Gazi Cemetery in Istanbul, where Pervin Buldan, co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), delivered a speech. Buldan not only paid tribute to Ocak and Karakoç but also expressed solidarity with all the families affected by disappearances.
Buldan emphasised the ongoing pursuit of justice and truth in the region, where numerous cases of enforced disappearances remain unresolved. She called for a unified front with democratic forces to intensify the struggle for accountability, stating, “We must join forces with democratic movements and expand the scope of our fight.”
Buldan also urged voters to approach the upcoming elections on 28 May with utmost care and significance. She emphasised that participating in the electoral process and exercising the right to vote would be a crucial step toward “countering fascism and promoting democracy”.
Gülseren Yoleri, president of the Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD), highlighted the impactful 28-year-long fight led by the Saturday Mothers, a group that has been meeting for over 900 weeks in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square to demand justice for their disappeared loved ones. Yoleri acknowledged the group’s efforts in preventing further disappearances but expressed frustration with the continuous attempts to conceal the truth by those in power. She stressed the importance of persisting in the pursuit, stating, “We must continue our fight for justice and truth.”
Hanife Yıldız shared a deeply personal experience of her son’s arrest and the authorities’ failure to locate him or provide information. Yıldız voiced her disappointment and criticized the emotional manipulation she endured. Undeterred, she vowed to maintain her determination in seeking justice, stating, “No matter what they do to me, they cannot extinguish the fire in my heart.” Yıldız called for accountability for her son’s disappearance and pledged to continue her fight for justice.
Earlier in the week, a press conference was held by the Saturday Mothers and the İHD Istanbul Branch Commission against Disappearances in Custody as part of the international week. During the conference, activists discussed the significance of the week and outlined their plans for various actions and activities aimed at addressing the issue of disappearances in custody.