Duvar English

Turkey’s Saturday Mothers, a group who has been holding vigils for their relatives who disappeared or were killed in suspicious circumstances in the 90s, held its 772nd gathering on Jan. 11, this time asking justice for the Güçlükonak massacre which took place on Jan. 15, 1996 in the southeastern province of Şırnak’s Güçlükonak district.

The Güçlükonak massacre was one of many acts of inhumanity during which 11 Kurdish men in a minibus were first shot at and then burned. Turkish authorities declared that the massacre had been carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), however, a human rights delegation contended at the time that the security forces were responsible. Relatives of the victims of the massacre filed court cases; however, no result was obtained from any of the court cases.

This week’s statement by the Saturday Mothers was read by Gülseren Yoleri, the head of the Istanbul branch of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD).

“We have been crying out for 772 weeks: Concerning grave crimes in which the security forces are alleged to have been involved, if the relevant perpetrators and the ones who are responsible are not determined and punished following an independent judiciary process, the state is the one to be blamed for these crimes,” Yoleri said.

Yoleri also said the Saturday Mothers will not give up on their insistence to hold their vigils in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square.

In 2018, the authorities banned the group from gathering in the famous square, a popular pedestrian shopping area. Today, Turkey’s Saturday Mothers continue to meet in Istanbul — in front of the İHD office.

The Saturday Mothers is one of the longest-running peaceful protest movements in the world. On Saturdays since 1995, the families gather and demand justice for their relatives who disappeared and were killed allegedly after being detained by undercover units.

As many of the founding protesters are in their 80s and thereby are growing frail, their children are taking the reins. Some men are also seen joining the movement.

During the Jan. 11-dated protest, a girl also took the floor, saying she had lost her grandfather during the Güçlükonak massacre. “Grandfather, we owe you justice. Our longing for you will never end,” she said.

‘This state is deaf and dumb’

The mother of Ferhat Tepe, a reporter for now defunct pro-Kurdish Özgur Gündem newspaper who disappeared on June 28, 1993, also held a speech during the protest.

“We do not know what happened to Ferhat Tepe and many others. We are crying out loud, but this state is deaf and dumb. Why are they not finding the murderers? We are asking for justice,” Zübeyde Tepe said.