The Turkish police on July 25 detained several members of Saturday Mothers – a group who has been holding vigils for their relatives who disappeared or were killed in suspicious circumstances in the 80s and 90s – for attempting to gather at Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue.
The group, one of the longest-running peaceful protest movements in the world, wanted to leave carnations at the Galatasaray Square but faced police resistance. The police said that only lawmakers would be allowed to enter the square.
On Saturdays since 1995, members of the Saturday Mothers gather and demand justice for their relatives who disappeared and were killed allegedly after being detained by undercover units.
After the authorities in 2018 banned the group from gathering at the Galatasaray Square, the group members started to hold their vigils in front of the office of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD). Since March, the group had been holding their demonstrations online due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. July 25 marched the first time since March that the group gathered in person to mark the 800th week of their protests.
During the gathering, police battered Hanife Yıldız, who last saw her only son, Murat, in 1995 — when he was 19 and she handed him to Turkish police for questioning.
Among the detained were Maside Ocak whose brother, Hasan, has not been seen since March 21, 1995, when his family say he was detained by police in Istanbul.
Another Saturday Mothers member who was detained on July 25 was Hasan Karakoç, whose brother Rıdvan has been missing since 1995. Karakoç family believes that Rıdvan was murdered at the hands of the Turkish police.
Following the harsh police intervention, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar came to the barricade placed at the Galatasaray Square and read here the Saturday Mothers’ press statement. Afterwards, they left carnations at the square.
The Saturday Mothers’ press statement addressed a question to the government authorities and asked if “the Constitution in Turkey is still in effect.”
“If it is in effect, the Constitution considers the right to ‘hold demonstrations and marches’ as a fundamental constitutional right and says, ‘everyone has the right to hold meetings and marches without violence and weapons, without getting permission in advance.’ As the Constitution is so clear, why is Galatasaray Square banned for us?” the press statement asked.
“We repeat in our 800th week once again. It is a heavy attack on our Constitutional rights and freedom that the Galatasaray Square is being banned from us with the police violence for the last 101 weeks. This is the state violating the Constitution and misusing its powers and this is a crime. The society should not be an accomplice in this crime through silence,” the group’s statement read, vowing not to give up on the right to hold vigils at the Galatasaray Square.