Saturday Mothers commemorate women disappeared under custody for March 8

Saturday Mothers commemorated women who were forcibly disappeared and killed under custody for International Women’s Day in the 989th consecutive protest at Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square.

Ferhat Yaşar / Gazete Duvar

Saturday Mothers on March 9 held their 989th vigil at the Galatasaray Square in Istanbul. The mothers and relatives of women who were lost under custody demanded their fates and punishment of culpable authorities for International Women’s Day. 

“Women everywhere took to the streets to demand equality and freedom. We join them with our cry against the impunity and injustice that defile human dignity,” stated the protesters. 

The protesters repeated their calls for the government to take accountability and bring those responsible for the disappearances to justice, regardless of when they were lost. 

“We will not give up our search for justice until those who disappeared our loved ones, and those who created the conditions for the disappearances are found and held responsible,” they said.

The protesters commemorated 20 women who have disappeared under custody between 1991 and 1998, some along with their children and families. 

Makbule Ökdem had disappeared in 1991, after being taken into custody in Turkey’s eastern Şırnak province. Her body was found 18 years later during a road construction. 

Soldiers detained Hamide Şarlı with her brother in 1993, from their village in the eastern Bitlis province. She was never found.  

Gülnaz and Kadriye Tatu disappeared in 1994 after they were caught in a military operation while tending their animals on the field in the eastern Muş province. 

Ayşenur Şimşek’s body was found in a “cemetery of the nameless” in 1995, days after police had detained her in the capital Ankara province. 

Zozan Eren and her husband in 1997 were stopped in traffic and abducted in an infamous “white Toros.” The car was the unofficial ride of the clandestine state security unit JİTEM and has come to symbolize the embodiment of state fear in the 1990s in Turkey's southeast. 

Hizbullah, the radical Islamist terrorist organization with alleged ties to the deep state, in 1998 abducted, tortured, and killed Muslim women’s rights advocate Konca Kuriş. Her body was found two years after her disappearance.  

Saturday Mothers have been demanding the fates of their loved ones in weekly protests since 1995.

Police routinely intervened in the peaceful protests for the last five years, until Interior Minister Yerlikaya acknowledged the group was victimized by the police on Nov. 2023. 

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)