Saturday Mothers marks 1000th week in demanding justice for forcefully disappeared relatives

Saturday Mothers has marked the 1000th week of their vigils demanding the fates of their relatives who were forcefully disappeared and killed under custody.

Ferhat Yaşar / DUVAR

Turkey’s Saturday Mothers on May 25 marked the 1000th week of their vigils. The group has been convening for a sit-in protest each Saturday since 1995, demanding the fate of their relatives who disappeared and/or killed under custody.

The mothers once again gathered at Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square. Their 1000th vigil saw the attendance of thousands.

The 29-year-long Saturday Mothers' protest is the longest of its kind in Turkey. Many relatives of the disappeared who participated in the protest died before they could learn the fate of the missing persons.

One of the mothers, Maside Ocak, said she expected the same crowd for the 1001st wigil as well.

The police removed the barricade installed permanently on the Square for the vigil. Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch Chair Gülseren Yoleri said, “The 300-week blockade and ban was an unjust and unlawful practice. Our search for justice will continue. We want (the barricade to be open in) the 1001st week.”

The mothers also read a press statement to commemorate their missing relatives. 

“1000 weeks, 7000 days, 229 months... That is a lifetime of searching. We are the Saturday Mothers/People. We are mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings, children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren. We are just like you. But we are actually different from you. We have the same deep wound in our hearts, the indescribable pain of not even having the graves of our loved ones. We never heard from our loved ones who were taken into custody by the state's security forces. Either months or years later we found their bodies bearing traces of severe torture in the cemetery of orphans where they were secretly buried as ‘unknown persons,’ or we found no trace of them at all. All we have left of them are their names and the photographs in our arms,” they said.

They added that they have been gathering at Galatasaray Square for 1000 weeks “with a never-ending pain and at the same time with a never-ending hope: We want our loved ones taken away by the state. We want to know their fate.”

“Since May 27, 1995, we have gathered at Galatasaray Square every week at 12:00 p.m. Galatasaray has been the voice of us and our disappeared. Sometimes we were prevented, sometimes banned, sometimes dispersed by violence and force. We were detained and put on trial, but we never gave up our insistence even for a moment,” they added and once again demanded justice for their missing/murdered relatives.

Meanwhile, renowned singer Teoman covered a song called “My Mom is Saturday” for the 1000th weekly vigil of Saturday Mothers.

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

Police routinely intervened in the peaceful protests of the group for the last five years, until Interior Minister Yerlikaya acknowledged the group was victimized by the police on Nov. 2023. The Constitutional Court also found rights violations in the ban on the protests imposed by the Beyoğlu District Governor’s Office.

(English version by Alperen Şen)